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Digital citizenship is one of the key parts of learning today

digital-citizenshipDiscussions about U.S. students’ ability to compete in a global economy, and their ability to use skills such as critical thinking and problem solving to succeed in college and the workforce, are commonplace. But central to those discussions is an issue that impacts nearly everything today’s tech-centric students do: digital citizenship.

While not a new concept or effort, digital citizenship may not be at the forefront of every school leader’s mind. But it should be, said Jason Borgen, program director of the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL) in the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Calif.).

“Digital citizenship shifts the way we do business and what we prepare our students for,” Borgen said, speaking on April 5 at the National School Boards Association’s annual conference in New Orleans. “Lots of recruiters don’t even look at resumes; they look at potential employees’ social media sites. We all have a digital footprint today. We’re all connected globally.”

(Next page: Digital citizenship’s nine important considerations)

Students may not know what a digital footprint is, and may not realize that every action they make online, from posting pictures to liking posts and linking to articles or web sites, is part of that digital footprint. Helping students realize that their actions today can impact their future is the first step in making them aware of the importance of crafting a positive digital footprint.

Digital citizenship is generally considered to include concerns related to citizenship, safety, and responsibility in the digital age. The Common Core State Standards and the standards’ emphasis on technology have a direct correlation to digital citizenship education, Borgen said.

Borgen summarized nine digital citizenship considerations outlined in a 2011 book by Mike Ribble, published by the International Society for Technology in Education.

  1. Digital access. Do students have it? Broadband internet should be a civil right, according to some.
  2. Digital commerce. Do we teach students how to bank and purchase online? Do they know what it means, how to be safe, and how to protect their information when they’re on a public computer?
  3. Digital literacy. What does literacy mean today? It could be defined as the capability to use digital technology, along with knowing when and how to use it and operating comfortably in an online environment. Modern libraries include lots of computers and collaboration. Can students evaluate information and determine what is reliable and what is not?
  4. Digital law. The biggest legal digital issue is copyright, extending to music, photos, videos, and software. Do students know what materials are free to use, such as those in the Creative Commons, and which they must seek permission to use?
  5. Digital health and wellness. What are the elements of physical and psychological well-being related to digital technology use, and can students balance online time and technology use with exercise and face-to-face interaction with others?
  6. Digital security. Do students know the precautions that all technology users must take to guarantee their personal safety and the security of their networks?
  7. Digital communication. Technology makes the electronic exchange of information almost effortless. What are the implications of this? How has this information exchange impacted society?
  8. Digital etiquette. This concerns the standard of conduct expected by other digital technology users. We participate in online content when we leave comments or vote in polls. Do students know the appropriate ways to behave and how to leave a positive digital footprint behind, even if they are leaving critical comments or questioning the validity of information?
  9. Digital rights and responsibility. The privileges and rights extended to all digital technology users, and the behavioral expectations that come with them.

“The ability to collaborate and connect with people has so much potential for our world and society,” Borgen said.

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