Digital Citizenship – Reflecting on the Elements of Digital Citizenship

As technology resources become more immediately available, the concept of digital citizenship must be constant front of mind for educators. Ensuring that our learners are safe in the digital environments where they learn and play is critical to their educational, emotional and social well-being. But as educators we must also ensure that these learners are using the digital resources responsibly, and not in a way that could be damaging to themselves or anyone else. We must ensure that our learners understand the importance of using the digital resources as they were intended, and not in a way that could result in fiscal or physical damage to anyone or anything. And we must ensure that they fully understand how to effectively use the digital tools.

As with other learned behaviours, our learners must have opportunities to practice good digital citizenship. This must begin at an early age, as Digital Access has become available to even the very young child. We see children with iPads and smart phones, engaging with technology. Access to digital resources is prevalent throughout all aspects of society. Ribble (2015) discusses a digital gap in those who may not have access to technology in their homes because of limited financial resources, or because they live in remote rural areas with limited access to internet. But the increase and availability of smart phones and cellular access to internet resources is making that digital divide smaller each day. Because the availability of smart phones and cellular service is so readily available, the need for instilling positive behaviours in our learners is more important. But even though we know that the use of cellular technologies has increased, educators need to be mindful that we still have pockets of digital vacuums, where learners may not have the same levels of access as other learners, or we may have digital resources that are not fully available to learners who may have disabilities.

Because of the rapid increase in the availability of digital resources, Digital Literacy should be a strong consideration for all educators. We must help our learners understand appropriate use of the technologies that are literally at their fingertips, and we must help them curate and distill the digital resources so that they better understand how to find tools that are credible and valid.

Technology is so prevalent throughout our society now. And the footprint of digital resources will only continue to grow. Educators really need to focus on ways to incorporate the technologies that are used by their learners, and use those technologies to engage their learners in positive ways. Adding learning experiences that allow the students to responsibly use their cell phones in learning activities can engage the learners in ways that activities thought as more traditional might not. This will help our learners begin to develop positive behaviours in digital citizenship, and will help them to see that their technology tools can be used for education as well as for social activities. We as educators must develop learning experiences that incorporate the technologies that are used by our students will help our learners grow into responsible citizens in a digital global world.