Last week, we were fortunate to have Patrick Maze, the President of the STF, join our online class in a discussion about digital citizenship. He spoke to us about the role both schools and teachers play in educating students about digital citizenship. Patrick states, “As teachers, we need to uphold our own professionalism and monitor our digital footprint by practicing responsible online behaviour”. Within our profession, it can be difficult to live our lives to the fullest online, meaning we need to exercise caution when sharing content, such as personal/private information and photos. The truth is, educators are held to a higher standard within the eyes of the public and are expected to be “quite neutral”.
As human beings, this reality can sometimes feel unfair as educators are not only judged by their peers, but also by the public. Therefore, it is crucial that we are careful and use our best judgment before posting something online that could result in the destruction of our personal/professional reputation or possibly the loss of employment. Patrick also spoke to us about the dangers of being too involved online with students and their parents. He states, “When teachers allow students or their parent’s permission to communicate with them online through social media (such as Facebook or Twitter), it creates the perception that they are always available because they can see your online activity”. As a wife and busy mother, I know I have the right to a personal life, so I do not allow instant communication to my students or their parents. Therefore, I have made a personal choice not to “friend” or accept any add/follow requests from my students or their parent’s. If they have a question or need to speak with me, they can send me an email, call the school, or arrange to meet with me during school hours.
As Krista states in her blog, “Schools hold a huge responsibility to support the development of digital citizenship in education because its learners have constant access to technology”. As educators, we are aware of our student’s involvement online because we see and hear about their online activity of a daily basis. But the important question is, “Do they practice responsible and appropriate behaviour with regard to technology use”? It is the responsibility of school boards, educators, and parents to educate today’s modern students about digital citizenship and all of its elements. Specifically, this responsibility includes: introducing students to the proper use of a variety of digital tools and guided practice online in a monitored environment. Parents that may be considered digital immigrants within today’s digital world may not obtain the confidence, knowledge and critical thinking skills required for operating technology. Therefore, a lot of parents appreciate or perhaps hope that their children are learning about these concepts in school. Moreover, the policy planning guide from the Ministry of Saskatchewan encourages schools and teachers to be educating students about appropriate online behaviour in the development of becoming positive digital citizens.
Overall, if we expect our children and students to be successful, well-rounded digital citizens within a digital society, then we need to understand that this process needs to be taught and supported. It is simply not embedded into our brains. The combined role between schools boards, teachers and parents play in teaching about digital citizenship is crucial. We cannot expect our youth to achieve this goal on their own.
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