iwonderstand?


Just Like Nancy

Posted in Technology by iwonderstand on May 22, 2014
Tags: , , ,

Last night’s #DCMOOC class kept me up all night – well, actually it may have been the coffee I had afterwards, but nonetheless I was thinking for many hours about the implications of digital citizenship. It was interesting to read Kelly Christopherson’s post this week, Everywhere Citizenship, as he zeroed in on many of the things from our online discussion that were part of my own reflection on digital citizenship. Both of us connected to the same tweet. Citizenship

Of course digital citizenship is just citizenship. So what are the implications of that statement? Some people tend to view citizenship in the world as the list of  ‘do nots’:

Do Not List

I tend to look view citizenship as what we SHOULD do in this world. I think of my friend, Nancy Barr, who teaches Grade 3-4 at one of Saskatoon’s Community Schools. She is teaching her students to be good citizens. Today, I had a chance to look the display that she and her students created to showcase their learning this year. Grade 3-4 Citizenship Display

Rather than focussing on what NOT to do, Nancy creates an environment where her children learn and create and contribute – they exemplify what TO do, how to be good citizens. Rather than simply focussing on “Don’t Hurt Others”, one of Nancy’s students writes “If you see someone being bullied, don’t be a bystander, speak up. Be kind and respectful.” Rather than admonishing “Don’t damage property”, one young student writes “Keep the Earth Clean. To keep the Earth clean, you could clean up outside if you see garbage just lying around pick it up.”

Random Act of KindnessNancy starts the year building community with her students so that they feel empowered to make a difference beyond the walls of their school and classroom. This Grade 3-4 class created ‘random acts of kindness’ where they performed good deeds, even going so far as to raise money to buy shovels so that they could shovel the walks for community members in need. Their cards read simply “This random act of kindess was so you could have a better day.”

Being a Good CitizenThese young citizens support people in need – everyone from residents in their neighborhood convalescent home to executives in the offices of Potash Corp to members of their own school community who just needed a warm cup of coffee on a cold day. Nancy’s students have performed good deeds just because they are good deeds and they give to their community. By learning and experiencing citizenship as an authentic act of giving, these children strive to make the world a better place. Nancy does not need to focus on the ‘do not’ list, because her children understand what it means to be positive, contributing citizens. As one student wrote “Being a good citizen feels good. When you are a good citizen that means you are doing good deeds for the world and other people and when you are done you feel good about yourself. It is awesome to be a good citizen.

And now I think of the ocean of technology that I wrote about last week. What has happened is that our world has expanded out beyond the concrete, grass, and houses that we see around us. While it is true that this ocean of technology is almost limitless, it is still filled with people. Because technology connects people, our view of citizenship needs to be the same. We adults will often focus on the list of ‘do nots’ – it has slightly different words and phrases, but it is essentially the same list as the one above: Online Do Not List

Last night’s discussion and an article written by Jeff Dunn helped me to see that it is not good enough to just focus on the ‘do not’ list. It is imperative that we focus on what citizenship looks like online. Just like Nancy does with her class in our physical community, we need to provide opportunities for our children and ourselves to create, influence, and do good things in the online community. Let children experience using their knowledge, skills, and power to do good things for those that need support. Let’s stand up against online bullying – let’s follow the example set by Nancy’s students – let’s not be bystanders! We need to model and provide the environment where children are creative contributors to the world. By learning and experiencing citizenship, digital version, we and our students can authentically make the world a better place. If we create the same environment online that Nancy has done with her Grade 3-4 students, we do not need to focus on the ‘do not list’ so much, because our children will understand what it means to be a positive, contributing citizen within the larger world. Let them experience and feel how good it feels to do good things. Let them feel how awesome it is to be a good citizen.

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11 Responses to 'Just Like Nancy'

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  1. Ted Parker said,

    Thanks for your post. I also resonated with this week’s advice about framing digital citizenship positively rather than in a series of prohibitions. Beyond the psychological advantage of encouraging students to engage rather than scaring them off (or tempting them to misbehave), I’m reminded of writing advice that I give to my students: positive instructions always are more specific than negative prohibitions. A prohibition rules out only one behavior in an infinite sea of possibilities, while positive instruction grants a path to follow.


  2. I agree it is so much better to frame things positively. The world can be a very negative place and I think it is important to show students the good possibilities. Giving students a framework and letting them make some decisions leads to more creative products. 🙂

  3. Wendy James said,

    I agree with focusing on the positive, and think this is one area where we know young people need support (like learning to drive, learning to read or compute, have successful relationships etc.) but we excuse ourselves from teaching about it. I think that comes from feeling like “the kids know more.” This where are students are, and where our economy will require them to be. Teachers need to be good models of citizenship in this area, and actively teach students skills for success, not avoidance.

  4. Lori Kindrachuk said,

    Great to see the work in our schools highlighted. Thanks for this post, Terry.


  5. […] Johansen explores the idea of digital citizenship in The Ocean and the Tide and growth in his post Just like Nancy.  Alisha Montieth explores moving to a new school and the opportunities that change provides and […]


  6. Are we ready to call it just “citizenship” instead of “digital citizenship”?

    It is a question I am wrestling with myself right now because although as Alec pointed out, there is no difference for students, I am not sure how prepared parents, and indeed, many educators are in making this synthesis. And so I wonder if it makes sense to remove the “digital” from conversation.

    I have been thinking about this (although not as a result of coffee!! lol!).

    Here’s my ramblings on this: What does it mean to be a citizen … without the word “digital” attached.
    What does it mean to be a citizen of Canada”?
    Or a “global citizen”?
    Are they the same thing?
    Do we have the same responsibilities? … rights?

    Does the concept of citizenship have the same meaning if we add the word “digital”?

    I feel that the word “digital” provides a focus in much the same way that adding the word “global” does. It has slightly different connotations, albeit some common big ideas.

    What do you think? (I hope that @SkHabsfan joins in this conversation too!)

    • Terry Epp said,

      I think that continues the conversation that we were having today. We may be ready to for the term “citizen” with many of its nuances, but as you said earlier the divide is still very large between those who need “digital” in front of it and those who don’t. I guess it doesn’t matter if we “get it” if our audience doesn’t understand what we are talking about.

  7. Terry Epp said,

    After listening to the discussion on #dcmooc and now reading this post I have to admit that it caused me to re-examine some of my basic thinking. It seems that the “do nots’ have been much easier to teach. Students can, when coached, list the dangers of technology and digital presence but I’m not sure how much they internalized the lessons that we spent so much time presenting. Did it end up that they ignored these cautions as easily as other good advice that received over the years?

    The power of the positive is intriguing. As a High School teacher I wonder how I can model and encourage my students to engage in citizenship and use some of the potential for good that teachers like Nancy Barr have shown is possible for students.


    • Is it human nature to think of the “do nots”? For example, when travelling abroad to a new country, I think I usually focus on the things I won’t be able to do in that new environment. My trip to China, for example, was prepped with a lot of “do nots”. Likewise, for the online environment, I think it is natural to start there.
      But if we were to flip that way of thinking on it’s head and start with the “do’s”, we could be inspiring! Or probably, a better approach would be to blend the do’s with the “but here’s how to do that responsibly”.

  8. Susan said,

    I like the idea of phrasing things positively. I wonder about the following tweak to your list for digital citizenship to state them all as positive ‘to-do’ statements.

    Be Truthful,
    Be Kind to others,
    Give credit,
    Be safe and protect your identity,
    Be aware and care for property.


  9. […] Just Like Nancy […]


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