Wrapping Up My Major Project

It’s finally here! Today I am wrapping up my major project for EC&I 832.

For my major project, I choose to do a Personal Journey Into Media (option #2). You can read about my original plan: Major Project Projections however, my plan changed slightly over the course of my exploration. My original plan included exploring 3 things:

  1. Exploring Snapchat as a social media platform
  2. Exploring Seesaw as an educational app
  3. Integrating memes into literacy (in March – meme month! I am a big fan of alliterations).

Exploring Snapchat and Seesaw remained in place throughout the term. However, as I began the set up of Seesaw, I realized how much my students (and I) didn’t know about being digital citizens. Because I was just learning about being a digital citizen, I used our class sessions, readings and vlogs to learn about myself first! I couldn’t just hand my students a new app and expect them to know how to use it responsibly.

The apps we use in the classroom are mostly RAZ Kids and Mathletics, which unlike Seesaw, do not include social interactions or creating posts that others can see. We needed digital citizenship education! But I hadn’t taught this before. In fact, it wasn’t until this course that I found out about the Digital Citizenship Education in SK Schools document and even later when I discovered that teaching digital citizenship is part of our division’s policies. I am sure glad I know about this now! I plan to continue to use my Twitter account to share information about this because I know I am not the only person who wasn’t aware of this!

Through early February, I spent my time setting up the Seesaw app and preparing a digital citizenship unit. Which meant that I really did two of the major projects options combined into one (option #1 and option #2). I drew on a number of sources including Media Smarts, Common Sense Media, Google’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum and many more. I took online courses to be a Google Digital Citizen Educator and many courses about setting up and using Seesaw through their PD in Your PJs sessions.

The latter half of February was spent starting up our digital citizenship unit and before I knew it, March was almost here and I was supposed to be starting meme integration into our literacy unit. I have some really cool resources and tools to integrate memes into literacy (which I haven’t yet had a chance to use yet) but I had to make an executive decision. We had only just begun our digital citizenship education and still had much to learn alongside starting up with Seesaw. I didn’t want to switch things up  when we just got the ball rolling! So I decided to cut the meme integration for now and continued to work on creating my Digital Citizenship unit.

Thus, my major project changed to focus on exploring these 3 things:

  1. Exploring Snapchat as a social media platform
  2. Exploring Seesaw as an educational app
  3. Creating and teaching a digital citizenship unit.

Meanwhile, I was using Snapchat as a personal social media app and having a blast!

Though I realized that I use Snapchat mainly for: having fun with filters, taking pictures of my dog and snapping about what we are up to (the last picture is us getting ready to hike to Horseshoe Bay Canyon – see my photo of the canyon in this post and then go visit it because it is A-MAZING!)

Here is look back at my app exploration and digital citizenship education journey:

