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Column: Lessons in digital citizenship

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Column: Lessons in digital citizenship
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

By BARRY FISCHER, District 518

WORTHINGTON — Digital Citizenship is a hot topic in both the educational and the private sectors. Digital Citizenship in its simplest terms is how to use technology responsibly. The year 2014 has already seen two large stories that tie directly into Digital Citizenship, consumer information stolen/hacked from Target and the story of the senior from Rogers, Minn., who has been suspended from his school over a Tweet sent from his Twitter account.

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Digital Citizenship can be broken down into seven categories: a) Digital Access, b) Digital Communication, c) Digital Literacy, d) Digital Law, e) Digital Rights & Responsibilities, f) Digital Security.

Digital Access: Each student should have equal access and opportunities to digital tools. This is where the 1X1 mobile device initiative comes in. Each and every student of Worthington Public Schools will have a device and equal opportunity to use the Internet in the schools.

Digital Communication: Students along with adults need to learn how to communicate properly using digital devices and the Internet. A case in point is the young man from the Rogers school district. He said the tweet he had posted was using sarcasm. Unfortunately, sarcasm does not come across very well when posted on the Internet.

Another example comes from my own experience. One day my daughter asked me why Grandma was yelling at her. Confused, I asked what she meant and she shared with me a text message my mother had sent her. The text message was in all caps. In text speak, all caps means one is angry or shouting. My mother did not realize this. There is a digital divide with how we communicate using technology through the generations. This ties directly into the next category, Digital Literacy.

Digital Literacy: Technology used to be taught in a classroom lined with computers. Learning about technology now needs to come from all teachers, administrators, and parents.

Today’s students are referred to as digital natives, meaning they have essentially lived their entire lives with technology. Students are very comfortable with the use of technology, yet this does not necessarily mean they understand how to use it and when to use it.

In the past we spent time teaching students how to find information. The information is now everywhere, and we need to teach students to determine if the information they find is reliable and how to apply the information.

Digital Etiquette: This is the how, where and why of using digital devices, and it is an age old problem. Once again, I can go back to my own youth. The way we carried our “boom boxes” and played our music as loud as we could is no different than people talking on their cell phones in public. But learning etiquette will help. Students need to learn that playing games on devices instead of doing their homework is not appropriate. Then again, neither is the adult playing Candy Crush during work.

Digital Law: Just because we can find virtually anything on the web does not mean we should or can use it. Students cannot take the words of others and copy the information into their papers and take credit for the work. That is plagiarism. Also, adults and students need to know and realize that just because the latest, greatest movie in the theater can be found on the web, it does not mean they should watch it. Almost anything can be found on the Internet, but think twice before using it.

Digital Rights and Responsibilities: Each of us has the rights afforded us through the Bill of Rights. The right to free speech and the right to privacy, to name two, both follow us onto the digital world. But does that mean we should say whatever we want on the Internet? We need to remember that once it is online, it is there forever — even if you delete it from your device. Every picture, every text, and every email.

Digital Security: As responsible digital citizens it is our responsibility to have passwords on our home wifi, passwords on our devices and our online accounts. This applies to what we post online. If you post a comment or a picture intended for one person, the whole world can see it. We need to protect ourselves when we receive emails or texts asking to provide information.

Digital Citizenship is something we as a school district are striving to educate within our students as we continue to train and educate our staff.

Barry Fischer is coordinator of teacher education for District 518.

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