What is Digital Citizenship and how does it apply to Adult Education?

The latest buzzword that seems to be floating around our schools is “Digital Citizenship”. Digital Citizenship is an umbrella term that is used to describe a number of items related to online safety and responsible use of technology, including topics such as copyrights, information literacy, digital footprints and even physical and psychological well being. Learning about Digital Citizenship is all about understanding how to use technology responsibly and appropriately. For more information about Digital Citizenship here in Quebec, visit the MELS Digital Citizenship Quebec site.

While Digital Citizenship is covered extensively in the youth sector, I feel that it is often overlooked in General Adult Education. Since a significant number of our students are actually teenagers or young adults themselves, I think Digital Citizenship is just as important to cover in Adult Education as it is in the youth sector.

One of the important facets of Digital Citizenship is the handling of copyrights. This is a topic I frequently discuss with both teachers and students as it is a topic that is complex to navigate in the digital world. Since digital images, music and video are freely available and easy to access, many of us struggle with understanding how to appropriately use and reference them. Even when people think they are appropriately using media files, they may be unintentionally breaking copyright rules. Frequently, we grab an image from Google Images and insert it into a document without looking at the source or terms of use. You may be surprised to learn that many of these images are protected by copyright or are owned by individuals or corporations. By default, Google Images will retrieve content without any regard to ownership.

Navigating Copyrights in the Digital World

In the past, one recommendation I made, was to use Creative Commons Search for images and media files. If you’d like to know more, I suggest you read my previous blog article explaining how to use Creative Commons. However, the challenge with Creative Commons is that you need to reference the source and license for every Creative Commons image, audio or video clip, you or your students use throughout a document or presentation. Depending on the context, this can be very disruptive.

A great new alternative that I’ve recently discovered is a site named Pixabay. The site provides an inventory of public domain images that you are free to use as you please, with some exceptions. It’s just like Google Images but without the potential copyright violations. What’s the catch? Pixabay contains a smaller pool of images to chose from, but you know the files are safe to use without citing copyright or license info. The images are surprisingly high in quality too. You can use the site without creating an account, but I recommend that you take few seconds and create a login as it is easier and faster to download images without the need for you to enter in a verification code.

I encourage you to check out Pixabay and explore their image library for your documents and presentations. If you like it, I’d also suggest you recommend the site to your students too. I think it’s an excellent way to promote Digital Citizenship awareness and help your students develop good habits for respecting online copyrights. Comments? Questions? Let me know what you think!

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