  1. The first week included setting up the Seesaw app and checking out all the great set up resources that Seesaw has to offer educators. Check out my process here!
  2. Then I examined how Ribble’s 9 Elements relate to the Seesaw app and considered whether I would use Seesaw next year to replace Remind (which I currently use as well).
  3. Next, I headed Back to the Basics with Snapchat to learn about the company, examine the app from the eyes of a newbie and get an insider view into some of the features.
  4. Our first digital citizenship lesson looked at the Internet as a place you can visit (just like a field trip). We took an online field trip and came up with some rules for how to be safe online. Check out the lesson details here.
  5. Up next was examining some of Snapchat’s core beliefs in the wake of the Kylie Jenner tweet about the new update which put Snapchat in the Spotlight for quite some time.
  6. Our second digital citizenship lesson was about personal and private information. See lesson details here! This lesson included the kids creating safe usernames for each other — so much fun!
  7. Then the fun really began! I explored Seesaw’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service in my blog post.  Did you catch the sarcasm? To be honest, it wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be! I learned a lot about privacy during this class and am much more skeptical when a website or app asks me to agree to sharing information.
  8. In our next digital citizenship lesson we learned about digital footprints. We transformed our classroom into the Internet, were hired by a detective agency and had to find clues by following the Digital Trail of two digital citizens from the animal kingdom.
  9. If reading Seesaw’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service agreement wasn’t interesting enough, I went ahead and read Snapchat’s too.
  10. Next, I took some time to reflect on my learning in class and think about the importance and the why behind teaching digital citizenship. You can find those thoughts here.
  11. Our fourth digital citizenship lesson focused on what it means to be a digital citizen.
  12. Then I wrote a review about Seesaw, recommending it to other teachers! If you can’t tell from reading the review, I am pretty pumped about integrating this app into my classroom so far.
  13. As I started to move up in the world of being a Snapchat user, I took some time to explore Bitmoji’s as they relate to Snapchat.
  14. For the next three digital citizenship lessons, we spent a significant amount of time focusing on cyberbullying — what it was, how it differed from in-person bullying, how it was similar to in-person bullying, how being a responsible digital citizen means not being a cyberbully and what to do if you witness or are a victim of cyberbullying. Check out the lesson details here. We need to learn about being kind online before I would hand over the reins and let them start commenting on Seesaw.
  15. My last look into Snapchat for the semester dealt with Digital Health and Wellness as it pertains to social media use and in particular through the use of Snapchat. You can find my thoughts here.
  16. Now that we had some digital citizenship basics under our belt and had been using the Seesaw app to create posts for several weeks, it was time to open up the commenting feature on Seesaw. Learning to comment came in phases. The first phase of commenting instruction can be found here. Unfortunately, our next phase of commenting will happen after the Easter break but know that we are continuing to work on it beyond this course.

Okay, so I have given you a quick glimpse into my app exploration and creation of a digital citizenship unit. The strange part for me about this project is that it is more about the process and less about the product. All along I have been wanting to create a final product to hand in and had to accept that this project was more about blogging about my learning process. The semester is coming to a close and I have learned so much about Seesaw, Snapchat and teaching digital citizenship. But..it feels like my learning has just begun and the semester has flown by!

In my mind I have many future blog posts planned out such as how Snapchat can be used as a classroom tool, more about the activities and ways we are using Seesaw, how we are even deeper into learning about constructive commenting than before, other digital citizenship lessons that I have lined up for my students and so much more! I guess the best part is that all of this learning can continue on and it was a pleasure to engage in a major project that was relevant to me and that I felt I had some control over in regards to the process and the outcome.

Cheers

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Snapchat – Health and Wellness

You don’t need to look too far to find information about how social media is causing an increased or at least sustained momentum with regards to youth anxiety and other mental health concerns. There are several examples of tech guru’s working in the industry place limitations on themselves or their families. Despite much work being done on this topic, it is also contested (this article was published only two days ago!) by many who cite not enough research has been done to draw conclusions yet.

Many researchers are examining the effects of technology as they relate to distractedness and how app features are specifically designed to manipulate our brains. Tristan Harris talks about the extent in which tech companies “ethically steer people’s thoughts”. He discuss the business of technology and how all tech companies are competing for one thing: your attention.

In this Ted Talk, Harris discusses Snapstreaks and how the app is intentionally designed with your psychology in mind. Once again, the Internet is abound with articles and information about how Snapchat (the app I am engaging with for my major project) and Snapstreaks are addictive and relate to potential mental and socio-emotional concerns. (See also, My Bitmoji Gives Me Anxiety).

Harris founded the Center for Humane Tech and the Time Well Spent movement to encourage understanding of how the Internet is hijacking our society. In response, apps can choose to make more humane and ethical decisions about how to fight the attention addictions they create in the first place. Here is one example of how Snapchat is doing this.

Anya Kamenetz article “Your Kids Phone is Not like a Cigarette” argues that “when it came to tobacco, the solution was simple: Quit or don’t start smoking. That’s not the case here. Phones, tablets and other devices that have caused so much concern have more in common with cars than with cigarettes; unlike tobacco, they are essential tools that can be used in a healthy way”. So, we need to figure out how we use those tech tools in a healthy way.

