Why Teachers Need Digital Citizenship
It Has to Begin with Teachers
There is much conversation lately about the dire necessity to educate our students and teach them appropriate digital citizenship. Many are giving tips and resources for instilling digital citizenship in schools for students. Projects like Digiteen focus solely on that goal for students. But, what about teachers? Trying to teach our students without doing it ourselves, first, is just backwards.
If you are a teacher and you are responsible for educating and learning alongside of adolescents, you should absolutely have a FaceBook account. You can not teach appropriate digital citizenship if you can not model it. Period. Many schools do discourage it and of course, rightfully, discourage “friending” students. But the bottom line is this ~ we can’t teach them if we can’t reach them. The world is changing fast and if you want to understand how your students operate, you’ve got to learn the tools yourself. No one can tell you. It has to be experienced, first-hand.
Students are bored & disengaged often because we are not communicating with them at their level. Mind you, I said “at” and not “on” their level. I am not suggesting we compromise our professionalism, but there are ways to do it. More importantly, there are ways to do it safely.
Part of being a responsible Digital Citizen as a teacher is being in the know. And, no, I do not mean creeping around our students’ FaceBook pages ad blurring the boundaries of our relationships with students. As educators, we have to be using the technology in order to protect ourselves, as well. In today’s litigious society, it is difficult to protect ourselves from liabilities we don’t think of too often. We can not do this unless we first UNDERSTAND this. We need to learn it not only to teach our students, but to teach and protect ourselves.
Case in Point
Just several weeks ago, on another bleak snow day in northeast Pennsylvania, a student decided to create a FaceBook account in my name, using a legitimate photo of me. The person controlling this account continued on throughout the day to friend NUMEROUS students at our school, in my name (for the record, I do not EVER friend an active student). As people accepted the friend requests, my alter “Suzie Nestico” began leaving some pretty lewd and crude messages on others’ FaceBook walls.
I am fortunate to live in a small community with some great students and families. Within two hours (although I would have found it on my own eventually because I GET FaceBook and, I GET FaceBook because I DO FaceBook), I received a call at home from a parent informing me that her child received a friend request from me earlier that day but said student reported to parent that something seemed “not quite right” about the profile. The family provided the link to that profile. Thanks to all of my work with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay throughout multiple Flat Classroom and Digiteen projects, I took immediate action.
- I screenshot every page, photo, and comment posted on others’ pages.
- I reported it to FaceBook immediately before any potential damage worsened. They removed the profile.
- I notified my administration to make them aware and the situation was dealt with in timely manner before it caused me any professional liability or headache.
- I chose not to insist on punishment for the offender – this was a learning opportunity for the student. The act wasn’t malicious and there was no pre-existing adversarial relationship. It was simply an attempt to gain attention and try and be funny on the part of the student.
- If nothing else, I try and remember we are working with kids, after all. I’m not in this business to punish. I just want my students to learn what is right and what is wrong in their online behaviors.
The Bigger Lesson?
If you are a teacher and you do not routinely check your digital footprint, it can have negative consequences on
your career. It is YOUR responsibility, not your school’s. Learn the tools to model appropriate measures of digital citizenship. Show your students. Prove it and make it clear that sometimes their idea of fun and games can have serious consequences. Some students told me today that they deleted their FaceBook accounts because there was just, “too much drama.” After some discussion, some agreed that yes, it might be better to have the FaceBook account in order to be aware and learn the appropriate way to deal with unfortunate situations. Don’t get it backwards. ENTER IT! You can’t afford to stay out of the virtual world for fear of student issues. You need to be in the know.
- Web 2.0 Leadership for Students (coolcatteacher.blogspot.com)
- Schools taking responsibility for digital citizenship (heyjude.wordpress.com)
- The Importance of Affecting Change from Within – ISTE Board Elections – Vote Now! (123elearning.blogspot.com)
- (Digital) Citizenship (http://justathought.edublogs.org)