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A new lens on digital citizenship

By Carolyn Sykora
June 14, 2017
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Last year’s refresh of the ISTE Standards for Students engaged thousands of educators and elicited many thought-provoking and enlightening conversations. Among the most interesting was the conversation around retooling the Digital Citizen standard. There was near unanimity that digital citizenship remain a key component in the ISTE Standards for Students because it was top of mind for parents, teachers and school leaders.

During the refresh process, a new definition of digital citizenship began to emerge – one that was positive and proactive and spoke to students use of technology to make the world a better place. Participants recognized students were doing many good deeds using digital tools like crowd funding to raise money or using social media to mobilize action for causes they cared about.

Hence a new definition of “digital citizen” has emerged, with a stronger emphasis on the citizen component: “Digital citizens are PK-12 learners who proactively approach their digital access, participation, and associated rights, accountability and opportunities with empathy, ethics, and a sense of individual, social and civic responsibility.”

ISTE’s updated Digital Citizen standard is designed to optimize the digital opportunities available to today’s students. The three components of the standard address: the student’s digital self (the combination of his online persona and digital record), the student as a digital agent (civic and social responsibility) and the student’s digital interactions (communications and collaborations).
The new Digital Citizen standard is a guide for teachers in preparing students to be civic-minded in the digital world, including aspects like developing good judgment and inspiring inventive thinking. Today, students can influence societal norms and manage the effects of digital innovations in society.

This level of engagement looks different in different classrooms and with children of different ages. Consider how an elementary teacher might empower his students to establish “Friend Tips” for using classroom online collaboration tools. In a high school career and technical education (CTE) course on the Internet of Things (IoT), a teachable moment may be to consider the tradeoffs of the convenience of sensors with the privacy issues they bring. Taking it further, lessons might brainstorm and engineer sensors into products like an IoT electronic thermometer.

With new technologies constantly on the horizon, it’s important to build the capacity of students to be thoughtful and responsible digital citizens. The new ISTE Standards for Educators challenge us to work with students to establish and reinforce social norms and develop sound judgment. The new standards empower students and build strong citizenship muscles so they are equipped and practiced to face dilemmas online and capitalize on opportunities to make a difference.

As part of the Digital Learning Pathways series, ISTE and the Metiri Group have developed a digital citizen course to support the implementation of this important standard in the classroom. Teachers will fully understand this key standard thanks to vignettes of the digital citizen in action, research-based instructional strategies for building the capacity of the digital citizen, rubrics to assess the progress of the digital citizen and online assessments included in the course.

Carolyn Sykora is senior director of ISTE Standards department. Cheryl Lemke, president and CEO of the Metiri Group, also contributed to this column.

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