5th-graders teaching us about teaching digital citizenship

Could it be that part of digital citizenship is giving young users the chance to define their own citizenship and teach us about it?

By Anne Collier

I read 5th-grade Washington, D.C., teacher Marti Weston’s blog post because I was curious about “The Digital Citizenship Minute” (the title of her post). But my curiosity quickly gave way to inspiration. I really liked that Marti asked her students to discover for themselves the definition of digital citizenship by collaborating on the writing of scripts about it for podcasts. Then, as I read on, I loved that she not only was having them define their own digital citizenship (because ownership is powerful) but also that, during this learning process, she was learning as much from them – modeling the respectful, collaborative nature of citizenship in the process.

And now we’re learning from them (and her) too. Marti shares two important insights. The first one was that students “want to learn more about how their teachers and other adult leaders experience electronic-world challenges.” One of her students asked, “Do my teachers ever have these problems? Why don’t they ever talk about what happens to them?” The second insight, which I believe applies to all young people, no matter how digitally literate they seem, is that “these students yearned to view their instructors [and parents] as technology behavior models, just as teachers serve as their models in other ways,” Marti wrote. In her post, she shares five areas her students agreed should be covered more often by their classroom teachers. I’ll let you read their important questions in her blog, but – impressively – they cover everything from social media literacy (or digital citizenship) to regular media literacy to disinhibition to questions about online reputation management.

And so what’s a “digital citizenship minute”? Marti came to see it as “small digital digressions throughout the regular curriculum [note “regular curriculum,” not a special class] for teacher and students to look at some of those questions about navigating digitally-enhanced life and learning – not to put more information into students’ heads but together to practice “paying attention” to how we’re using digital media (whenever we’re in it, not just in a special “digital citizenship” class or unit). Her students were pointing to a vacuum that needs filling at this point in media history, one created by parents and educators believing they’re “just digital immigrants” and abdicating the guidance and role-modeling in online environments that young people have always looked to them for in offline ones.

Related links

*“Next step: Crowd-source digital citizenship”
*“Mindfulness for safety as well as success online”
*“Thoughts for a new year (in the digital age)”

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