I posted earlier this semester about how the Internet is Not the Problem. The Internet and it’s big business model which tracks and benefits from human psychology calls into question what we understand about society-technology dichotomy and brings many ethical concerns to the forefront. But to sit around and blame the Internet doesn’t help anyone. We need to continually be ultra-informed and aware about what is happening in the tech world. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can be potentially very harmful. Technology is transforming at lightning speeds and in order to care for our digital well-being, we need to stay caught up. Dr. Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship includes the element of Digital Health & Wellness. Ribble makes the case that “Digital Citizenship includes a culture where technology users are taught how to protect themselves through education and training”.

Let’s work on maintaining our digital well-being together!

Where will you start on your journey of digital well-being? If you’re not sure, try some of these suggestions.

The Evolution of Commenting Online – Part 1

My students and I have been looking at this poster during all of our digital citizenship lessons. After exploring what it means to be a digital citizen, we have returned to this poster to guide and set a purpose for each new lesson. For example, when we talked about being kind online, we were focusing on the “heart” of a digital citizen. When we discussed personal and private information, we talked about “wearing our thinking caps” before we share information online. When we talked about rules for being safe online, we discussed listening to our gut feeling.

Today, when I opened the “commenting” feature on our Seesaw app (one of the apps I am exploring for my final project), I brought this poster up again for my students to see and asked which part of a digital citizen must we engage when we think about commenting on other people’s work. Of course, they responded with: respect themselves and others.

 

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In order to guide our thinking about how to comment, we looked at this graphic and discussed what each element meant, along with examples. This included the discussion that random emojis, using for example 30 smiley faces or 28 exclamation marks would fall under the category of unnecessary. For our first go at commenting, we focused on the elements true, helpful, necessary and kind (we left out inspiring because we just aren’t there yet!) and the kids were excited to start commenting right away.

My students work on Seesaw during Daily 5 so they got started on this as soon as their group was at that station. They assignment for today was a short one (take a picture of their Ted Harrison art project) and write a caption explaining how they imitated his art style. This was a short assignment so that they had time to comment on the work of others and explore some of the comments that had been left for them by me. Their comments have to be approved by me before they are posted so they weren’t able to see comments from their peers right away.

After two days (when all groups had made it through this station and their first chance at commenting), I put all of the comments up on the screen for the kids to see. We filtered through each one deciding if it fit into our THNK (no I yet!) model. Some of the kids were surprised that I put their comment up for everyone to read (even though it is visible to everyone in the class through the app). This allowed us a teachable moment about the permanency and availability of their online actions. This also gave us an opportunity to talk about the “grandma rule” (they thought the name was hilarious!)

What we discovered as a class was that most of their posts were two things: true and kind. Here are some examples:

There were a few that went beyond the true and kind model to include helpful and necessary as well. Here are some of those examples:

This is just the beginning of my students and their learning how to comment. Next week we will be adding another layer of rules that comments must include in order to be approved! Stay tuned!

Is Bitmoji the New Face of Your Digital Identity?

As described by Bitmoji.com, “Bitmoji is your own personal emoji. Create an expressive cartoon avatar, choose from a growing library of moods and stickers – featuring YOU! Put them into any text message, chat or status update”. There are over 1.9 septillion different combinations to make your bitmoji look just like you. Sometimes, I am kind of creeped out by how much my friend’s bitmoji’s really do look just like them.

So, how do you make one?

Bitmojis are are fun way to respond to messages in a variety of apps. I have been using Bitmoji for a few weeks now and really enjoy the creativity it allows me in conversations via text and Snapchat especially. Snapchat has recently introduced Friendmojis. To check out how to use Friendmojis, click here.

