Amplifying Student Voice While Teaching Digital Citizenship
Many educators have been unaware of the need to teach their students about digital citizenship. After all, it is not unusual for students to be more aware of and more comfortable with technology than their teachers are. But that doesn’t translate into students automatically intuiting what they need to know and do in order to be good digital citizens.
A solid digital citizenship curriculum will cover such topics as reputation management, civility, data privacy, copyright compliance, security, personal safety, appropriate communication, and information literacy. But, like any curriculum, its success or failure will depend almost entirely on how much students engage in the process. Even the best curriculum won’t have the desired outcome if students aren’t motivated to learn from it.
Amplifying the role of student’s voice is one way to ensure that lessons about digital citizenship stick with students. This is no time to fall back on lectures and worksheets—the stakes are simply too high. Instances of online bullying and privacy breaches can have extreme repercussions in the lives of students, so digital citizenship needs to be taught in such as way that all students adopt its lessons. Here are some ways to allow students to exercise their voices as they learn about digital citizenship:
First, students can be recruited to review and recommend resources for their teachers to use. When it comes to adults, we usually recognize the importance of buy-in for the training process to work well. But this principle is often ignored when students are the target audience. But if a digital citizenship curriculum can be presented as something chosen by students themselves, it is more likely that students will be engaged in the process.
Second, students and teachers can use the digital world itself to develop citizenship skills. One effective class project might be a student-designed and led social media campaign to teach the campus community about an important aspect of good digital citizenship.
Third, teachers can promote instructional materials that are student-focused, collaborative, and inquiry-based. Research across all subjects shows that students show higher levels of engagement and better learning outcomes when taught with these kinds of materials, which amplify the students’ own voices.
Fourth, campuses should form working committees to address issues as they arise. This group could meet regularly to ensure that instances of poor digital citizenship result not only in punishment but also in teaching opportunities for all students. This approach allows students to have input at all levels of the process.