Developing #digcit

This is the last of the three part series responding to the #slc2016 created by our Professional Development coordinator, Katie McFarland (@Katiemc827). The last part of the challenge was to create an assignment for students to help them develop as digital citizens.

To be honest, I really struggled with this part of the challenge. To accomplish it, I went to some of the resources Katie shared, such as Common Sense Media, and I also did the standard Google and Youtube searches. I spent time looking at the Cybraryman to see what he had on the topic, as well as looking at Kathy Schrock’s page to see what she had to say.

Part of my struggle, at this point, was that I felt completely overwhelmed. Too much stuff to wade through. Understand, there’s a lot of good stuff. It seems that Common Sense Media’s page is the go-to place for THE digital citizenship curriculum. But, once I started to look at the different strands, I thought, “What part should I do?” and “Should I do all of this?”

In the back of my mind, I had a fear. Would any of this be real for my students. I voiced as much to my colleagues: I see the need for digital citizenship for my students, in the same way I see the need to teach study skills, character education. However, often when we get into lessons about note taking and time management, we find them to be deadly dull and the kids don’t always see the benefits and applications.

So, for a couple of days, I sat and let things ferment, percolate, and then I sat in on the #slc2016 Twitter chat on digital citizenship, and things began to come together for me.

Here’s some of what helped:

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Through this student’s tweet to me, about something small like doing a Google search of the self, is one way that we can help build the digital citizen. It didn’t have to be a binder full of a multi-week curriculum. It had to be small, meaningful, discreet activities. Well-planned and with context…and, I thought to myself, making a metaphorical slap to the forhead, “You big, dummy. It’s Beginning teaching 101.”

Once past my teaching-block, the ideas began to come forth. Here’s some of the take away I’ve had this morning:

  1. Authenticity. One of the biggest problems, in a long list of problems, I see as a writing and composition teacher in our tests and in the writing assignments given to students is that they lack authenticity. They don’t present students with real world writing situations and real world audiences. Thus, students aren’t prepared to write for actual, living, breathing human beings. They don’t have a sense of how their writing might be perceived by others, how it might be physically held, where it might be found. Student writing exists in a vacuum of in basket, rubric markings, out basket, binder. However, students write all the time: on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on their phones, in text messages. And, when they write, and they do things that make us cringe–they don’t act as good digital citizens–it’s because they don’t realize that they are ineffectively communicating.
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My breakthrough last night during the #slc2016 Twitter chat.

For me, understanding my role as a teacher of digital citizenship is tied together with my role as a teacher of communication–not separate from. In essence, when I teach digital citizenship, I’m asking students to consider what they are communicating about themselves to others. Seeing digital citizenship in the context of the writing situation– purpose, audience, subject, self–brought this into focus with clarity.

2. Small, manageable bits. In my new “Media Maker” course, I’m worried about students posting content to their blogs which may be inappropriate, rash, without thought and without care for themselves or for others. And, I’ve struggled with how to make this point meaningfully to students and help them be aware of this, because it speaks to my concerns about writing above. I’m giving students the power to write about their passions and interests, and I’m giving it to students who have been writing in a vacuum. They will be writing with real purposes and audiences, I think, maybe, for the first time in their lives.

To address this, and to take on my need for teaching digital citizenship, I’m going to offer challenges to students in each of the projects of this class.

So, for example, in the first project, we will focus on digital footprints. In the next unit, as we start to look at bringing in outside sources to our writing, we’ll look at acknowledgement. Thus, digital citizenship, composition go hand-in-hand.

It was a great couple of days for me in the #slc2016 to really get motivated around these new aspects of learning and action steps for the coming fall. Time to get lesson planning.