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*Digital Citizenship: Preparing Today’s Learners for Tomorrow’s Skills in the Internet Age

"Teaching in the internet age means we must teach tomorrow's skills today," said Jennifer Fleming, Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at California State University. Today's students have access to an impressive array of technology. Using technology in education breaks down barriers and allows students to learn from and interact with people worldwide.

Educators frequently assume that all students are competent technology users who require little guidance from educators. However, knowing how to use technology and comprehending how our actions on the internet affect us and others are two entirely different skill sets. Learners frequently fail to recognise how their interactions in class affect others through their words and actions. Thus, incorporating digital citizenship skills into any class has never been more important than now.

Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship refers to how one's online actions using technology effectively affect oneself and others in today's educational contexts. These digital citizenship skills act as guiding principles, ensuring that students use technology appropriately, safely, and responsibly.

The need to explain and monitor proper digital usage grows as classrooms incorporate more technology to benefit students. Thus, all educators need to fully comprehend the term "digital citizenship" and its elements before that support teaching positive digital citizenship. They should discuss and reinforce community rules, norms, and expectations, thereby fostering a welcoming and respectful classroom community.

Good digital citizens are conscious of how they use technology tools. They are also aware of how others perceive their actions. While there are no hard and fast rules regarding screen time, students must be taught how to stay on task and focused while online. Learners must be taught the skills required to interact and contribute in the physical world and the skills required to do so online. They must also be aware of how their online activities affect their personal health and wellness as well as the health and wellness of others in their physical and digital spaces.

Pedagogical View

Basically, pedagogy is how educators teach, including interactions with students in an educational setting. Meaningful interactions emerge when educators approach topics forward-thinking, focusing on what students should do rather than what they should not do. Teaching digital citizenship with a positive perspective influences learners' growth toward understanding their role in this digital age.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) supports learner-driven teaching that gives students a voice. The ISTE's standards for students confirm the pedagogical view of emphasising positivity in delivery. It emphasises learning to empower learners and assist them in discovering who they want to be in a digital world. Digital Citizen, the student standard 1.2, requires students to:

  • Concentrate on maintaining a digital identity in a world of permanence.

  • Engage in positive online behaviour.

  • Understand and uphold intellectual property rights.

  • Keep personal information secure.

5 Be Statements Solutions

Following Microsoft's mission to enable everyone to do more, educators can help students embrace digital tools in positive and affirming ways while also guiding them to avoid practices that diminish technology's power.

The five "be statements" provide context for understanding the significance of being good digital citizens. The statements are in line with ISTE's student standard 1.2 and revolve around the idea of empowering students to achieve more. These are the five "be statements":

  1. Be online: Increase your understanding of how online time affects your health and wellness.

  2. Be public: Examine how you represent yourself online to create and leave a positive digital footprint.

  3. Be personal: Connect safely with others.

  4. Be respectful: Follow copyright guidelines and acknowledge digital content ownership.

  5. Be perceptive: Use digital literacy strategies to evaluate sources, including understanding multiple perspectives.

1. Be Online

Being online entails paying close attention to how one's own actions affect others and reflecting on the content of a post before sending it. Setting goals and reviewing desired outcomes is how responsible online learners hold themselves accountable for their online time. Learners must cultivate empathy to comprehend the implications of posts from the perspective of another.

Online communication is distinct from verbal communication. Good digital citizens should learn how to communicate their needs and respond appropriately to the needs of others using digital tools. Being a part of an online community entails sharing responsibility for the information communicated through posts, images, and other means. Knowing when not to respond to something that may be harmful to others is also part of community building.

In a 2017 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 81% of respondents stated that they were constantly or frequently connected to a device. While it is easy to be "always on" through connected devices such as tablets, laptops, and mobile devices, it is not as easy to stay focused because it is all too easy to become distracted by other online resources, websites, and social media. According to a study conducted by the University of California, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to deep focus on a task after being distracted. This statistic tells educators that teaching students how to disconnect and the health benefits of managing their technology time is critical.

As the workforce becomes more dependent on virtual communication, setting the stage in schools provides opportunities for learners to practice these skills; for instance, modelling proper email etiquette, using posts and chatting to relay information to learners needed for daily lessons, and providing a safe space for them to ask questions privately.

