What percentage of students in Australian schools are explicitly taught digital citizenship skills? There are plenty of government sponsored projects that provide resources but how many kids are truly learning at school how to succeed in an online world?  How many teachers have the skills to teach them? I do not know. There’s no data.

It is certainly the case that students are better at representing themselves visually online and also, pleasingly for a deputy principal, I am dealing with less incidents of poor digital citizenship at school (or occurring outside of school for that matter). There are many challenges, as there is for all citizens in any community but clearly students are growing up online and learning skills as a result. Having said that, it is still evident that many students and teachers have limited skills and knowledge in many important areas.

Year 8 are currently doing a digital citizenship course at school and it is clear that many perceive ‘being polite online’ as what such a course would be about. Our school has had clear guidelines and policies that are actually implemented regarding behaviour so there are good reasons why they would have this perception. We are very positive about technology and the online world. We do use the School Police Liaison Officer (who is very good) when students need to understand the legal implications of what they have done. It is a positive experience but this course will broaden student understanding of what is meant by digital citizenship.

In general conversation I am often surprised at how little teachers, parents and students know about many important aspects of the online world. I shouldn’t be, as there’s much to learn but is clear that independent, ongoing learning in a world that changes so rapidly, will required rather than a few lessons, or a course. Many of us were very enthusiastic about creating and sharing in Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) or, if you like, establishing awesome Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) over almost a decade (can you believe it has been that long?). It still seems conceptually the way to think about learning using technology to help us connect with others.

I have often written at this blog over the last 7-8 years about digital citizenshipconnectivismmy own online toolsPLNs and BYODMy English Method pre-service teachers are formally encouraged to employ a variety of tools that will assist them to this end but I suspect this is as rare in the tertiary education sector as it in school. The only way to stay relevant is to have a network of people and sound use of technology.


What interests me is how we teach students to manage information effectively by improving their daily routines, their habits of mind, their flow. I do wonder how much some access the web outside of Facebook and Youtube. Many students use Snapchat and AskFM too but outside of gaming, mostly using PS3/4 or Xbox, there seems to be surprisingly little variety for many. If we think about actively using the web for learning, many cannot articulate how they do that.

There are many tools but I would argue that curation (and creation) are the key skills. There are some essentials imho. I employ Feedly for RSS and Diigo for social bookmarking every day, without fail. These tools help me curate and manage information quickly. It is pure habituation that allows me to skim, scan and find what information I need. Many new ideas flood through my life that would not, except for these tools that allow me to see, daily, the best of what I need for the topics that interest.

So my question, why do so few students and teachers employ these tools? They do not need them or do not know they need them? What do you think?


FEATURED IMAGE: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Adam Foster | Codefor: http://flickr.com/photos/paperpariah/3530726567



    • Audrey Nay

    • 10 years ago

    Great photo choice!
    In most primary schools Teacher Librarians teach Digital Citizenship either in collaboration with class teachers or stand alone programs.
    The Life Education van also provides a program that schools can select-our year 5&6 really valued it last year and asked again for it this year.
    I teach 1 hr RFF to all k-6 and I teach Digital Citizenship, cyber safety, cyber bullying, digital literacy skills over the year each year. I teach strategies to present a positive digital tattoos.
    The stay smart online site has fabulous resources. I use a wide range of resources with the different classes from my pinterest board http://www.pinterest.com/audreynay/digital-literacy-citizenship-cybersafety-cyberbull/

  1. How do you think most students work out such things now? Because I don’t think digital citizenship is that widely taught — is it a mandatory thing or something schools implement if they feel it’s needed? And yet most students do work it out, because ugly online incidents are not that common (at least not extreme ones).

    I don’t believe my school does much of it on an ongoing basis, except to have the police liaison visit 1-2 times a year to talk about the most extreme stuff. But something ongoing that also talks about the more day to day issues of online life would be very appropriate. I think that that focusing on the most extreme issues only also kind of misses the point, as most of these things will never come up, whereas day to day cyberbullying and inappropriate information posting is far more common.

    And incidentally, it’s not a skill you see coming from most parents — the local problems with Facebook come from or are amplified by parents more often than not!

  2. Like you, I was a Google Reader user (addict?). I moved to Feedbin for RSS and Pinboard* (not Pinterest) for bookmarks. I also use getpocket as a kind of intermediate waiting room between the two. To me, this is a very structured approach to using the web – why don’t others do the same? Personality? (too simple?) We’re special? (doubt it)

    RSS never got the traction that it deserved as a central tool of the web. I think that was mainly due to browsers not dealing with RSS well for many years.

    I suspect RSS is slowly decreasing in usage. A lot of sites, and consequently users, are using Twitter and Facebook as a news stream – there are lots of problems with that, leading to repetition on Twitter.

    For my site MathsLinks, I have 135 subscribers to RSS/Email compared with 150 likes for the site (effectively subscribers, although not necessarily active) on Facebook and 352 followers for the site on Twitter.

    Maybe people like to think there is a person behind Facebook or Twitter? Yet, at least on Twitter, this use of Twitter as RSS (and the subsequent retweets) makes decreases Twitter’s signal-to-noise ratio.

    For teachers, Yammer and Edmodo, close social networking sites, are also becoming like RSS. The problem there is again the level of ‘spam’ to those like you and me who have already have a stream of current changes on the web.

    *Pinboard is not only for bookmarks, but archives the page content for $25/yr (I have 6000+ bookmarks archived consuming 5.02G of disk space. I can search the text of any of these bookmarks, not just the title, description and tags. My own personal Google.

  3. And you know what, I didn’t even see your last part about using digital tools. I too use Feedly and Diigo regularly for a variety of purposes and have used various other RSS readers and bookmarkers for a decade now (previously Google Reader, Bloglines and Delicious).

    So why do so few staff or students use these? Familiarity for one — how else would they know to use it? I used all these tools on a personal basis before I used them professionally. But then technicalities — I haven’t checked, but can regular DEC users even install plugins for these tools (not mandatory but almost to use Diigo). And It’s browser experience — how good are any of these tools on IE8,9 , which is what most school users are stuck with. I use all of these with Chrome, use the plugin for Diigo with Chrome and that is half the user experience right there.

    But it is crucial to reading and organising what you’ve read. It’s half the answer to “where do you get the time to read all this stuff?” It’s half the answer to information recall and the way I have information on hand to help people with tech problems.

    And incidentally, I think the next biggest point of knowledge for best use of online tools is serious Google search skills (or any search tool). I am amazed at the queries people ask me that I don’t know, but I find for them on Google. It’s often not what you know anymore, it’s what you can find out quickly — and unless you truly can navigate search engines you just won’t have that. It’s the number one 21st century research skill.

    • Darcy Moore

    • 10 years ago

    @Steve I have given staff and students the links for self-paced power searching courses like this http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/ (my certificate hangs on the wall) but we have not formally required either to do them. It seems a no brainer that this is worth doing.

    @Audrey Thanks for the link Audrey. I can see why Pinterest appeals to many.

    @Simon It would be interesting to see hard data on RSS usage or decline. Many students tell me there Facebook stream is pretty much there RSS feed. Not many use twitter. I suspect snapchat and Ask FM take up more time than most parents know.

  4. The world is changing and as educators we need to keep up. this article is timely, and there are some good points made on globaldigitalcitizen.org. They have a new(ish) article: 5 Reasons You Should Be Teaching Digital Citizenship, (http://globaldigitalcitizen.org/5-reasons-you-should-be-teaching-digital-citizenship/).
    The key is to teach children to sift through the ever increasing pile of information being thrown at them. They have to be able to scan and retrieve the most important information in the shortest time.

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