Last week, I attended a round table discussion about digital citizenship with a group of educational leaders from around the country. This was a spirited discussion that served to illustrate the complexity of the issues around digital citizenship as well as struggles that districts are facing in their efforts to address this challenging topic. Here are a few takeaways from the discussion.
- While most districts are offering some type of digital citizenship training for students, the approach takes on many different forms. Some districts have classroom teachers include digital citizenship instruction in their classes, others deliver online digital citizenship classes, while others host parent and student night sessions. In our district, our Instructional Technology Coaches (ITC’s) provide face-to-face instruction at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The high school offering is called freshman seminar and students participate in approximately 10 sessions during the fall of their freshman year.
- Despite the variety of approaches to digital citizenship, all districts have some mechanism in place to discuss digital citizenship topics with their students.
- There was a general consensus that there is a need to better educate staff about digital citizenship and a need for staff to model these best practices for students on a regular basis.
- Some participants suggested that the word ‘digital’ be dropped from digital citizenship, indicating that the issue of student behavior and relationships is less about the technology and more about their general emotional safety and well being. Along those same lines, all participants agreed with the critical importance of students’ psychological safety as a foundational need for quality learning.
- Districts use a number of quality resources including Easy Tech by Learning.com, NetSmartz, Be Internet Awesome, Common Sense Media, and iCivics to teach digital citizenship.
The prevailing theme that came out of the discussion was general agreement that there are no easy answers to this complex issue. It was validating to hear that other districts are grappling with the same challenges and encouraging to know that educational leaders from around the country are working hard to find ways to chip away at these issues. This is particularly important in light of the tragedy that occurred in Parkland Florida last February.