Becoming a true digital citizen – a bit like a first date

Guest post by Michael Stafford, newly active digital citizen…

Becoming a true digital citizen was quite nerve-racking. After a workshop focusing on Digitial Citizenship, I was inspired to change the way I interact through digital media. 

After a quick self-reflection it was obvious that I fell under the label of ‘consumer’. I consumed goods through the platform of Ebay, I consumed professional resources through a range of teacher websites and I consumed a range of useless facts and irrelevant updates about people I hadn’t seen since I was twelve through Facebook. I wasn’t creating anything for others and there was nothing I could consider meaningful interaction. I guess I was ready for things to change.

Here is where I’d like to introduce my vehicle to becoming a true digital citizen – Twitter. This is where the first date similarities flood in. I was entering an arena where I did not know much at all. The layout, etiquette, basic functionality, hashtags, little @ symbols….. how on earth did this work? As far as I could tell everyone was an expert already except for me. I wanted to get involved but for some reason was strangely nervous. Self-doubt crept it’s way into my mind. What if I did a bad tweet? Would I come across as an idiot? Would they like me? How would I sound professional in my bio without sounding like I was big noting myself?

After asking the Twitter world a few questions and getting quick and informative answers, I could see the benefit of it all. First date going well…. not sure what I was so scared about. However, one of my questions threw me right in the old deep end. “Would anyone be willing to help out my class with their learning?”. Within a day I had attention from India, South Africa, China, Singapore and just up the highway in Melbourne. They were all keen to connect through Skype. This digital relationship was about to go to the next level. Besides the sweating, increased heart rate and mental over-preparedness, the first Skype call actually went really well.

The students’ learning has been amplified through rich, authentic and meaningful connections and we now have peers that we can reconnect with in the future. I am now extraordinarily excited to see what else comes out of it.

It all came down to risk vs. reward really. Risk a bunch of little ego related worries and the reward can be huge. I’m glad I took the risk.

@mstafford1988

Can you teach digital citizenship, if you are not an active digital citizen yourself?

It seems that a number of participants in my Digital Citizenship workshop imagined they’d be learning about cyber safety for three days! Is that what comes to mind for some people when they hear the term digital citizenship?

Instead, we explored what it means to BE a digital citizen and, by the end of the workshop, every one of them had become an active contributor online, developing confidence to participate as thoughtful, active citizens themselves.

Can you teach digital citizenship, if you are not an active digital citizen yourself?

During the workshop, participants reflected on the ways they engage online and categorised their online activities under the headings of CONSUME, CREATE or INTERACT.

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Participants also…

  • Googled themselves and considered the impact of having a positive digital identity, a negative one… or none at all.
  • Considered and prioritised the key competencies for our students (or anyone) to learn in order to participate in society today (online society too).
  • Connected with educators around the globe, via Skype and Twitter as well as face to face.
  • Explored our rights and responsibilities as digital citizens.
  • Debated the risks vs rewards of online participation for ourselves and our students.
  • Heard the perspectives of some enthusiastic and articulate Grade 4 and 5 students.
  • Inquired into digital citizenship through the lenses of the essential elements of the PYP – knowledge, concepts, attitudes, skills… but mainly ACTION.

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Some of the action…

Take a look at the brand new professional blogs by Tania, Joel and Leona and follow up on the action via Twitter…

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It’s exciting to see empowered digital citizens thinking about how to foster active digital citizenship in their students, instead of focusing only on the’ don’ts’ and the ‘dangers’.

I’m thinking about all the authentic learning about to happen in a real context…

Planning for an inquiry into digital citizenship…

Today’s collaborative planning session with the Year 5 team is both challenging and invigorating. There are 7 of us in the room and one digital participant. The conversation is impassioned and (mostly) focused as we debate, disagree and eventually reach some common understandings.

It takes over an hour to ensure our conceptual understandings are sound and to consider the evidence that will demonstrate these understandings in our learners. This part is the crux.

It doesn’t bother us that most of the planner is still blank and we have barely thought about the learning engagements. We know (now) that if this part is established, we only need a few good provocations, then (almost) sit back and see how the learning unfolds.

Observing and listening to the learning, will determine what happens… that’s how inquiry works, so how can you plan it in advance?

