Just Like Nancy

Posted in Technology by iwonderstand on May 22, 2014
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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.

The Ocean and the Tide

I am inspired by Jade Ballek’s post on What Do Our Students Need Us to Learn? I find as a leader of professional development, I am constantly asking the teachers I work with “What do you need?” or “What do you need to learn to best support your students”? And then my own learning stems directly from that question. For example, if my teachers identify that they need to learn about effective ways to identify where students are in their understanding of multiplication and division, and how to teach from where students are, I get my research hat on, look at books and resources by key thinkers, and learn a whole TON about multiplication and division that I never thought I would ever need to know, remix it with what I already know and *Shazam* we have a learning opportunity around the topic that teachers have requested.

But… what if there is something that is larger and more pervasive than those learning needs identified by the teachers I work with? What if there is an ocean that everything we do and learn and communicate is suspended in? And what if that ocean is something that I actually know very little about other than “it’s blue and it can be pretty and it can be deadly”. For me, that ocean is technology and the tide is digital fluency.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not usually techno-phobic and I am pretty proud of my prowess with Excel, Inspiration, and I make pretty awesome graphic organizers in Word. So I can USE tech tools at a pretty OK functioning level. But… what do I actually know of my responsibilities, rights, and privileges in the digital world? Here is where life gets sticky. My fatal flaw is that I trust that everyone in the world is helpful and truthful and kind. I swim through the ‘click click click install’ messages on my computer, and happily sign up for apps and profiles without a care in the world. I don’t wonder why my Google Search is different than my friend’s Google Search on the same topic. Back ‘in the day’ digital citizenship seemed to be confined to:

  1. Don’t say mean things.
  2. Keep your Facebook page private and be careful who you are friends with.
  3. Check your sources – don’t believe everything you read.

And now… there is so much to be aware of. I need to be aware of how I am being influenced by the data profile attached to me. I need to be aware of… well, sadly, so much that I don’t even know that I need to be aware of. And this is the point. When I don’t even know the potential, I don’t know what to be aware of. I don’t know how to be safe. I don’t know how to model and teach my learners.

And so I turn to the #DCMOOC and the community it has created. Through community, we can navigate this ocean together. This is important to not just KNOW, but to LIVE, to MODEL, to BE.