Our Responisbilities as “Digital Citizens”

Whether you are a digital immigrant or native we all find ourselves browsing the web exploring blogs, podcasts, wikis, or your own favorite professional (personal) learning community, there is a responsibility we have…..it is “Digital Citizenship”. As we read posts and make our own comments we may ask ourselves a couple of questions. First, “Do I agree with that point of view?” Second, “How can I use that in my classes”. The one other question that I find myself asking at times is “Is that appropriate use of technology?” It was after reading Mike Ribble’s Passport to Digital Citizenship in the December/January edition of ISTE’s Learning and Leading with Technology (2008) that got me thinking about previous experiences and conversations I have participated in recently.

Mike Ribble defines digital citizenship using the new NETS-S standards. According to the newly revised standards digital citizenship is defined as:
                 “Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior……”
In reflecting upon this portion of the definition I look back at my own experience as an educator and Director of Technology. Before technology became one of the spokes supporting the every turning wheel of education, students were being taught and asked to discuss legal as well as ethical behavior in their daily lives. During those discussions there would not be a unanimous resolution to the question at hand because everyone had different point of views and were raised differently in the diverse culture of our community. However, the students were at least developing skills to communicate and respect the opinions of others within their own community. To me, this is the beginning of becoming a true citizen. Now, with the integration and implementation of technology tools and the Internet, educators need to develop methods to assist students in learning how to communicate and respect the comments of others globally. Two people that I have grown to know, via my professional (personal) learning community on Plurk, are Kymberli Mulford and Paul Bogush. Both educators are working with their students on developing communication skills that lead into the development of digital citizenship. Kymberli (@kmulford on Plurk) has her students read blog and wiki posts to enlighten their understanding of the digital community they are growing up in. Students then are encouraged to respond and post comments in response to what they read. Through this process the students earn their own right to have and create blogs. Now, how real world is this activity? As for Paul Bogush (@paulbogush on Twitter/Plurk), his middle school students are asked to research and develop questions for special lunch time guests that are interviewed for his class’s Lunch Time Leaders podcast series. The students conduct the interview and then, with Paul’s assistance, they produce and publish the product. I see this project as another method of developing digital citizens.

The specific points that make up the remainder of ISTE’s digital citizenship are:

  1. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
  2. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
  3. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning
  4. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

As having been a Director of Technology and having to uphold E-Rate regulations along with meeting CIPA and COPPA regulations I find myself being split on the safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology. As a result of having to wear both hats, I chose to ask the opinion of my professional learning network their opinion on the question of “Do you believe in teachers having the ability to remote into student computers and see what is going on?” (view responses) I found the comments very interesting and thought provoking. The range of comments reminds me of the situation I spoke about earlier regarding the lack of unanimous agreement in a resolution. Then again, does digital citizenship mean we must all agree on the same resolution or does it mean we can collaborate and reach our own decisions and respect one another regardless of which side of the fence it falls? Nonetheless, my stance on the question I posted is……..I am not a believer in such products for teachers. It is not that teachers cannot be trusted as much as it is a point that I feel those tools would not be needed if teachers would collaborate with their students and not sit at their desk. I am a strong believer, just read my first blog post, in student engagement. If students are engaged and using their time efficiently, they would not be looking to do things that would not be permissible on a normal day. Educators, as yourself, how you would feel if administration had your laptop on their screens to observe on a routine basis. Would the teacher association not be up in arms about treating the teachers like professionals? Sure, many students are not mature at times, but if they understood your expectations and had input to what was going on in class, the problems would decrease while student achievement would increase as a result of students seeing their education as being a partnership not a dictatorship. So, I ask you the reader “Is it ethical/necessary for teachers to have products that can remote control student machines and sit at their own desks?” After all, the teacher’s role is to model proper usage of technology and exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning and productivity!

The final portion of digital citizenship I want to address is leadership modeling technology and life long learning. Why are so many administrators afraid of technology? The same question can be asked of teachers. The answer….I am not sure other than they are afraid to make mistakes or feel like they may appear to look foolish because they do not know how to use such tools. Permit me to refer to this Nike commercial staring Michael Jordan.

Listen to his message “I have failed over, and over, and over again and that is why I succeed”. To be a life long learner one must take chances and step outside of their comfort zone. Those intimidated by technology and Web 2.0 need to listen to this video and realize that making mistakes is part of learning. After all, no human is perfect. I encourage teachers and all administrators to find a professional learning community online whether it is Plurk, Twitter, or a Ning community and join the conversations. If you want to try out Plurk I will be glad to direct you to numerous principals and superintendents that do understand the big picture and want to engage all aspects of education through the transparent implementation of technology and higher order thinking skills.

In closing, I want to openly express my deepest appreciation to my wife and children as they support my motivation to learn more about the Web 2.0 tools and methods being used by other educators globally. For I spend many hours learning from all of you. But they too understand it is my passion to learn more and to make myself better in earning the privileges that makes my family what we are today. I will leave you all with the nine elements of Digital Citizenship provided within Mike Ribble’s Passport to Digital Citizenship as introduced in the opening paragraph.

1. Full electronic participation in society. Can all users participate in a digital society at acceptable levels if they choose?
2. Electronic buying and selling of goods. Do users have the knowledge and protection by buy and sell in the digital world?
3. Electronic exchange of information. Is there an understanding of the digital communication methods and when they are appropriate?
4. The capability to use digital technology and to know when and how to use it. Have users taken the time to learn about digital technologies? Do they share that knowledge with others?
5. The standards of conduct expected by other digital technology users. Do users consider others when using digital technologies?
6. The legal rights and restrictions governing technology use. Are users aware of laws (rules, policies) that govern the use of digital technologies?
7. The privileges and freedoms extended to all digital technology users and the behavioral expectations that come with them. Are users ready to protect the rights of others to defend their own digital rights?
8. The elements of physical and psychological well-being related to digital technology use. Do users consider the risks (both physical and psychological) when using digital technologies?
9. The precautions that all technology users must take to guarantee their personal safety and the security of their networks. Do users take the time to protect their information while creating precautions to protect others’ data as well?

Online Puzzlemaker

It is that time of year when the students are anxious for Santa to arrive and deliver the gifts of their dreams. Teachers feel pressured to get the semester requirements met and try to find small activities to occupy student time. Well, here is one web based application that will ease the stress on teachers to create an activity that students can collaborate on or solve on their own. The web application is Discovery Education‘s Puzzlemaker.

Puzzlemaker provides several options for teachers to integrate into a lesson or a fun activity.  The puzzle options consist of word Search, criss-cross, double puzzles, fallen phrases, math squares, mazes, letter tiles, cryptograms, number blocks, and hidden message.  Click on its name upon deciding which one is best for your activity.   The selected puzzle screen will provide you step-by-step instructions to successfully create and print your own puzzle.  Another option to printing it directly from the web is to save it as a webpage to your desktop.  By saving the puzzle as a webpage, teachers have the advantage of re-printing the puzzle at anytime.

I have created a demonstration video of Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker site using ScreenToaster.  Screen toaster is currently in the early stages of development. I have found it fairly easy to use. There is no software to download. The recording is all done via a web browser. ScreenToaster will be on one page and the recording will actually take place on a different window or tab. I recommend using “tab” options for recording. The tabs permits the user to transition from the ScreenToaster tab to the recording screen.

In closing, I encourage everyone to try out Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker site and create their own puzzle from the variety of styles provided. For those of you looking to create tutorial videos of web site applications take ScreenToaster out for a test drive.