A Learning Thing
Lesson: What makes a digital citizen?
Target Audience: 7th-9th grades
By adjusting some of the required materials and creating quality/quantity restrictions (e.g. must have a video with background music, cannot be more than five minutes in length) and requiring more formal citations (like an APA-style citation page in their final projects), this project can become appropriate for students up to 12th grade.
Time Frame: 10 days/2 weeks
Materials Needed: Computers (one-to-one school or access to computer lab); headphones; internet access; school email accounts; video cameras or devices that can record video and audio; video editing software; photo editing software (such as Photoshop); space for students to record
Begin with a discussion/informal survey about students’ digital behaviors. The teacher will begin asking questions about how often students spend on the computer, playing video games, on phone apps, etc. For example, “Raise your hand if you spend an hour out of school each day online”, and “stand up if you look at your phone while eating lunch”. This will get students excited to talk about their online lives and behaviors.
This will transition into some discussion of statistics on digital usage in adolescents:
Step 1: Partner Up
- Students find a partner or group of no more than 4 people
- Groups make a Google Doc
- Share it with me
- This is where ideas will bounce around and decisions will be made
Step 2: Research
- Students will work with their groups to research digital citizenship
- Students will be given below materials to use as a “starter” to their research, but will be required to look further
(This one is really silly and geared for younger students but honestly I’ve found that students around this age think this sort of thing is hilarious)
- Students will be encouraged to use library resources and go to the library for further research and help from librarian
- Students will use their Google Docs to keep track of resources, discuss individual findings with group, etc… essentially compile and cull info
- Students will have three days to research, including the first “partner up” day
Step 3: Compress & Define
- Groups will look at their compiled information and decide on the most important subtopics/elements within the topic of digital citizenship
- Groups can have no less than five and no more than ten subtopics for their projects
- Groups will be given one day to deliberate, discuss, and decide on what’s most important
Step 4: Creating Media
- Groups will need to create two different representations of the elements they decided were important to digital literacy
- These projects can be different ways of representing the same information, or they can have some of the elements in one project and the rest in the other (half in a video and half in a podcast, etc.)
- Students will be given four days to work on these projects in and out of class and will be given permissions to go to labs/library/cafeteria to film, record, or otherwise create
- Groups will email final versions of the project to teacher, who will put all of the projects on the class website (which will probably be a more fleshed-out version of this)
Step 5: Exploring Other Groups
- On the next (9th) day, students will independently explore the projects of the other groups in their class
- Students will need to bring headphones
- Teacher will monitor to ensure students are keeping on task
- Students will be encouraged to take notes of similarities and differences, as well as things they found interesting and insightful in other group projects
Step 6: Full-Class Discussion
- On the final day, students will engage in a full-class discussion on digital literacy and the projects the groups created
- Similarities and differences will be focused on, possibly creating debate
- Students will give constructive feedback to groups
- Groups will have to justify their answers
Thinking About Your Thinking
At the beginning of this class, I really had never heard the terms “digital citizenship” before and had just about no concept of what it could be, except through the hints the words “digital” and “citizenship” gave. It seemed pretty straightforward…. yeah, you can laugh now. While I now have a deeper understanding of what digital citizenship is from this course, I also have more questions and confusions than I ever had. It’s like opening up one door, only to walk through and find you’re standing at the edge of a Scooby-Doo chase-scene hallway. Digital citizenship is two short words for such an insanely diverse, multifaceted topic!
I think what has really become most important to me from learning about digital citizenship over the summer is that this is really something that needs to be integrated into schools! I know that where I student taught, there was no digital citizenship classes, and it was never really discussed beyond “don’t plagiarize”. Digital citizenship is something that can be learned and explored through all other school subjects without a lot of extra effort on the part of the teacher, so schools really need to get to it! Students are getting their own laptops or devices from the schools but are not really shown how to use them, technically or ethically.
Hard-set rules about what is ethical and responsible to do online have become far less important. At the beginning of the semester, I thought that maybe digital citizenship had some sort of code that was supposed to be remembered and adhered too, but at this point digital citizenship codes better resemble the Pirate’s Code from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
And basically measure out to just “don’t be a d*ck” rather than something complicated and set in stone.
Digital citizenship is very similar to plain old citizenship in that way. Be excellent to one another, et cetera. Traditional citizenship certainly does have a more strict code and includes stuff like voting, paying taxes, not littering…. but a fair amount of what it takes to be considered a good citizen in the traditional sense is pretty much open to interpretation. Don’t break the laws, and also maybe fill in this blank —>_________________. Digital citizenship has far fewer rules or laws, but adherence to the existing ones is certainly (like in traditional citizenship) a good start.
I think that my current understanding of digital citizenship influences a lot of my interactions online. I don’t post comments that are deliberately harmful, and try not to post anything that I wouldn’t actually say in real life. I try to post positive stuff, not overshare, and am constructive when there is criticism to give. I don’t deliberately bait and troll people, and I don’t butt myself into other people’s arguments. I don’t take other people’s work for my own profit, and I’m willing to pay to help artists continue to put out new creative works (you know, mostly). I don’t think my online habits have changed as a result of this class, except that maybe I’m a bit more willing to actually put content out on the web, where I was pretty timid before. I think that’s the best way I can continue working on my digital citizenship.
Advice for Future Students
I don’t have a ton of advice generally, but what I have is pretty important. That is:
By that I don’t just mean “do everything early”, that’s impossible. I mean, look at all of the assignments and determine how long they will take, and then do it early. Don’t wait until the day it’s due to try and cram six assignments in. Pace yourself, and produce quality work. It’s way better to cut out time for planning and structuring, especially since there’s a lot of freedom involved in this class. DON’T ABUSE YOUR FREEDOM. PRODUCE GOOD WORK.
And! Have fun with it, because this class has a lot of interesting parts, and can only be made more interesting by pushing your limits, working with programs and on projects you enjoy, and by interacting with other people in the class.