Sunday, July 11, 2010

Digital Citizenship and Online Learning in the Classroom

When I was in high school, there was one computer – for the whole school. The computer ran on DOS. Students rarely used it. The thought of having a home computer was just too far out there. Cordless phones were just coming into vogue. Then there was the whole Beta vs. VHS quandary. Walkmans were popular with the accompanying music tapes. We can’t forget the Atari games. ‘Asteroids’ was my favorite. Ah, the good old days.

Galeb tipkovnicaImage via Wikipedia
Now? Schools have computer labs in addition to the computers and Smartboards in the classrooms. Most students have home computers as well with internet access. A surprising number of elementary students even have cell phones and text regularly. We’ve got CD/DVD and BlueRay. Oh yes, can’t forget streaming movies also. IPods are common place. And video games? Geez, don’t get me started. Times have certainly changed. What does that mean for us as educators?

What does that mean for us as educators?

Students these days have been raised in a world of technology. However, it has been a double edged sword. To ignore technology in the classroom is to ignore one of the best ways to reach students of today. Every year there are more distance learning courses that require students to utilize current technology to succeed. Unfortunately, students have also found ways to cheat and bully using technology. I submit therefore, that digital citizenship should be taught beginning in Kindergarten.

Digital Citizenship

According to, “Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.

The nine major themes include:

(1) digital etiquette, electronic standards of conduct or procedure.

(2) digital communication, electronic exchange of information.

(3) digital literacy, process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.

(4) digital access, full electronic participation in society.

(5) digital commerce, electronic buying and selling of goods.

(6) digital law, electronic responsibility for actions and deeds

(7) digital rights and responsibilities, those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.

(8) digital health and wellness, physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.

(9) digital security (self-protection), electronic precautions to guarantee safety.”

(For more information on the 9 norms go to )

Clearly the different norms will be taught at different depths throughout the grade levels.  I do believe digital citizenship should be taught in every grade level. 

Last year, I did two digital citizenship lessons before students ever went to the computer lab. We discussed digital citizenship, possible scenarios, and role played. They had to demonstrate an understanding of digital citizenship to earn their ‘digital drivers license’. I made business sized ‘drivers licenses’ (on the computer) with their names, then had them laminated. They were so excited! (Of course, in second grade a teacher has to explain several times that the cards are not real world drivers’ licenses.) Here are links to some of the things we did in class (also from ). I had to modify some to fit 2nd grade.

Practice makes perfect

I wrote about Wiki’s in an earlier article. Wiki’s are a great way for our younger students to practice using their digital citizenship in a safe environment. I highly recommend using one for your class. Without real-world application, the digital citizenship lessons will have little meaning. (See the Wikis and Moodle article for more information).

Yes, the world is very different today. I enjoy meeting kids where they are and molding lessons to fit their needs. Technology is certainly one of those needs in today’s classroom. Now, where’s that old Atari system?

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  1. I'm with you in all the 9 themes you raised! Even in a Third World country like mine, students are techno-savvy. If they don't have PCs at home, they spend their lunch money on...and sometimes class time rentals!

  2. Wow, that just says it all right there!

  3. I am currently enrolled in a Technology class as part of my teacher licensure program. I am amazed at the technology available today of which I was totally unaware. (A far cry from the Atari I also grew up with.) As I think about entering the classroom as teacher and working to integrate technology into our learning activities, the thought of digital citizenship is in the forefront of my mind. Thank you for this helpful and informative article on the topic.

  4. Wikispaces are perfect for the younger grades. They're are a wonderful way to teach digital citizenship. Teachers can intially direct children to previewed sites, then slowly fold in the dig. cit. discussion as students expand the wiki.