Standard 4 of the ISTE Standards for Teachers focuses on the concept of digital citizenship. The past decade has seen an exponential increase in digital tools and opportunities, which carry the need for students to master a new set of life skills for behaving responsibly online. Even as they sit in their classrooms, they are able to connect with people across the globe instantaneously via chats, email, blogs, social media, virtual conferences, comments and more. This new capability brings great opportunity but also some risk. Many of these connections happen with strangers, who could potentially pose some of the same dangers as strangers they meet in the street. And the anonymous nature of the internet can make negative personal interactions, such as cyberbullying, even more likely.
Contrary to popular belief, however, digital natives don't pick up these skills through osmosis. It falls on parents and educators to teach them how. Just as a teacher would talk to students about etiquette and safety before they enter a public place on a school trip, so must they remind students of what's expected of them online.
Students are much more likely to understand good digital citizenship — the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use — when teachers model it on a regular basis. It is also important for all educators to spend time directly teaching and actively promoting digital citizenship. And keep in mind that it's not just one person's job to teach digital citizenship in a school, but everyone's shared responsibility.
The three social studies activities described in the table below are designed for students in grades 5-7. The objective of the lesson is to help students explore another culture and share traditions, events, customs and rituals from their own culture. There are different ways to address these objectives, but not all of them take advantage of the prime opportunity to promote and model digital citizenship.
Standard 4: Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility. Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.
Activity 1: The teacher starts the lesson by using books and posters to present information about England. The students then write pen-pal letters to students in a class in England about their cultural traditions, events, customs, and rituals.
Activity 2: Using books and posters, the teacher starts the lesson by presenting information about England to the class. The teacher then has students use email to connect with British students. Teachers ask students to create a digital presentation, using the digital tool of their choice, to share cultural traditions, events, customs and rituals. The students develop their presentations in class time to ensure equitable access to all.
Activity 3: The teacher starts the lesson by showing the students a presentation about England that includes proper citations for sources and images. After meeting with a class from England on Skype, the teacher asks the students to use the safe email program ePals to connect with British students. The teacher then asks the students to create a digital presentation to share cultural traditions, events, customs and rituals, which they develop during class time to ensure equitable access to all.
a. Advocate, model and teach safe, legal and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property and the appropriate documentation of sources.
Absent: The teacher does not advocate, model or teach safe, legal and ethical use of digital information and technology.
Probably absent: There is no indication that this teacher is modeling and teaching safe, legal and ethical use of digital information and technology.
Addresses: The teacher modeled good digital citizenship by properly citing the sources and photographs he used in the presentation.
b. Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies and providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources.
Absent: No digital tools were used. Students have no choice in how they present information to the British students.
Addresses:The students are able to choose a tool to create their presentations. These tools are used in class time to ensure equitable access to all.
Addresses: The students are able to choose a tool to create their presentations. These tools are used during class time to ensure equitable access to all.
c. Promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information.
Absent: There is no digital modeling in this activity.
Probably absent: There is no indication that this teacher is promoting and modeling responsible digital social interactions.
Addresses: The teacher models digital etiquette by using Skype with the class. Students will also get to practice responsible digital etiquette while using a safe email program.
d. Develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital age communication and collaboration tools.
Absent: Students are connecting with peers from another culture but not using digital age communication and tools.
Addresses: Students are connected with students from another country by using one digital age communication tool.
Addresses: Students connect with students from another country by using multiple digital age communication tools.
Activity 1 shows no evidence of addressing Standard 4. To present information to the students about England, the teacher uses books and posters rather than digital resources. The students interact with the British students via the postal service, again missing the opportunity to engage with students of other cultures using digital age communication tools. Clearly, the teacher is neither modeling nor promoting good digital citizenship, since he doesn't even use digital tools.
In Activity 2, the teacher again starts with books and posters to present an overview of England to the students. This method does not exploit any digital tools to enable students to see more of the country and does not meet any of the indicators. The next part of the lesson, however, is more aligned to the standards. The teacher asks the students to use email to connect with their peers in England, and they can choose the digital tools they want to use to share more about their own cultures. The main component missing from Activity 2 is modeling of good digital citizenship.
Activity 3 meets all the indicators for this standard. The teacher begins the lesson by using technology to present information about England to the students. He models good digital citizenship by including citations for the images he uses. The teacher also promotes and models digital tools by using Skype with the whole class. Next, the teacher has the students use a safe internet program, such as ePals, that monitors activity between students to ensure that the interactions taking place are responsible. This gives students the opportunity to practice their digital etiquette in a secure environment. Ideally, the teacher would have already introduced this email program to the students in the context of a direct lesson about digital citizenship and responsible social interactions on the internet. Finally, the teacher lets the students choose which digital tool they would like to use to present their cultural traditions.
Elizabeth Leetch, an instructional assistant of special education at Captain John Smith Elementary in Hampton, Virginia, assisted in writing this article.
Helen Crompton is an assistant professor of instructional technology at Old Dominion University, Virginia. She is a researcher and educator in the field of instructional technology. She earned her Ph.D. in educational technology and mathematics education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.