Developing digital literacy and citizenship

This post was inspired by Teaching Respect and Responsibility – Even to Digital Natives, by Holly Korbey. It has been cross-posted at Unteaching.

When I talk to colleagues about the possibility of bringing computers and the internet into their classrooms, I often feel a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt enter the conversation. They worry that their students, when allowed the opportunity to use computers, will be unable to avoid the distractions that come with them. I try to argue that, instead of distracting the students, we can use these as opportunities to teach them how to create their own boundaries and enhance their learning. Using computers as an integrated part of the lesson can help them learn how to trust and respect technology, and to use it responsibly.

While the basic tenets of digital citizenship attempt to protect kids from cyberbullying, misconduct, and harassment, Allen is also interested in teaching the positive behaviors that will make successful students and workers for the future: teaching students how to find and analyze reliable sources for research, how to verify whether information is biased and/or credible, and how to be a responsible user.

Let your students bring their devices into the classroom, and then show them how to use those devices to add value to their learning. Ask an ambiguous question and see who can find the most interesting answer. Create a shared Google Document and develop a policy or set of guidelines collaboratively. Ask them to use Twitter to create bite-sized summaries of the lesson. Have them record your lecture on their phones and upload it to a private channel on YouTube. There are many ways to have them enhance the time in the classroom in ways that add value to their learning, rather than being a distraction.

understand that a computer is a neutral object — it all depends on how students use it. A personal computer and smartphone are not to be taken lightly, and he said, “Mistakes have to happen, but patterns of mistakes are no longer mistakes, but habits.”

If your students are bored with the class and using their computers for purposes other than the learning activity, then you should ask why they’re distracted. If you want your students to pay attention to you, then you should be worth paying attention to. Banning computers in class isn’t the answer but using them creatively will not only make your classes more interesting, but will help students to develop a digital identity. Over time, you can use classroom activities to help them develop appropriate online practices and behaviours as they move towards being responsible digital citizens.

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