The unit is about digital citizenship, which could easily fit into any of the PYP trans disciplinary themes and end up looking quite different. We want ours to be in ‘How We Express Ourselves’, because, as Silvia Tolisano says, ‘We are preparing students for a time when what they know is not as important as what they can do with what they know…’

It quickly becomes apparent that

  • we can never rehash an old unit, because we are always learning.
  • some of the understandings from last year are no longer relevant and we need to shift the focus from consumption to creation.
  • having 1:1 iPads has changed the way students do things and teachers see things.
  • our approaches to teaching literacy and literature require some radical new thinking, as might our definitions of both.
  • we need to ensure our students are learning ‘now literacies‘, (Silvia Tolisano) so they can engage effectively in a world very different from when their parents and teachers went to school. (So why does so much of school still look the same?)
  • there is endless potential for global collaboration to enhance authentic learning within this unit and the teachers are finally ready. (See my first ever blog post FIVE years ago! We have been chipping away, but there is so much more we can do…)
  • the teachers will need to pursue their own inquiries if this unit of inquiry is to be a success… but then, that is what inquiry teachers do.

So how do I tag this post? Is it about planning? Digital citizenship? Inquiry? Concept driven learning?

Or is it about change?

 

Beyond geography – A global collaboration

Geography, when I was in primary school, included rote learning of capital cities and populations and, most fun of all, making flags and colouring in maps.

Half a century later, Year 2 (7-8 year olds) at my school are inquiring into how geography affects the ways people live. They will explore landforms, climate, people and how they live, not from a textbook, but by connecting with children their own age in other parts of Australia and the world.

So far, each of our five classes has made contact with a class in another part of Australia and partnered up with classes in Indonesia, China, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and Cambodia. Some of the teachers on both sides are new to this kind of interaction, but all are keen to connect via Skype, blogs, email and whatever other creative means they can think of.

Romy, one of new Year 2 teachers and her class connected this week with Sari and hers, from Surabaya, Indonesia, who was one of the participants in my recent digital citizenship workshop.

“The kids were so fascinated that they could be in touch with a school in another country and it really provided them with an opportunity to think about how different things are between the two schools and countries, but it was wonderful to see the smiles and wow moments when they realised they had things in common.”

A few years back, many of our teachers were nervous about getting involved in this kind of interaction without a great deal of support. Connecting with kids in other places has become more natural over time, but has often consisted only of a single Skype session, with little if any follow-up. Before each Skype session kids would prepare questions… and then sometimes be so busy waiting for their turn to ask, that they’d forget to listen to responses. We’re great learners though, always refining the process and learning from our mistakes.

This is the first time a whole Year level is on board at once and I’m as excited as the teachers are. They have made initial contact with their collaborators and most have decided it’s worthwhile connecting with their classes informally the first time, so that the children know who they’ll be interacting with. They have come up with a range of lovely ideas such as creating puppet videos to introduce themselves first!

There are many opportunities ahead for reading, purposeful writing for an audience, speaking and listening, mapping, learning about our own and other countries… and a host of worthwhile trans-disciplinary skills. And there will be opportunities for the development of a variety of attitudes such as appreciation, confidence, curiosity, respect and cooperation.

In the next few weeks, our Year 2 learners will be calling for photos from all over the world, with descriptions of how local geography (in the broadest sense of the term) influences the way you live.

Watch this space!

10 understandings about digital citizenship…

What is digital citizenship and why do we need to understand it?

Earlier this year, we developed a unit of inquiry into digital citizenship for our Year 5 students and I’m currently preparing to facilitate a three day workshop for teachers exploring the same topic. As a result, I’ve been thinking a great deal about what, for me, is simply a part of my everyday life.

On any given day (aside from work and play!) I might write a blog post, read and comment on others, join a twitter chat, search for information, find videos to spark learners’ curiosity, Skype with my grandson, interact with children at one of the School in the Cloud settings in India, respond to applications for the ‘granny cloud’, chat with a friend in another part of the world…

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Photo by Ingrid Muller

Using the key concepts of the PYP as a lens,  I’ve come up with 10 understandings about digital citizenship for teachers and learners (or teachers as learners) to explore…

Do you think I have missed anything?

  1. Digital citizenship is ‘the ability to participate in society online.’ It includes consuming and creating digital content as well as interaction.  form
  2. Digital literacy includes awareness of safe and effective practices and the ability to navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. function
  3. Digital technologies enable us to communicate and collaborate with people all over the world, expanding learning opportunities and increasing global awareness.  connection
  4. Active digital citizenship provides opportunities for intercultural understanding and exposure to diverse points of view.  perspective
  5. Anyone can publish powerful writing, pictures and video for a global audience. Digital citizenship includes making valuable contributions to the online environment.  creativity (which isn’t one of the PYP key concepts, but maybe it should be)
  6. Reusing content is so easy that people rarely stop to think about its original source. We need to understand our rights as content creators and respect the rights of others. responsibility
  7. In a digital world, it can be difficult to understand where privacy ends and what the risks are. Everything you do online impacts your indelible digital footprint.  causation
  8. Content on the internet is not necessarily accurate, true, reliable or valuable. We need to think critically about digital content that we consume, create and interact with.  reflection
  9. The speed of change in the world is accelerating with the rapid advances in technology. We need to prepare our students for a world we cannot predict.  change
  10. Understanding effective practices and developing the required skills, knowledge and confidence, empower us to make wise choices as digital citizens and maximise the opportunities this provides.  all

And later… a tweet from @flipoz hits the nail on the head…

 

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Building an understanding of digital citizenship…

What do these two words mean?

consume           create

Everyone in the class knows what ‘create’ means but only a few are familiar with the word ‘consume’. mostly in the context of eating, although one girl says ‘It’s when you take something in, for instance information’.