Bitmoji (owned by the software company Bitstrips) is a Toronto based company that was started by high school friends Jacob Blackstock and Jesse Brown in 2008 with the original intent of providing a web-based service for people to create their own comics without having to be good artists. In 2016, Snap Inc. (the company that owns Snapchat), bought Bitmoji. As I have discussed in earlier posts, Snapchat is one of the apps I am exploring for my major project.

Source  – Bitmoji now allows you to take a picture so that you can make your real image to your avatar.

Common Sense Education provides a good review of how this tool can be used in the classroom including as a safer profile picture for students to use at school. The review offers it’s own bottom line: that Bitmoji wasn’t necessarily made with education in mind but that they are many cool users for the app in the classroom. One interesting suggestion this review gives is for students to use Bitmoji as a way of representing characters in books or other texts. I know this simple idea opens up many possibilities in my mind for uses in the classroom. Remember, you must be 13 to sign up for the app though so best reserve this for high school students.

So, why do people love Bitmoji so much? Several sources that I have scoured for this blog post suggest that it provides the kind of face-to-face (if you can call it that) interaction that text message bubbles do not. Young people aren’t the only ones using it either. Most of my 25-30 year old friends are using Bitmojis. My youngest teenage cousin is using a Bitmoji and so are people I know that are similar in age to my parents.

What do you think of this reason for loving Bitmojis presented in the Forbes Magazine article The Inside Story of Bitmojis: Why We Love Them, How They Make Money, Why They are Here to Stay?

So, EC&I832 classmates, do you think Bitmoji fits into the emerging definition of digital identity?

Check out how the new selfie feature makes it even easier to create a Bitmoji in the image of your IRL self using the selfie option:


If you don’t have a Bitmoji already, here is how you can get one and then download it onto Snapchat:

 

How do you think I did?

Before you download Bitmoji or Snapchat to your phone, make sure to check out their Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Lucky for you, Bitmoji and Snapchat operate under the same Privacy Policy under their company, Snap Inc. You can check out my review of Snap Inc.’s Privacy Policy here.

As for the Terms of Service, by creating a Bitmoji, you grant them the following rights:

“Rights You Grant Us: Some of our Services let you create, upload, post, send, receive, and store content. When you do that, you retain whatever ownership rights in that content you had to begin with. But you grant us and our affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, and distribute that content including in connection with marketing and promotions for as long as you use the Services…You alone though remain responsible for the content you create, upload, post, send, or store through our Services…just know that we can use your ideas without compensating you”.

So, please be informed before you engage with this app and any new app for that matter!

Have you used Bitmoji? Do you like it? What apps have you used it with? What do you think of it as making text messages or chats appear like a more face-to-face human interaction? Do you see it as a way to create your digital identity online? IMG_1965

Recommendation: Seesaw – User Friendly

We have all experienced PD sessions in which a new resource is shared that is difficult to navigate and from there on collects dust on our shelves.

Sometimes I feel this way with new technology or apps as well. Someone tells me something new or I attend a PD session for a new educational app or program and as great as it may be…Oftentimes that program or app ends up collecting dust on my digital bookshelf (also known as my bookmark page).

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With Seesaw — one of the apps I am exploring for my major project — I am loving the simplicity of starting a new program. The company makes it sooo easy for new teachers to start and supply you with everything you need and more.

When I signed my class up for the app, the first thing I received was a grade-specific document on Getting Started with Seesaw in Third Grade. If you are thinking of starting and want to find the Getting Started document for any other grade, click here!

This user guide is very easy to use. (You’d think the name user guide would mean that user guides are always user friendly, but if you have ever put together anything from Ikea or Canadian Tire, you know that it’s not always the case!)

There are many visuals and not a lot of text which makes it easy to meander through the 20 pages. The majority of this guide is made up of 14 lessons that prepare students to use the app. That seems like too many lessons, but each lasts approximately 5 minutes with two of the lessons lasting 20 minutes. For my group of third and fourth graders, we combined several lessons into a few half hour periods and easily completed the 14 lessons that prepared us to use the app.

Linked into the Getting Started Guide is helpful videos like the one below. You will also find many other helpful videos featured on their site.

