All Aboard the Digital Citizenship!

Every year, my class participates in Student Vote. We learn about the electoral system, research candidates, and go through the motions of voting. I try to create an authentic experience for them, highlighting what it means to be a Canadian citizen.

Photo Credit: hi fi parasol Flickr via Compfight cc

Digital citizenship, however, isn’t quite so easy. Many teachers assume that the younger generation knows more about technology than they do. This is true in a lot of respects, however, many teachers overlook that students require knowledge in 9 different fields, according to Mike Ribbel. Denying a student an education in any one of these areas means not giving them a complete picture of what it means to be a digital citizen.

The nine elements of digital citizenship:

  1. Digital Access
  2. Digital Commerce
  3. Digital Communication
  4. Digital Literacy
  5. Digital Etiquette
  6. Digital Law
  7. Digital Rights and Responsibilities
  8. Digital Health and Wellness
  9. Digital Security (Self-Protection)

Often, we impose rules on students. Don’t go on Facebook. Don’t take videos during class, don’t buy stuff on eBay while I’m lecturing. However, teachers lack the training to truly educate the essence of being a digital citizen. It is not simply adhering to rules. We must teach our students to think for themselves and use their judgment. We do a good job of this in all subject areas, however, this is one area where many teachers feel inadequate. Students need to feel comfortable enough to engage online, not just observe and consume. This is what it means to be a citizen.

Photo Credit: technovore Flickr via Compfight cc

Don’t get me wrong, this feeling of inadequacy, and having the students be experts/teachers themselves is fantastic. However, the teacher needs to have and ultimate goal in mind and a working knowledge of digital citizenship to get there.

It is never too early to begin teaching digital citizenship. Just like treaty education, it is important to start early and to “dive in” despite thinking you are not informed enough. Learning alongside students goes a long way and models the learning process for them. If students start early, discovering and laying the groundwork, they will subconsciously be equipped with a working knowledge of what it means, in general and to them, to be a digital citizen.

They will also be well on their way to forming their digital identity. The knowledge of digital citizenship will allow them to create an identity that will not come back to haunt them later on in life, like this example. Students will be able to paint a picture of themselves, from the beginning, that will present themselves to the world in a positive, confident, intelligent, and mindful way. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, this is becoming increasingly more crucial (specifically in the job market) because your digital identity is the new “first impression”.

Slow your roll, we need more control.

As a member of Instagram, Facebook, and now Twitter, I often reflect on my own digital identity. What you send out electronically has replaced what used to be called “first impression”. Now, people can judge you/form their opinion of you before they even meet you. Their first impression of you now comes from the Internet instead of the standard face-to-face encounter. Handshakes and eye contact have become rarities.

Photo Credit: Visual Content Flickr via Compfight cc

Since my Facebook is mostly private, I use this social media platform for personal posts (my weekend plans, vacations, my engagement, things I find funny etc.). It is rare that I will post professional posts on my Facebook account, however, I do occasionally share resources that I find from teacher-based groups (Ontario French Teachers). On Facebook, I share details of my personal life with colleagues, friends, and family. However, in case something does get out of my private Facebook sphere (never underestimate a student’s ability to snoop), I am careful to never post anything that would get me in trouble. I filter everything through a “common sense” filter. It is important to take time to reflect on how others will view your post/if your post detracts from your professional image.

My Instagram account is run in the exact same way. I used to use it for professional posts as well (sharing what we’re up to in the classroom), however, Twitter seemed to become the frontrunner in terms of professional content. This is simply, in my view, because it lends itself well to professional networking (retweeting, hashtags, chats).


Are you aware of the digital fingerprints you’re leaving behind?   Photo Credit: diedintragedy Flickr via Compfight cc

When I Google myself, the first result is my profile on RateMyTeacher. That’s right – the first result that appears is one that I did not create/put out there myself. In fact, I don’t know who created a profile for me or who wrote my reviews. Luckily for me, the reviews are positive and I have a good rating, however, it’s scary to think that my first virtual impression to someone when they Google me could be in the hands of someone else. This lack of control over my impression to others fuels me to contribute more to my digital identity. This book mirrors a lot of my thoughts, for anyone looking to read up on controlling our digital environment.

Following this, my Twitter account appears. My general profile page is displayed, but so are specific posts. Again, I feel a lack of control, as it appears that random posts appear in the search results – not necessarily the most recent or most popular ones.

Newspaper articles from when I used to write for a local newspaper also appear, as do a few of my short stories that I got published in University. Google images displays several photos from my Facebook and Google + accounts – all of which I’m happy with but have had no control over. Because of how random these results can be (which pictures appear in search results and which ones don’t), I again, am thankful for my “common sense” filter. I know that whatever Google (or other search engines) chooses to display, will not come back to haunt me.

Photo Credit: Visual Content Flickr via Compfight cc

I look forward to continuing to contribute to my digital identity, mostly through the form of this blog (which also appeared in my Google search for myself). As Katia Hildebrandt said in our session last night, the more you put out there, the more control you have. I want more control.

UPDATE: Feel free to check out my classroom website as well, which is also a part of my digital identity.