Why Digital Citizenship Is an Opportunity for Educators and Students to Learn Together

Why Digital Citizenship Is an Opportunity for Educators and Students to Learn Together

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The day had come to try swearing in front of my mom to see what happened. When you're ten, these days sometimes come. Over dinner at the local pizza place, I pondered the best way to work the word "frickin," my newest playground verbal acquisition, into a conversation. Then I had it:

"Kevin is so bad in gym class. He can't pass the frickin ball to anyone."

"Aliza." She raised an eyebrow. I was about to be scolded for swearing, I knew it. I stared hard at my greasy frickin pizza... "Don't say bad things about people in public. You never know who will hear you: Kevin's grandmother or aunt could be sitting at the next table, and that would make them feel sad."

Instead of being lectured on my bold word choice, I was getting a lesson in being a citizen within our community. So began my foul-mouthed life of thinking before I spoke about people in public. (And mental note: ask Kevin about whether he has any aunts or grandmas in the neighborhood...)

"Don't say bad things in public," was easy to understand when I was ten, because “public” meant a place outside our house. But now, it's harder to understand the concept of "in the privacy of your own home" when you're accessing Facebook from the bedroom, Instagram from the living room and Twitter from the toilet. It's harder to determine what public really means now: when kids fire up their phones, they're at the neighborhood pizza joint. What can you say and where?

In our digital society, the concept of what to share in public is hard for kids to understand. And it's harder for adults to pass on sage pizza-place wisdom because we're also still figuring it out ourselves. While students are grappling with, "Should I post that picture of myself dancing absurdly at that party?", teachers are grappling with the question, "Should I post that picture of myself dancing absurdly at that party?"

As such, with Digital Citizenship Week around the corner, teaching about citizenship is an excellent opportunity for teachers to be learners alongside their students.

Teachers can begin by sharing their own experiences with deciding what to post to open a conversation on what to share, and when to share. "Would posting a picture of my new shoes make my friends feel jealous?" "Should I post on Facebook that I'm really, really mad?" By talking through the decision-making process, students can learn by example and share their opinions about what they would have done and why. It's an authentic teaching moment where teachers and students are learning side-by-side how to be citizens of the 21st century.

To help facilitate this important conversation on digital citizenship, Flocabulary created an educational rap video called "Think Before You Post." The video lists 10 tips for posting smart on social media. Tips include: keep relationship details to yourself, don't share TMI, and first and foremost, "follow the golden rule." We created the list in collaboration with Common Sense Education, and drawing upon standards ranging from ISTE's Standards for Students and AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner.

For Craig Badura, a preK-12 Integration Specialist in Aurora, Nebraska who watched "Think Before You Post" with his students, teaching about digital citizenship is a no-brainer. "Haven't we been teaching about citizenship in our classes already, and shouldn't this just be a given in the online world? To behave online like we do in the real world?" he asked. He sees digital citizenship as a natural extension of pizza-place-style life conversations. He added, "I always like to remind my students that first impressions used to start with handshakes, but now they begin with a Google search."

And the fact that educators are also learners became clear to us at the Flocabulary office while we were planning "Think Before You Post." Emily Helfgot, our curriculum director, opened a planning meeting by recounting a story from the day before:

"My fiancé was in a play last night, and I was having a bad day. And he still brought me flowers. And my instinct was to post a picture of the flowers on Facebook and say, "He's in the play, but I get the flowers." But then she thought about rule #2 from our song, "Don't brag," and rule #5 "Keep relationship details to yourself." Emily continued, "Then I thought…Why would I do that? If someone posted that and I read it, it would annoy me. And this was also a special moment that didn't need to be shared with everyone." (But now the world knows anyway, Emily...)

As teachers prepare for important conversations during Digital Citizenship Week, we hope “Think Before You Post” will spark real-life learning moments that stick with students for years to come. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll remember the life skills your mom shared with you over a slice of pizza. But it's even easier to remember them if they rhyme.

Aliza Aufrichtig is the Product Director at Flocabulary

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