In addition to the helpful Getting Started Guide and the set up videos, I also found a K-5 Seesaw Student Intro presentation via Google Slides. This presentation was certainly helpful in getting the kids to visualize what we would be working on. The presentation discusses what Seesaw is (a digital journal), why they would want to keep a digital journal, the types of things you can do on Seesaw and instructions for how to login and add something to your Seesaw page. The students got right to it and loved taking a picture of the QR code to login to our class page.

In the Seesaw Help Center, you can find just about anything you need including FAQ. While I was getting started, I found these printable posters that we use and reference almost everyday in our classroom. So many of my students needed practice taking a “good” photo, choosing a good recording spot, making sure the mic was close to their mouth, and many other kinks that come up during the recording process.

Once I had created an account, the Activity Library was so helpful in thinking about the kinds of assignments I would create for my student. I love that the students can read, but also LISTEN to the instructions. This is HUGE for some of my struggling readers.

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Here is a sample of one activity we have recently been working on as we learn about the historical First Nations worldview:

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The other thing I LOVE about being a new teacher on Seesaw is how connected I am with other Seesaw educators. Within minutes of creating my account I was connected with Seesaw on Instagram, Twitter and a grade-specific Facebook group.

I have already used both Facebook and Twitter for help. On Facebook, fellow educators commented very quickly. On Twitter, Seesaw replied with help to my problem as well. Much of what Seesaw posts on their various social media platforms is retweets or shares of what Seesaw educators across the nation around doing. This makes it really easy for me to see how Seesaw is being used in other classrooms. I have taken so many screenshots because I am constantly seeing activities I want to use with my students in the future. Love it!

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One last amazing thing about Seesaw start up… They offer PD in Your PJS which is a variety of webinars on different topics; presented and created by teachers for teachers. You can easily sign up and if you miss the webinar, they send you the link to watch it later. I have attended a few of these PD in Your PJs sessions and enjoyed the interactiveness, the relevance and succinctness and also the resources offered by the presenters. So far I have participated in the Favourite Apps to Use with Seesaw webinar, Seesaw for Fluency practice, Sharing Activities on Seesaw webinar and the Brand New to Seesaw Grades 3-5 webinar. I loved all of them! If you are a Seesaw educator, I encourage you to sign up and participate in some of these live sessions. Each webinar comes with the option to print a certificate stating that you participated. The best part is you can participate from home, in your PJs!

In my books, Seesaw gets a 10 out of 10 on user-friendliness and I highly recommend the use of this app for ALL ages levels.

 

What is a Digital Citizen anyway??

In a recent post, I discuss an article called How to Teach Kids Social Responsibility in a Connected World and how I was focusing on the second recommendation in this article as part of my major project. To review, the second recommendation states, “Connect your class via social media and allow them to chat, post, and interface in a safe learning environment. Model responsible virtual social behaviors — blogging, vloging, Skyping, texting, and emailing. Set classroom norms for internet engagement, and give students tools and strategies for how to respond when they encounter inappropriate virtual communication” (Kristina Macbury, 2017, Common Sense Media). So far, as part of our digital citizenship unit, we have discussed rules for navigating the Internet safely, what information should be kept private and what it means to have a digital footprint.

This week, we discussed two new concepts: digital citizenship and cyber bullying. To teach this lesson, I used a variety of tools over two days including: the Rings of Responsibility lesson, the Screen Out the Mean lesson and the Power of Words lesson from Common Sense Media and the It’s Cool to Be Kind lesson from Google’s Be Internet Awesome Curriculum. I am really enjoying the lessons created on the Common Sense Media site and am using bits and pieces of a variety of lessons to differentiate for my group of students.

