Digital Citizenship in a Digital World
Ribble (2015) identifies nine areas or elements of digital citizenship. This helps break down this extremely broad topic into subcategories that can be more precisely defined, detailed, and more easily learned. Out of those nine elements, several are important to me, my workplace, and my students. The most relative topics for me are digital access, digital communication, digital commerce, digital literacy, digital etiquette, and digital security.
Digital access becomes an extremely important factor when you assign any outside of class assignments. We have to make sure we understand that not all students have equal access to the internet and other resources we sometimes take for granted. As good digital citizens, our goal should be achieving equal access for all users (Ribble, 2015). LIT not only provides free Wi-Fi access to students and guests, but also has computer labs and equipment available for student use when necessary. Digital access will be important when determining which students have internet access off campus and how much time they will need to complete projects requiring internet access. Access is also important when establishing faculty members’ administrative rights and access levels.
Digital communication covers any transfer of information from one point to another in a digital format (Ribble, 2015). This could take the form of emails, text messages, blog posts, social media, etc. Digital communication is important to everyone involved in my working environment from the top administrative levels down. We use email daily. Although text messages are very convenient, there are several guidelines for communication between faculty and students. For example, we are not supposed to discuss grades through email with any students unless they are using their verified LIT email account or through blackboard messages. This is to ensure the privacy of confidential information and to keep track of conversations for future records.
Digital literacy and etiquette are required components when using many of our digital tools and platforms. Students and faculty members must both know how to effectively navigate and utilize blackboard, starfish, banner, and more. Not only do we have to keep up with advancing technology and know how to use these tools, but we must also be responsible and respectful while using them. Students need to be aware of digital etiquette and understand that they are still expected to treat classmates and teachers with the same respect inside their digital discussion boards, web forums, and conference calls, as they would be expected to uphold inside a regular classroom (Ribble, 2015).
Digital etiquette is usually the element that brings about the cyber bullying topic. This is an extremely important topic, yet so many people are not educated or aware of its prevalence inside the school systems and out. Cyberbullying has been defined as “any behavior performed through electronic or digital media by individuals or groups that repeatedly communicates hostile or aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on others” (Tokunaga, 2010). This definition is enhanced by Brewer and Kerslake (2015) as they detail cyberbullying as, “a unique phenomenon” which is set apart from traditional bullying due to the speed at which the gossip and rumors travel, and the permanence of the information once it is spread. This type of bullying goes above and beyond the traditional setting of passing a note to a classmate across the classroom with a chance of one or two extra people possibly seeing it. Schools need to do their part on raising awareness of cyberbullying. Students are far more technologically advanced than many teachers, administrators, parents, and even some law enforcement (Struglinski, 2006). As educators, we need to tighten up on our knowledge of what our students are using inside, and outside of the classroom. We also need to cultivate an open communication atmosphere where students feel they have a trusted adult they can come to in a time of need (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015). As parents, we need to be aware and monitor all our children’s technology usage, especially at the critical points in their lives, such as the adolescent years when their bodies, minds, and friends are all changing so rapidly.
Digital security is extremely important as it deals with protecting you, your identity, your equipment, and your information from online predators. Just as we lock our doors and sure our personal belongings, we must also take proper precautions to protect ourselves in the digital environment (Ribble, 2015). LIT goes above and beyond to help students keep their information safe across its digital platforms. One small example of their efforts to ensure digital security is having students and faculty members required to change their passwords every six weeks to help prevent hackers from accessing unauthorized accounts.
Another factor that needs to be considered when looking at digital security is the digital footprint one leaves behind in the digital world. A digital footprint is a searchable history of what a person posts, tweets, searches, emails, blogs, and comments. It is basically a compilation of all of one’s internet activity which makes up their digital identity (Sheninger, 2016). As educators, we must make it a priority to ensure our students are aware of the trace they leave behind as well as the potential impacts it could have on their lives. My innovation plan is having students create e-portfolios. It will be critical to make sure students understand their privacy setting options, are aware of their forever digital footprint, and know what type of information should never be shared globally on the internet.
