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Tracie Weisz
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Gaming Digital Citizenship
What if....?? Many educators using edtech are familiar with Mike Ribble's Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.  What if we could "game" those elements for our students? Although there are may possible paths to go about this, here are some...

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This is a resource for Canadian educators.  They have some nice resources and a good blog. 

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Does anyone remember this? 

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The biggest change I have seen in media literacies has mostly to do with the complexity of what we are constantly having to analyze on the net. For most of my life, anything put out for public consumption has mostly been able to fit into neat categories or genres.  Although those have expanded greatly over the years, categories still existed for us to compartmentalize what we consumed.  If we paid attention and educated ourselves (or even received this education in school) the criteria for these categories allowed us to instantly analyze what we were consuming and then understand what we needed to do with that information.  The big change I've noticed over the past 8 years or so is that now there are not categories for much of what is available to us. I'm a fairly educated person, and I read a lot and keep up with current events, so I feel like I've had enough of a background to be able to sort through much of what I see on the internet, and then fairly quickly make a determination about what I'm going to do with that information.  However, one of the categories I find myself mentally filing things in more and more is the "discard and ignore" category.  I reserve this for media that I simply don't know what to make of.  With the growing complexities of pop culture (and I'm not getting any younger!), as well as the prevalence of internet memes, it's not uncommon at all for me to come across media that I really don't know how to handle.  Some I realize is pure nonsense - there seems to be an overabundance of that now.  But some is linked to the intricacies of the new culture of the web and there's just too much going on out there for me to be aware of all of it.  If something is confusing, but looks interesting, I'll go through the trouble of finding out more about it, but mostly, I don't have time for a lot of it.  For me (us) another difficulty then comes in trying to teach new media literacies to kids.  Not only are kids on the internet a lot, much of what they consume is video.  Helping kids to understand that it's important that they become critical consumers, and also guiding them to find ways to discover and pursue specific interests is a real challenge.  One of the best things we can do for kids coming of age now is to teach them ways to manage information.  Introducing them to web-based bookmarking is a relatively simple thing to teach, but keeping them in the habit of doing it is vital.  It's a great way for them to gather, manage, and curate information.  Blogging and building websites is also another great way to teach kids to gather, manage, and create in an organized way.  Other social/sharing sites are becoming very effective for managing information.  I really believe that platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instragram serve another important purpose besides entertainment and socializing - kids learn to organize and categorize their interests. Pointing out the importance of keeping their digital lives organized is vital skill.  The next part is not so easy - helping kids to sort through and make sense of what they are seeing.  I love sites like Digital Disruption, that are doing great work in helping students to really look at what they are consuming with a critical eye.  Other curriculum and tools that can assist in teaching kids to be savvy digital consumers will become more and more necessary and important in the classroom.   

My question at this point is what DOESN'T Common Sense Media do?  I've been using their digital citizenship curriculum in my brick and mortar technology classes with middle schoolers, and in my online technology class with high school students for the past year and a half.  Their curriculum was originally recommended to me when I started designing the classes, and I was really impressed with what they offered.  However, over the course of the week I've dug into a lot of their other doin's and found out that this non-profit also offers pretty thorough teacher PD, and a whole section on advice for parents who want to maintain oversight of their kids' online activity.  Their website also contains reviews on movies and games. But on an even bigger scale, they contribute to support, and sponsor research about kids, education, and technology. They have partnerships with schools and districts in which they assist with PD and implementation, and will "certify" schools as CommonSense Schools. They also sponsor initiatives to help families and schools, such as their 1:1 Essentials Program. They publish articles and blogs regularly in widely read publications such as the Huffington Post.  They have a new site called Graphite, which is specifically designated for reviewing apps and programs.  Most recently, they have established an important partnership with P21 - the Partnership for 21st Century Schools. This definitely catapults CommonSense into the big leagues with P21 as a real force behind advocating for technology in education.  The benefit of these organizations is the integrated vision they have for technology and best practices in education.  They have the frameworks, the curriculum, the materials, and the ability to support districts, schools, and individual educators.  Together, these organizations can form the same kind of consistent and respected framework and information as NCTE has done for English, NCSS for social studies, etc. They contain a large body of research-based information and guidelines for curriculum and best practices that is nationally respected. However, P21, Common Sense Media, and others like them have the effect of being able to bring these disciplines together.  P21 has already aligned itself with NCTE in its publication of the 21st Century Skills English Maps, which has led to publications of the same sort with math, geography, science, and art. Common Sense Media has brought the digital citizenship piece to the table with P21. 