We use breakfast as our example and they get the idea that making the eggs could be seen as creating and eating them as consuming. We deliberately do not use a dictionary, so that they construct meaning for themselves, rather than narrow down their understanding with a fixed definition at the start.

In groups, the children then brainstorm all the things they do in a day, making sure every item includes a verb – watch TV, play Minecraft, eat lunch, write a story…

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Using two colours, they highlight which of these are consuming and which are creating. The conversations are rich, as they build their understanding and discover that it’s not either/or, that some are both and some are neither… maybe.

Which of their daily activities are digital? In new groups, they now brainstorm their digital activities, taking care to include verbs, so that, for instance, ’email’ becomes ‘read email’ and ‘write email’…

They are already discussing consuming vs creating before we even ask the question. They are totally engaged and, apart from building their understanding of the desired concepts, so many trans-disciplinary skills are evident – communication, thinking and social skills – and, quite incidentally, a host of outcomes from the English scope and sequence.

At the end they write down what they understand about creating and consuming now…

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They’re clearly ready to move ahead in developing the desired conceptual understandings in this unit of inquiry…

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING BEGINNING DEVELOPING ESTABLISHED
We need to think critically about digital content that we view and create.

Reflection

I don’t think critically about digital content.I believe what I read on the internet.

I don’t think critically about what I post online.

 

I understand that not everything on the internet might be valid or true and can explain why.I can give some some examples of how I consider audience and purpose when I create digital content online.

 

I can explain how to assess if a website is reliable or not.I can identify and analyse techniques used to influence consumers.

I choose appropriate techniques to communicate creatively and  effectively online and can give examples.

People are responsible for digital content they create.

Responsibility

I can give some examples of how I can be responsible online.  I can explain how things I post online can affect my own reputation.I can explain how things I post online can affect the wellbeing of others. I take responsibility for my digital footprint and can explain how and why I do this.I can demonstrate my positive digital footprint.

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The internet enables us to communicate and collaborate with people all over the world.

Connection

I can identify ways that I communicate with others online.  I can compare and evaluate different tools for online communication and collaboration. I connect, communicate and collaborate with people online and can say what I have learned from my interactions.

Our learners are gearing up to connect with kids in other parts of Australia as well as India, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada and other countries via Skype, Twitter and blogs. And they are already asking a range of interesting questions into which they might inquire!

In addition to refining this unit of inquiry with the Year 5 teachers at my school, I’ll be leading an IB workshop on Digital Citizenship in Melbourne in May, so feedback, resources, ideas and other perspectives are invited.  Please leave a comment!

What is Digital Citizenship?

What is digital citizenship? That’s the driving question behind our current Year 5 unit of inquiry.

It’s the start of the school year here in Australia, so the unit begins with the establishment of a learning community in the classroom. Students will explore what citizenship comprises in the context of the class community, ‘a sense of belonging, rights and responsibilities, duties and privileges, agreed values and mutual obligations required for active participation in the group.’ (Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum)

From there, it should be an easy jump to considering digital citizenship, through the conceptual lenses of responsibility , reflection and connection. Our learners will explore these questions…

  • How do we analyse and evaluate digital content?
  • What are our responsibilities when creating digital content?
  • How can we communicate our ideas creatively and effectively online?
  • What can we learn by connecting and collaborating with others in the world?

We’re hoping to help connect our learners with other learners, both locally and globally and, in the process, develop and consolidate these understandings…

  • People are consumers and creators in a digital world.
  • We need to think critically about digital content.
  • Everyone needs to be responsible for digital content they create.
  • The internet enables us to connect,communicate and collaborate with people all over the world.

The Year 5s would like to hear from teachers and classes interested in collaborating via Skype, blogs, Twitter, Voicethread, email or other media they have not yet thought of. They are keen to connect with classes anywhere who are eager to broaden their horizons, collaborate on an inquiry into digital citizenship or simply share and compare learning. They’re looking for once-off as well as ongoing collaborations.

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Are you interested?