Teaching digital citizenship in schools is currently part of the hidden curriculum. Just like teaching manners, social cues, how to tie your shoes, and so much more, digital citizenship falls under that umbrella. Many believe that teachers should only have to teach outcomes however, we know that we don’t teach just subjects, we teach children. To be able to teach outcomes, we have to be able to reach the little humans first. Yes, we hope parents have conversations surroundings technology and being safe online at home, but digital citizenship is a relatively new concept for many parents depending on their own personal experiences and access to devices within the home. We can’t assume that our students have a solid understanding of digital citizenship when they walk through our classroom door. Instead, it should be the opposite. Assume they are starting from scratch and work up from there.
My hope for the future is that digital citizenship will be embedded into the Saskatchewan Curriculum in an online format just like the other outcomes, sooner rather than later. In addition, there would be paid teacher training that is grade-appropriate for implementing the outcomes into your classroom. I could see it potentially incorporated into English Language Arts or Health Education teaching minutes or where you see fit. Digital citizenship is multi-disciplinary, so it could be its own separate document similar to treaty education outcomes (This document needs to be updated as well as it’s almost a decade old now but I’ll save that conversation for another time). For example, it could look something like this. (I completely made these up going off of the 9 elements of digital citizenship).
DC 6.1 – Examine how media bias can influence our perspective/opinions regarding information that we consume from the internet.
DC 6.2 – Analyze how digital communication and etiquette can be appropriately navigated within an educational context.
DC 6.3 – Establish an understanding of your rights and responsibilities when accessing technology both at school and at home.
DC 6.4 – Assess how digital commerce is connected to our digital security and privacy while online.
I know that writing curriculum is, unfortunately, a lengthy process, however, there is no reason that in 2022, we do not have a province-wide document and online outcomes in the works for the Saskatchewan Curriculum website. The Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Guide is a great start, however, I wouldn’t have even known that this document existed if it weren’t for this class. It is essentially a detailed description of the 9 elements of digital citizenship. But there are still no specific outcomes to assess for digital citizenship within our reporting process.
Technology in the classroom is only increasing every school year and it is more important than ever for students to have basic foundational skills throughout each grade level when using technology at school. Students are constantly absorbing media whether it’s to stay informed, connected or entertained. Bart’s article, “What is media literacy and why does it matter?”, states that “Despite many positives, there are many risks and issues within the world of media. Without cautiousness and care, these risks can make media consumption potentially problematic. Media literacy allows us to question the intent of media and protect ourselves from any negative impacts of media.” Introducing topics such as fake news and media bias can increase our student’s critical thinking skills to use in the real world.
Currently, my school and division expect us (K-12 Teachers) to cover digital citizenship quite heavily at the beginning of the school year and then touch on it as the school year goes on not only when issues arise but also as a preventative measure for any type of misuse/abuse of technology. When it comes to accessing resources or knowing what to specifically teach in each grade, we are often left to fend for ourselves. We do our best to share resources and ideas with each other but there is no school or division level document to refer to. Common Sense Media is a popular tool for grade-level specific lessons plans and can be a useful website for getting started. Websites such as Teachers Pay Teachers also have free and paid resources available as well. I do believe that there should be a streamlined document for primary, middle years, and high school teachers that they can refer to when teaching digital citizenship to their students.
The 9 elements of digital citizenship created by Mike Ribble is a great foundation for getting started with digital citizenship. He breaks it down into specific categories where digital technology impacts our choices as citizens interacting anyway online. The 3 main branches include Protection, Educate and Respect. These are a spin-off from the 3 S’s (S3 Learner) which are how to be Safe, Savvy, and Social while online. Access, Commerce, Communication, Literacy, Etiquette, Law, Rights/Responsibility, Wellness and security are the nine different elements. The 9 elements of digital citizenship can be curated to be age-appropriate for each grade level. An example document could include sections for K-2, 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. Having the grade-level appropriate guidelines allows for some much-needed guidance without being too specific. Giving teachers resources with a scope and sequence that still allows for flexibility is highly desirable as an educator.
Please comment on what your school/division requires for teaching digital citizenship to your students. Maybe they are very progressive, or they might be entering new territory regarding digital media. I would love to hear the comparisons between different areas of the province.