Culminating Digital Citizen Reflective Essay
An Understanding of the Elements of Digital Citizenship in Relation to Education
The base elements of digital citizenship are far-reaching, crucial, and personal, and it is clear that citizenship and digital citizenship are pretty much the same in the twenty-first century. Jason Ohler’s (2012) article supports this conclusion as he talks about how educators cannot hide the reality that technology surrounds students, which means it should be a core part of their educations. Ignoring its existence only encourages them to use it improperly and become bad digital citizens.
Mike Ribble (2015, p. 480) defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.” Similarly, Jason Ohler (2012) focuses digital citizenship on “balancing the individual empowerment of digital technology with a sense of personal, community, and global responsibility.” Finally, Terry Heick’s (2013) citizenship-inspired definition, as referenced by Polgar and Curran (2015), is “self-monitored participation that reflects conscious interdependence with all (visible and less visible) community members.” After looking over these definitions and learning more about digital citizenship in general, it can be said that being a good digital citizen means having the ability to responsibly, positively, and effectively participate in the digital world. For someone to achieve this goal she must understand the elements and how these factor into everyday technology use.
The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship
The way Ribble (2015) categorizes his nine elements of digital citizenship helps teachers understand how each one relates to education and helps students become good twenty-first century citizens. The three categories are student learning and academic performance, school environment and student behavior, and student life outside the school environment. Together, all three of these categories and all nine of these principles create an environment meant to develop students into responsible digital citizens.
Within the first category of student learning and academic performance are digital access, digital literacy, and digital communication. Digital access is where everything begins and refers to someone’s ability to be a part of a digital society. Digital communication is someone’s understanding of the variety of available methods of exchanging information. Digital literacy is all about learning and sharing technology (Ribble, 2015). All of these can and should be taught within academic courses, which is why they fall into this category.
The second category includes digital etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, and digital security. These three revolve around the environment and student behavior. Specifically, etiquette focuses on the consideration of others, rights and responsibilities encourages everyone to understand digital rights of everyone, and security asks students to understand the need to protect themselves and their information (Ribble, 2015). These are necessary understandings for any digital citizen to be sure they are not stealing intellectual property or creating an atmosphere that discourages others from using any technologies.
Finally, outside the school environment, students must understand digital commerce, digital law, and digital health and wellness. As the market continues to shift, students need to be aware of how to buy and sell products digitally. They also need to know the potential legal and physical and mental repercussions as well (Ribble, 2015). Having a full understanding of all nine elements allows someone to be responsible when working online and avoid negative consequences of inappropriate behaviors.
Understanding the Impact of Technology
In a world of overwhelming social media posts, people often forget to consider the permanent impacts technology can have. No matter how often someone may preach to students about the importance of understanding their digital footprints and how their online activity can affect their futures, they rarely consider more than simply avoiding irresponsible posts. The Internet at this point is a well-oiled machine that affects personal, professional, and educational lives, and there is a lot that consumers should do to ensure their online representations are accurate and positive.
It is important to be aware of the potential control service providers and search engines have over what is seen on the Internet. Thankfully, the Federal Communications Commission (2015) created and enforces the Open Internet rules to “protect free expression and innovation on the Internet.” Without this, schools and individuals might be paying more for Internet services or receiving unfair speed for certain sites depending on what they pay these companies. This could be disastrous for newer or less prolific schools who cannot afford faster services (Long, 2015). There are also significant privacy issues regarding the Internet as ninety-one percent of people who are aware still do not make changes to increase their privacy (Madden & Rainie, 2015). This reinforces the need for teachers to make students aware of how to protect themselves online from others while at the same time protecting themselves from their own actions.
It is obvious that the world is consumed by technology, which can be a positive or negative thing. According to Lenhart’s (2015) research, “24% of teens go online ‘almost constantly.’” Part of the issue with this is that people who do this have difficulty making meaningful interactions with others because they are always online. Obsessions have grown that are negatively impacting personal and educational lives, when these technologies should be increasing availability and learning. Nickolas Negroponte’s TED (2014) video displays this as less fortunate children were able to learn about complex technologies with nothing more than a tablet and each other. There is a balance that needs to be taught and upheld so students can make good decisions and become strong digital citizens.
Understanding Copyright and Plagiarism Guidelines
Plagiarism and copyright law are abused on a regular basis by both educators and students. This is not done with malicious intent, but it is instead due to ignorance. It is important for educators to have a complete understanding of copyright and plagiarism guidelines not only to make sure they do not face legal actions, but to also make sure they are preparing their students to be responsible digital citizens.
Determining the differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement is a critical starting point. Plagiarism can be simply defined as using the “original work or works of another and presenting it as your own” (Bailey, 2013). Ethically, this should never happen because it is dishonest and a simple form of cheating when it comes to academics. Copyright infringement on the other hand is when someone reproduces, imitates, distributes, or publicly displays something that is copyrighted without permission (Bailey, 2013). One of the many common myths that contributes to teachers illegally using outside resources is that using materials for education is an exception to the law, “but it [is] not automatically in all cases” (Bringham Young University, 2017). The reality is that there are other factors that must be understood in order to use copyrighted materials without permission.
There are two major laws that help educators when it comes to using copyrighted materials without requesting permission: fair use and the TEACH Act. The four factors of fair use are purpose, nature, amount, and effect, all of which need to be considered by educators before using copyrighted materials (dschrimsher, 2010). If a teacher wishes to use unoriginal materials, he can evaluate what is going to be used with these four factors to see if he can do so legally. The TEACH Act also provides someone the right to digitize materials for the sake of education (Piculell, 2013). This is especially important as the world of education continues to develop and use the Internet as a form of hybrid and extended classrooms. Online learning is a growing trend and being able to supply materials to online students legally is equally as important as doing so with those involved in traditional classrooms.
Recognizing and Preventing Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is an issue that has exponentially grown with the evolution of technology. The core issue with this involves empathy and a societal belief that it is acceptable to publicly shame other people. This is a struggle humanity faces with regard to how people treat one another, and through it all the best possible solution is still the most common solution to all issues: education.
Understanding what cyberbullying is should be step one in identifying its dangers. It is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (Hinduja and Patchin, 2015, p. 11). This means that any time anyone is purposefully and repeatedly hurting anyone through technology, they are cyberbullying. Something even scarier is that it is impossible to escape since “is not restrained by time or space and can use multiple media platforms” (Brewer and Kerslake, 2015). Because of this, self-esteem is directly affected, and youth are naturally more susceptible to self-esteem issues. This is what happened to Ryan Halligan (Ryan’s story, 2015) and Kylie Kenney (Struglinsky, 2006) years ago and what unfortunately still happens to teens despite the knowledge schools now have with preventing it.
If society expects to see a real difference in the upcoming generations with how people treat one another, adults have to make empathy and digital citizenship a priority. This change must be made before more struggling students turn to violence or are permanently affected for the rest of their lives. Being kind is one of the simplest things a person can do, but for it to be a consistent trait it must be reinforced.
Jason Ohler’s (2012) explanations of the “two lives” and “one life” perspectives highlights the need for teachers to embrace the concept of digital citizenship. Students, who are definitely consumed by the digital world, are asked to disconnect during school in the “two lives” perspective but are asked to embrace their digital responsibility with “one life.” The latter is much more appropriate because as teachers it is their responsibility to teach “our digital kids [how to] balance the individual empowerment of digital technology with a sense of personal community, and global responsibility” (Ohler, 2012). That is, after all, what it means to be a good digital citizen.
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