How to ensure that your students are responsible iCitizens

Mike Ribble

Mike Ribble is the author of Digital Citizenship in Schools and has worked in both the education and technology fields. He has teaching experience in the public and private sectors from High School to Graduate level, and speaks on the subject of Digital Citizenship in the United States and internationally.

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We have become a society that is ever more connected to our technology. Next time you are at a restaurant, in line at the store or travelling, watch the number of people who are using their phones, tablets and other devices. We are a generation awash in technology and the information it provides us; we have become iCitizens. What are the rules, policies or laws for us as digital citizens? Little direction is being provided and without help, people are finding that mistakes are being made and often their results have a large audience.

For educators, these lines become ever more blurred as schools are providing or encouraging students to bring technology into the classroom. Parents and educators, as part of this society of iCitizens, can find the boundaries are not very clear. Technology brings the world to students’ fingertips, but there can be bad that comes with the good. What is needed is a program to help guide these new users in this new digital society. What we need is digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship provides a basis for how we should interact with technology as well as maintain our relationships with others around us. Nine areas (or elements) have been defined to help navigate a world where people are surrounded by technology and how to make sense of it. These elements fall under three main categories of Respect, Education and Protection (or REPs). This is how they are organised:

RESPECT
Digital Etiquette, Digital Access, Digital Law.

EDUCATE
Digital Communication, Digital Literacy, Digital Commerce.

PROTECT
Digital Rights & Responsibilities, Digital Safety & Security, Digital Health & Wellness.

The focus is to assist users with the complex nature of technology, social media and the internet.

For example, typically if you spend much time online, you leave a digital mark, or footprint / tattoo out on the digital world. These footprints or tattoos are left behind by decisions deliberately made, just like getting a tattoo. Like a tattoo, they are more permanent and if you wish to remove either one it can be a painful process. Decisions made in the “heat of the moment” stay with us, and it takes an effort to clean it up, but they may never totally go away. While tools such as online social networks do provide a place to explore and express ideas across all social lines, the same tools can provide a permanent reminder of what may only be a temporary feeling. So, how do we help students and adults alike to become better digital citizens? Can we help people get to this place of becoming more deliberate in their choices? One way is to use the STEP process.

STEP is a four-part process.

1. STOP
1st is Stop. Take a moment; take a deep breath before posting, texting or sharing. Posting, sharing or replying too quickly can get people in trouble.

2. THINK
2nd is THINK, which stands for is it True, Helpful, Inspire confidence, Necessary, Kind.

3. EMPATHISE
Move to the 3rd area, Empathise. Are we interested about others and how they will react? Empathy has us think about the feelings of others, to “walk in another’s shoes”.

4. POST
And finally Post. If we have been honest and reflected on the other items above then we can be happy with the post, reply or comment.

Now as a member of this new iCitizenry; businesses, colleges and individuals are making decisions on what they read online. Being a digital citizen means that you are aware of what is posted about you and how it can affect your future and those around you. Everyone, including educators, need to refocus on helping our students and ourselves to prepare for a world that will decide who we are by what they see online. As our children get involved in technology at earlier ages, we need to prepare them for becoming iCitizens.

Are your pupils responsible iCitizens? Let us know in the comments!

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