On the first day…

First we discussed what kinds of responsibilities we had IRL (in real life) to ourselves, our families/friends and our communities. Then we discussed how these responsibilities transferred to the online realm. Some examples (of many) that they came up with:

  • don’t litter (community)
  • don’t post random things or put too many emojis in your comments (only post what is helpful or necessary)
  • be respectful (family/friends)
  • post respectful comments
  • do your homework/chores (self)
  • don’t spend too much time online [I am constantly reminding them to play outside!]
  • go on Mathletics or RAZ Kids at home

We also used this video to help guide some of our discussions:

During the first lesson, we decided to focus on the responsibility of being kind. The students read about an example of a friend who took their login information on a gaming site and used it to destroy what the other person had set up on their game (see Screen Out the Mean lesson for the story). This opened up an opportunity for discussion about how cyber bullying isn’t just saying mean things, it can include other actions as well. Students were open about experiences they had with different examples of cyber bullying, how it made them feel when it happened to them or they saw it happening to someone else and talked about some steps to respond to the problem of cyber bullying.

On the second day…

This time we took the concept of digital citizenship a bit further by looking at this poster:

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I particularly like this poster because it connects the “rules” about being a good digital citizen to different body parts. We stood up an did a movement activity as we went over the different rules and why the author of the poster chose to (author’s craft!) associate those body parts with that particular rule.

Next we previewed the video “The Power of Words“. Just prior, we talked about the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”. Many students raised their hands to say they had heard this from an adult before. The video however, shows one character calling another character hurtful names. What I loved about the video was that it showed the words coming out of the computer screen and hitting the victim of the bullying in the face. Words can hurt you is the message clearly conveyed. Many students knew this to be true, others did not. This led to discussion about how words can hurt feelings and that feelings come from your brain…

The students worked with a partner to complete the following activity which featured a student repeatedly receiving unkind messages on a chat site. IMG_1946

After completing this activity with a partner, we met as a group to discuss our answers (this is where the empathy piece comes in!) Looking back to the recommendation from the How to Teach Kids Social Responsibility in a Connected World article (discussed at the start of this post), the author suggests “give students tools and strategies for how to respond when they encounter inappropriate virtual communication” (Kristina Macbury, 2017, Common Sense Media) which is exactly what we did in the lesson. Unfortunately, what you don’t get to see is the rich conversation that this assignment sparked when we met as a whole group including their suggestions about strategies to help solve this type of situation.

Attached to the Power of Words lesson is the following assessment which the students completed to hand in at the end of the lesson.

Later that afternoon, we reviewed what we had learned about being a digital citizen and how that might relate to our use of the Seesaw app. We used the following poster to make connections between the “Post Your Wow Work” section and our responsibilities to ourselves and community by filling the Internet with a positive digital footprint (instead of litter!). They also made connections to the “Only Share Public Information” (or personal, as we defined it) to our learning about personal and private information. We will continue to revisit this poster throughout our learning about digital citizenship and Seesaw work.

If you have read my Why Teach Digital Citizenship? post, you will know that I haven’t taught about digital citizenship before this course. I must say that I am loving it! I am so impressed with how much the kids already know and can contribute to our discussions. Simultaneously, I see the gaps that are being filled in their understanding through our time spent on this topic in the classroom. We are certainly making headway!

The best part was one of the parents emailing a YouTube video of their child retelling what they had learned so far about digital citizenship. We played it for the whole class the next day!

Later that week, we explored the What’s Cyberbullying? lesson from Common Sense Media. Here is the diagram the students came up with comparing in-person and online bullying: thumbnail_IMG_1969

 

Why Teach Digital Citizenship?

Earlier in the course we discussed what the future might look like for our students. You can find my post about it here. It is obvious that the world is changing for our kids and we, as parents and teachers, must change with it. I have to admit, prior to taking this course, I hadn’t thought much about the concept of digital citizenship/identity or the “how to” phenomenon of teaching media literacy. Perhaps this is because it wasn’t taught to me when I was a student.

Needless to say, this course has taught me a great deal so far. It is now very obvious to me that digital citizenship must be taught in schools and as I reflect on my experience with media literacy and especially social media, I see gaps in my learning that could have been filled by adults (if only they’d known!)