Although my students do not deal with buying or selling anything online or through any digital medias in our classes, I am faced with online purchases when filling new inventory each year. Good digital citizenship with digital commerce comes in to play, as we are required and expected to research vendors before purchasing items from them. We are expected to use only credible sources and reputable vendors to handle our professional business. Just as the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! While we want to find the best, reliable deal on the market, we should not accept the cheapest priced item based only on the price itself without doing other research.
Digital law is ensuring that users understand the importance of the laws that govern them in and out of the digital communities (Ribble, 2015). When I see this item, I immediately think about cyber bullying, harassment, identity theft, and such. We wouldn’t go to the mall, follow someone around we don’t know and say mean, crude, hateful things to them. Just because we cannot see the person on the other side, it does not mean they are not affected in the same manner sitting on the other side of their computer screen! This idea also plays into the next topic of digital rights and responsibilities. Just as we all have equal rights as Americans and citizens of the United States of America, we also all have the same equal rights as digital citizens of the digital communities and environments we actively participate in. We all have the rights and responsibilities to share our ideas and opinions with others and communicate, collaborate, and credit other individuals as needed (Ribble, 2015)!
The last topic is a little different from the others. It is digital health and wellness. When we think about digital tools, environments, and setting, we normally do not think about physical factors; however, if the proper precautions are not taken, this can become an extremely serious factor (Ribble, 2015). When I worked at Chevron Pipeline, and we did a lot of work from the front seat of our truck, we spent a great deal of time on a laptop perched on our center consoles. This created potentially harmful ergonomic issues. We were required to take frequent rest/stretch breaks, and were not allowed to spend more than a maximum preset time each day on our computers. This can also become an issue if you are not seated properly at your desk, your chair is the wrong height, your posture is wrong, you hold your phone incorrectly, etc. While these seem extremely small, they can cause many long-term health issues that can lead to even more serious issues including chronic pain and problems.
This week I have created an interactive game which covers some of the information I have touched on throughout this paper as well as a few other topics. I plan to lead a professional development course over digital citizenship when I return to work in August. As I mentioned previously, educators should be responsible for bringing awareness to students, parents, and the community not only about cyber bullying, but also about digital citizenship in general. My professional development section will be my first step in educating the people who need to be reached.
As we all know, most of our professional development sessions tend to be the boring sit and get classes where we gain nothing that will actually stick with us. My goal is to make this session different. I am working on creating a short introductory video to capture everyone’s attention. After watching the video, we will spend a few minutes discussing how these topics relate to us, our jobs, and our personal lives. I plan to have a few different case studies for small groups to work through then share their findings with the other groups. After completing these activities, we will end the session with the interactive Kahoot! game.
In a follow up email to all faculty members I will include an edited version of the Kahoot! game which is worded more toward the student perspective. Starting this fall, I will be implementing a small digital citizenship section in each of my classes during the first week of school. This game will be a fun way for the students to tie everything together and test their knowledge of the material covered. If other faculty members follow suit and start discussing digital citizenship with each of their classes, that is one more step in the right direction on our journey to spread awareness to the public.
Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 255-260.Brewer_Cyberbullying_Self-esteem_Empathy_Loneliness.pdf
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2015). Developing a positive school climate: Top ten tips to prevent bullying and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying Research Center. Hinduja_Patchin_School-Climate-Top-Ten-Tips-To-Prevent-Cyberbullying.pdf
Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education
Sheninger, E. (2016, January 8). Your digital footprint matters | HuffPost. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-sheninger/your-digital-footprint-ma_b_8930874.html
Struglinski, S. (2006, August 18). Schoolyard bullying has gone high-tech | Deseret news. Retrieved from http://www.deseretnews.com/article/645194065/Schoolyard-bullying-has-gone-high-tech.html
Tokunaga, R.S. (2010). Following you home from school: A critical review and synthesis of research on cyberbullying victimization. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 277-287.