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After going through some of the resources this week, I can say that I highly recommend the digital passport - I've already put our elementary tech teachers on it!  It looks like a great introduction to the topic (for 3rd-5th) in a way that is fun and engaging - a great entry point for starting conversations and planting seeds!  Another great resource is the Digital Citizenship group within Edmodo that is promoted by Common Sense Media.  This group has over 8,000 followers, and an active discussion board in which teachers are sharing experiences, blog posts, and resources. If you aren't on Edmodo, but are interested in getting this kind of info for integrating digital citizenship, it's worth your 2 minute sign up just for that! 

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I LOVE this article about tying in business policies regarding social media with solid k-12 digital citizenship programs!  This is such a shifting time, that many of the adults currently in the world of work either a) didn't grow up, or at least spend their youth with technology or b) did, but because it was so new, k-12 education as a whole was caught off guard and had no place to tackle it.  I'd say that the age group of students who are in high school now (for the most part), through adulthood fit into this second category.  In my head I think of them as either the lost digital generation (in that they fell through the cracks between plain old citizenship, and digital citizenship), or the digital generation pioneers. After all, they are the ones who have taken on digital technologies, grown them to what they are today, and paved a new path - whether they meant to or not! They are like the oldest child, the one the parents learn their parenting lessons from :)

I have many friends who work in the private sector, and I'm always surprised to hear their stories about how they are on lock-down at work. Many are not "allowed" to use their own smartphones at work, and most report having social networking sites, as well as others,  completely blocked at their workplace.  As a teacher, you'd think I would be used to this kind of thinking.  However, I've had the benefit of working in a district that trusts its staff.  Teachers have access to a different login than the students, and may access any site they want any time (students also have a fairly open filter).  There are no specific rules in place about teacher use of personal phones, and there is also a fairly liberal phone policy for students. They may use them before and after school, between classes, and at lunch.  In class use is at the teacher's discretion, and their rules, although differing from class to class, are law.  The result? Not, as one might expect, chaos and anarchy! I've been working at schools in the district for many years (pre-cell phone and pre-internet), and I can say that life doesn't look a whole lot different as far as student or teacher behaviors go.  With regard to access, and personal devices, it's simply not an issue.  There is an atmosphere of trust, and the incidences of abuse (by students and teachers) has been minor and very manageable.  

But I digress.  Schools are recognizing the need for digital citizenship curriculum, and more are seeing the sense and the need to educate students, so that they are able to handle networks and manage their digital foot print in school and out.  So, if even k-12 schools can learn to trust their students and employees, and give them the tools to help them learn to manage their digital lives appropriately, you'd think it might catch on in the "outside world"...