2. Be Public

Did you know that 70% of employers use social media as a screening tool before hiring someone? 54% of employers surveyed said they chose not to hire a candidate based on social media content. 36% of college admissions officers polled admit to checking prospective students' social media before admitting them to their university.

Good digital citizens should know that everything they share online influences how others perceive them. First impressions are formed through online interactions and posts. Learners must be aware of the images and beliefs they want to convey and align them with their online activity. Otherwise, there may be real-world ramifications.

Learners must also be aware that whatever is digitally posted or shared online can never truly be deleted. Every action, post, like, and comment leaves a footprint in the digital world that isn't readily forgotten. These "digital footprints" may be left behind with little thought to their future implication.

Learners must always be taught to evaluate their online actions' longevity and impact while acknowledging their ability to do extraordinary things in a digital world. There is tremendous power in using technology to help raise the voices of many people so that leaders can hear them whenever possible.

3. Be Personal

According to March 2020 Psychology Today, safely connecting with real people online is beneficial for online users. According to this article, people who feel more connected to others have lower anxiety rates. There are fewer cases of depression and increased self-esteem and empathy for others.

Good digital citizens should strive to be personal and authentic while remaining private. They should not post sensitive information and understand that online posts are permanent. Even if the original poster deletes a post, others may screenshot it, save it, and re-post it in multiple apps, leaving a permanent digital footprint. Understanding and employing good digital citizenship skills make online experiences safer and more enjoyable for educators and students.

Educators must teach students to avoid posting if they are unsure. Learners should also be taught how to evaluate their posts with empathy and respect for the personal rights of others. They must obtain permission before posting photos or videos of others in public places online, and they must determine when it is appropriate to make public jokes or references.

All educational institutions must teach students how to safely share personal information to make connections in a secure environment. By determining how an online service or app collects, uses, and/or transmits user information, using a framework to evaluate the Terms of Service Agreements of online educational tools assists schools in protecting student data privacy.

The Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) provides resources to schools to help them answer questions and address concerns about student data privacy, confidentiality, and best security practices as required by:

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

  • Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

  • Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

4. Be Respectful

Today's learning environments provide numerous opportunities to access information, create content, collaborate, and consume knowledge. Good digital citizens need to interact with resources in ethical and legal ways. Citations and attributions help to avoid plagiarism and copyright violations while also giving credit to the creators who completed the work. Word's Researcher is an excellent tool for researching topics, locating reliable sources, and properly citing sources.

Educators must teach students the fundamentals of copyright and fair use of online content, including how to avoid plagiarism and respect digital content ownership. Citation and attribution are two crucial concepts that students must grasp to become good digital citizens. Citations acknowledge the authors of restricted or copylefted sources. When sources are not restricted, attribution is used. Educators can use the American Psychological Association's APA style guide to help define both concepts' roles in helping learners increase credibility during the creation process.

5. Be Perspective

Today, educators and students alike are bombarded with false and inappropriate information on the internet. Educators and students must use perception skills and information literacy, which is defined as a "set of skills required to find, retrieve, analyse, and use information" defined by the American Library Association, to assess the veracity of facts and filter out misinformation and inappropriate content.

Learners today are part of a generation that understands information is easily accessible and limitless. They value creativity and collaboration and recognise that being constantly connected to a vast amount of information, allows them to seek new information much more easily than previous generations. Good digital citizens must fully comprehend how to use technology tools to locate, evaluate, and apply information to their needs.

Educators and learners must be competent in information literacy skills. Using the Big6 stages can evaluate sources for misinformation or bias as they learn to understand multiple perspectives. Besides, they must understand the importance of avoiding phishing schemes and scams. The Big6 is a process model that illustrates how people of all ages solve information problems. Successful information problem-solving consists of six stages, each with two sub-stages.

  1. Task Definition

  2. Define the information problem

  3. Identify information needed

  4. Information-Seeking Strategies

  5. Determine all possible sources

  6. Select the best sources

  7. Location and Access

  8. Locate sources (intellectually and physically)

  9. Find information within sources

  10. Use of Information

  11. Engage (e.g., read, hear, view, touch)

  12. Extract relevant information

  13. Synthesis

  14. Organize from multiple sources

  15. Present the information

  16. Evaluation

  17. Judge the product (effectiveness)

  18. Judge the process (efficiency)

How to Implement Digital Citizenship? Solutions

The use of technology in education is rapidly expanding, as is the need for students to develop digital citizenship skills. It is impossible to learn or master good digital citizenship skills all at once. Educators should examine the various components of good digital citizenship and find ways to incorporate them into existing classroom lessons and activities. Teaching digital citizenship through a positive lens influences learners' growth toward understanding the digital age.

