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 citizenship, connectivism, my own online tools, PLNs and BYOD. My 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