Finding the Citizen in Digital Citizenship

1 Jun

Finding the Citizen in Digital Citizenship

Tracy Rosen and I recently facilitated a workshop “Finding the Citizen in Digital Citizenship” at the AAESQ (Association of Administrators of English Schools of Quebec) administrator’s conference in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec. One of the things I liked best about our workshop is how it quickly transformed from a presentation into a lively discussion. Everyone had lots of experiences to share about Digital Citizenship, some of which I’d like to highlight in this blog post. 

What is Digital Citizenship?

Let’s first start with a definition. In education, the term Digital Citizenship generally describes a set of guidelines that teach students and staff how to be responsible, safe, friendly, and informed online users. However, our workshop on Digital Citizenship took a bit of a different stance. We started things off with a bold statement:


Real World vs Online World:

If you think about it, does being a good person online differ from being a good person offline? By focusing on the “digital” element of digital citizenship, it can send the message that the online world and the offline world are two separate places and that different rules apply. Instead, how do we teach being an OVERALL good citizen, rather than just being a good DIGITAL citizen? This is the angle that our workshop focused on.

Teachable moments:

Here are a few hooks and examples to get the conversation started..

Watching Your Footprint: Your footprint is anything that’s traceable to you. With the nature of our society today, your footprint is most often digital (i.e. – a digital footprint) but it doesn’t have to be. Anything that you put online, or reply to in a public fashion, can become part of your footprint. Media is a continuum these days, so content can easily cross channels. Something like a radio interview or a letter to the editor can easily be picked-up and re-posted or repackaged for the web. It’s important to think about everything that you do in public domain and how this reflects on you both negatively and positively.

Teaching Positive Citizenship: While I’ve often used PSA’s (e.g. – Think Before You Post) to start conversations around footprints, some of these teaching materials focus on the negative and/or the dangers of technology. As one ACCESS Riverside teacher reminded me recently, we have to highlight positive aspects too. Let’s give our students strategies, positive examples and ideas. Can we talk about how has the Internet helped highlight someone’s achievements, built their career, or made their life better? Tell stories and spread good news, instead of just focusing on the horror stories!

In order to put a more positive spin on “watching your footprint”, I now talk to adult students about taking the time to think about how they contribute to their footprint. It’s not only about avoiding the bad stuff. What are some ways to share the good stuff? Your footprint should help to highlight your achievements and showcase your passions. What do you want your current/potential employers and CEGEP admissions staff to see?

Being Responsible with Photos and Videos: Another topic under the umbrella of being a good citizen is around the responsible use of photos and videos. This goes beyond just simply what you post online. It also plays into when it’s appropriate to take photos and how you ask for permission around photo taking and sharing. This applies at all levels, from parents, students, to teachers and even administrators. What are the guidelines in your school or school board?

This topic also extends to responsible use of images and video we find online. We cannot take a picture from a famous artist and pass it off as our own, but this often gets overlooked with digital images. There are now many free tools like Pixabay and open license programs like Creative Commons, that allow you to find royalty free images (and video) that you can responsibly use in your presentations, posters, websites, videos, and documents.

OK, this sounds good and all but when do we find the time to teach all this? … Model it!

Modeling Behaviours: Sometimes actions speak louder than words. How we behave in relation to responsible technology use ourselves often speaks volumes to our students. If you use these recommended practices in what you do in the classroom, you can teach your students the rules without actually “teaching” them.  Watch Tracy’s video below to learn more about “The Power of Modeling” in the context of teaching citizenship:


Source: The Power of Modelling, Tracy Rosen, RECIT FGA DevPro


An Example from Adult Education: Take 10 for Tech

Craig Bullet, a RECIT Consultant with the Eastern Shores School board (ESSB), has been working with the staff and students at the Northern Lights Adult Education Centre (NLAEC) throughout the school year. NLAEC and Craig have put together a phenomenal citizenship initiative that directly involved the students in creating the technology guidelines for the school. The guidelines utilize student-friendly language and provide a structured way for students to use their devices in the classroom. Their “Take 10 for Tech” initiative provides students with a set time to use their devices AND some guidelines of how to make best use of their free tech time as to minimize distractions once it is over. I plan to blog more about the NLAEC initiative in the upcoming school year. Thanks Craig and the Northern Lights Adult Education Centre!


Want to start the conversation in YOUR school?

Tracy and I are available to have these types of conversations in YOUR Quebec General Adult Education centers. Adult Learners Week or the student orientation sessions at the beginning of term are often great times for you to start the conversation or to get your students involved. If you’re interested in setting something up for the 2016-2017 school year, please contact Tracy and/or myself.