Because the world in which our students are growing up in is (typically) filled with technology and information like has never been seen before, students require adult support to navigate this ever-changing world. Teachers and parents have equal responsibility when it comes to educating students about digital citizenship.

The Google Digital Citizenship Educator Training Course explains that: “It’s not always possible for teachers to completely protect their students, but teaching them how to handle difficult situations online is something that every teacher can do in their classroom. You can foster open and honest conversations with your students, and teach them strategies for getting help and support”. It is not coincidental that the first module of this course (which I have taken!) discusses why teachers should be teaching about digital citizenship. Of course, teaching about privacy isn’t the only benefit of teaching digital citizenship.

According to the ISTE Standards for Educators, teachers take on several roles when it comes to teaching about digital citizenship: learner, leader, citizenship, collaborator, designer, facilitator and analyst. Each one of these standards has a dropdown menu of indicators which clearly explain how educators can take action with each of these roles. This is definitely worth a look if you haven’t checked it out yet. It is not surprising that “Learner” is the first standard. If you don’t know about digital citizenship and media literacy, how are you to teach about it?

As far as I am aware, there are no current practices in place in my school for teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy. It is not mandated. In fact, this topic has never been brought up and I would suggest many teachers don’t really know about it. However, I have found many outcomes and indicators in which digital citizenship and media literacy can be layered into.

The Digital Citizenship in Saskatchewan Schools document indicates that it was created in response to an action plan to address bullying and cyberbullying in Saskatchewan: capture

These actions are cited as to how this recommendation can be carried out: Capture1

The Digital Citizenship in Saskatchewan Schools document outlines the importance of teaching digital citizenship. First, school reactions to kids being online is outdated. While it once made sense (when access was more limited) to restrict students from being online and using their devices, this format is no longer appropriate (it reminds me a bit of book banning!) The second reason it is important to teach digital citizenship is because of a misunderstanding about “digital natives”. Just because a child is born into the Digital Age, doesn’t make them an expert at navigating the online world or more adept at using technology than the previous generation. Just like any other subject, students need a guide.

Teachers and parents have a big role to play when it comes to  education about digital citizenship. For me, this education has already begun in my classroom as part of my major project. We are working on using the Seesaw app but the pre-requisite to this is learning about being responsible digital citizens. Students began using the app with very restricted capabilities and as they learn more about being responsibile digital citizens, their restrictions become less and less. One example of this is that once the students learn about how to post thoughtful comments, their “like” and “comment” abilities will be opened up on the app. This plays into the role of teaching about empathy in the online world that I think is so important: the most important skill in the digital age.

Finally, I return to the point of the educator as a learner. In our Zoom session this week, we met with STF President Pat Maze. One important item that was brought up was this poster:

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I know this poster is posted in many staff rooms in my school division. It is of course, increasingly important that teachers be aware of their own digital identity, how they conduct themselves on the web and with student information in their possession. We must look at our own practices before we can teach digital citizenship to others.

There has been much hype about these topics lately including articles in the news about teachers and other professionals in highly scrutinized positions following online behaviour. These articles can be found in recent news searches across North America and Europe. Some of this behaviour deserves scrutiny while others are more questionable, in my opinion. There seems to be a fear-mongering going on which is problematic for me. Each time I hear another story about this topic, I wonder who holds the interest of the teacher in the situation? Who has their back? On some level, digital forgiveness should be afforded in the same way for all when scrutinizing questionable posts and behaviour. Katia and Alec’s blog post highlights 5 key elements that should be addressed before many quick decisions about consequences: content/audience matters, intent matters, history matters, authorship matters, and empathy matters.

If empathy is the most important skill in the digital age, we must practice what we preach and use empathy towards our students and colleagues before jumping to conclusions and make judgments about character.

We all have a role to play in the education of our students towards being more responsible digital citizens and that journey starts with a reflection of, learning about and empathy towards ourselves.

Feedback is welcomed.