The Role of Digital Citizenship in Blended Learning
Digital citizenship is a pillar of effective blended learning. Digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses computers, the internet, and digital devices to engage with society on any level. With this standard definition in mind, consider how much of blended learning relies on understanding how to be an upstanding digital citizen. I’m sure we can agree that it’s a significant amount. Essentially, the concept of digital citizenship really sets the stage for any and all blended learning activities for students. When there are learning gaps in this area—especially when compiled with other issues of digital inequity—not understanding how to use technology properly or behave online can lead to compounding issues that negatively impact student learning and engagement.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure that digital citizenship is at the top of the list in a blended learning environment. Here are some things teachers and students should understand about the role of digital citizenship in blended learning:
The importance of passwords is no secret.
Ensure students know what a secure password is and how important it is to create one. Passwords for email and online learning profiles should have an even higher level of security and not be the same as those used for everything else. It doesn’t hurt to reinforce the fact that passwords are private and should not be shared with other students, or anyone for that matter. Suggest a secure program, like LastPass, for students to keep passwords safe and organized, as it’s likely they have several variations of passwords for various blended learning resources.
Privacy should not be left to chance.
Speaking of privacy, some of the most valuable lessons a student will learn are those related to staying safe. Private information is information that can be used to identify a person. It’s imperative to teach students as early as kindergarten the importance of protecting their private details like address, email, and phone number.
Personal information is just that... personal.
Though they are similar, private information and personal information are not one in the same. Although, personal information—like the number of siblings you have, your favorite movie, or where you were born—cannot be used to identify a person, we must still teach students to be discerning about who they share this with.
Sometimes, what may have started as personal information—posting a picture of a class field trip to a local museum, for example—can turn into private information. Let’s say in the background of the picture, you can see the license plate of a student, chaperone, or teacher. Because that information can be used to identify a person, there is an increased risk.
Be particular about property and permissions.
Do students understand Creative Commons, copyright, and how to generate a license for their own work? Do they understand what it means to respect the property rights of those who create intellectual property? Do students know how to find the original source, get permission for the work they want to use and cite it properly?
The difference between truth and fiction is in the details.
It can sometimes be difficult to decipher what’s true and what isn’t on the internet. Scams and cons are abundant and can appear to be true, while it may turn out that the totally off-the-wall story you read yesterday was 100% factual. Luckily, learning how to tell the difference is a skill that can be taught. Resources like Snopes and Truth or Fiction are great places to pull from in order to expose students to the possibilities of inaccurate information posing as truth.
Students must be able to use tech responsibly to learn effectively in a blended environment. They must take ownership of their digital interactions. Being a good digital citizen is no longer a distant goal, something we’re getting ready for when the time comes. Blended learning is our reality now, which means digital citizenship is a top priority for all students and educators.