At first glance, one might not think our district's tech plan includes much in the way of digital citizenship - at least I didn't.  However, now that I've looked over Mike Ribble's nine elements, I can see that it does.  Under the "goals" section, we do in fact address elements 3 and 4 (digital communication and digital literacy) often and strongly.  We also have a goal that specifically addresses element 9, digital security.  When I think of (and teach) digital citizenship in my technology classes, my focus is mainly on elements 5, 6, and 7 - etiquette, law, and rights and responsibilities.  I would definitely say that the REPs are part of this instruction.  Ribble's nine elements expand the idea of what we consider citizenship, and nicely encompass behaviors associated with our digital lifestyles. One of the things our district now wants to focus on is building more of a culture and framework around our mission statement - "Educating all students to reach their full potential as responsible citizens." The emphasis is on 3 particular words in that statement, "all", "responsible", and "citizens". The vision right now is that this will become important from the way we conduct interviews and trickle down to the way to the way we conduct PD and write curriculum.  I think it's a good vision, and I am certainly looking forward to helping craft a framework for implementation.  I think Ribble's nine elements are a nice way to build the citizenship aspect in beginning in kindergarten.  Although we are not used to thinking of it in those terms, etiquette, law, and access are, in some sense, already a part of a kindergarten education.  It's where students get a chance to practice good manners, respecting others, and about rules and fairness.  I would include "access" not necessarily in digital terms, but in that kindergarten is where students have the opportunity to learn that computers are for learning, and that school is a place where they can do that.  Emphasizing these traits and behaviors should be a focus, and making a slight and purposeful shift to include the "digital" aspect does not seem like such a reach for a 5 year old, especially given the world they are growing up in.  I think the key word here (not just for kindergarten but for all grades) is "purposeful".  If the district does want to focus on their mission statement, the biggest shift for teachers will be to teach these things within the purpose of a solid framework around responsibility and citizenship. 

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How can students deliberately cultivate a digital footprint? 

I like this question, because it removes much of the negative connotations associated with digital footprint we see in digital citizenship education still. Too many educators are still approaching footprints and privacy from our old definitions - and those definitions don't apply to our kids anymore.  In an Educational Leadership article (ASCD), Will Richardson takes an approach proposing the opposite.  He worries that this extreme form of promoting privacy education is being done at the expense of students actively and deliberately building a good footprint.  His worry: that if students fear digital footprints, then when it really matters, they won't have any digital footprint at all.  In the meantime, if we don't teach them how to cultivate a good digital footprint, they will still create one without our guidance.  

My oldest daughter recently moved to Los Angeles. She has heard all of the ominous warnings about how her online presence could be Googled by college admissions and future employers, but these were all stories of the wider world. We Alaskans are a bit insular, and still have a tendency to believe we are untouchable when it comes to those big-bad-world-outside stories. Anyway, one of the first things she encountered upon moving was being Googled - often, by prospective employers, and also being asked to share her Facebook profile with prospective landlords.  

It brings home a good lesson for anyone these days.  Competition for things like jobs, apartments, college admissions, scholarships, etc., is tough.  Anything extra you can bring to the table is a bonus - and right now it's looking more and more like that "extra" is how you are searched.  Fortunately for my daughter she has tended fairly carefully to her online identity, and also used it extensively during college to network for jobs and internships. This served her well, as she landed a good job right away, and qualified for an apartment in a desirable neighborhood that over 60 people had applied to for tenancy. 

Although my days of applying for apartments are long behind me, who knows when I may need my own "extra something" to bring to the table. I Google myself once in awhile just to make sure everything is ship shape (it is!).  

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with 6th graders about "manipulating data" (we're learning about spreadsheets). I wrote down the word "manipulate" and asked them if they knew what it meant.  Most knew of it as applying to people, and generally offered that it had only negative connotations which probably involved lying and deception. So we had a good talk about the word manipulate, and eventually got to a general understanding that when we applied that word to data, it wasn't actually a bad thing - that it involves taking a lot of information and making sense of it for yourself or for others. I had to get them to the point of understanding that manipulating data was not the same as changing the data itself. I explained that actually changing the real data to fit your needs would be dishonest and deceptive, but manipulating it was not the same thing.  

The whole discussion reminded me that with regard to digital citizenship, we need to tend very closely to the vocabulary we use with students, and not take anything for granted. Kids tend to have a little trouble with "grey area" for longer than we think.  Throughout junior high, they seem to still want to look at things as very black and white. When it comes to digital citizenship (as a topic) they are looking for rules - dos and don'ts, and if we just "cover" it, that is their takeaway, in spite of what we may have intended. I have "covered" lessons about giving out personal data, only to find later that their takeaway was "Never give out any personal data", and that was never the message I intended!

What they really need are the skills to be critical thinkers and discerning about content and use. The more I teach it, the more time I feel I need to give to it. 
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