Implementation necessitates careful planning, practice, and perseverance. As technology evolves and becomes more prevalent in schools, it is critical that students learn good digital citizenship skills. This does not imply rule-laden "no" statements, but rather an opportunity to emphasise the positive aspects and encourage thoughtful and empathetic intentions. These "be statements" encourage peer and learner collaboration, challenge educators to rethink traditional approaches, and prepare students to think about others first and drive their own learning in the Internet age.

1. Be Online

Below are the tools to assist learners and educators in being mindful of their online experiences.

  1. To limit screen time or take breaks from the computer, use Windows Alarm & Clock.

  2. Stay Focused, a Microsoft Edge productivity extension, can be used to block websites that could distract you while working.

  3. To recognise and communicate emotions in a safe and non-threatening online environment, use the Reflect app within Microsoft Teams.

  4. To share personal learning objectives with educators, use Microsoft Forms surveys.

  5. The Chat in Microsoft Teams ensures that conversations between educators and students occur safely and securely.

  6. A single-family organiser can use Microsoft Family Safety to set screen time limits, view family member locations, and read activity reports about websites, apps, and games that family members visit.

  7. On Windows devices, the Ease of Access menu gives you access to accessibility tools like different keyboards, Sticky Keys, mouse pointer options, magnifier tools, closed captioning, and narration.

2. Be Public

There are some strategies for assisting students and educators in being mindful of their online interactions.

  1. Use Bing to search their names regularly to see what readily available online information.

  2. Use quotation marks to find specific words or phrases paired together.

  3. Use a small dash/minus sign to exclude a phrase or ending from the search.

  4. Create digital characters that more closely resemble students or how they want to be represented online using Minecraft: Education Edition.

  5. When you use Paint 3D on a Windows device, it creates a three-dimensional avatar that you can use across all of your devices and account profiles to express who you are or how you feel about sharing online.

  6. LinkedIn is being used to help people create and refine their digital footprints for professional or collegiate purposes.

  7. Using the Career Coach connector in Microsoft Teams, explore potential career paths that interest them.

3. Be Personal

Digital privacy can be taught to keep private information safe by using various Microsoft tools below to help make online experiences more personal and secure.

  1. Microsoft Stream is a secure video service for managing video content in schools.

  2. Flipgrid, a social learning platform, amplifies learner voices within a secure and accessible walled garden.

  3. Students create a digital vault within the Minecraft: Education Edition world to store personal data such as usernames and passwords, emphasising the importance of keeping a digital locker for sensitive information.

  4. Password Strength Checker is a free app for Windows devices that evaluates the strength of password strings.

  5. The Password Generator in Microsoft Edge automatically generates a strong, unique password suggestion.

4. Be Respectful

Here are some tools to help students cite and attribute:

  1. Bing Visual Search is a tool for searching the web with images rather than text.

  2. Bing, Microsoft's web search engine, allows users to perform image searches and filter them based on the Creative Commons licencing system's restrictions on use, sharing, and modification.

  3. Microsoft Teams, a collaborative platform for educational use, now integrates with Turnitin, a product designed to flag plagiarised documents and check for similar language in assignments.

  4. Microsoft OneNote offers auto-citations with direct links to websites to capture and organise resources and information from the web into a digital notebook.

  5. The Editor feature in Microsoft Word allows for suggested edits and revisions to documents and a Similarity Checker that shows how much content in a document is similar.

5. Be Perceptive

Use the tools below to recognise and be protected from phishing and scamming attacks and what to do if a phishing attack is realised.

  1. Bing Safe Search allows learners to focus on the quality of information retrieved and avoid information that does not meet search expectations.

  2. assess whether online information is accurate.

  3. Microsoft Edge browser, including ad-blocking extensions or Microsoft Editor, improve online searches and remove distractors.

  4. Focused Inbox available for Microsoft 365, Exchange and holds important messages defined by the user.

  5. Add to Safe Senders option filters messages from known contacts.

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Digital citizenship: Prepare today’s learners for online success. (2022). Microsoft.

Welcome to the Big6! (n.d.).

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