Listen, they were all educators with demanding and exhausting "day jobs" and I genuinely wanted to know why they got up early on a Saturday morning to attend a professional learning opportunity focused on digital citizenship.
I wanted to know their "why."
Then I told them mine.
In 2011, I worked at Arizona State University (Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College). My role there was to transition the program to an "infusion" model, whereby technology (i.e., ISTE Standards) would be integrated into the methods coursework for all pre-service teachers. Without going into too much detail and bird walking into another conversation, suffice it to say that the transition to the infusion model inadvertently left digital citizenship in the dust (read: it was NOT being taught in any of the education courses.) So, while more and more K-12 classrooms were looking like the photos below with K-12 students using technology as important learning tools, we were not preparing teachers to promote responsible and ethical technology use within their instructional practice. #YIKES!!
me that they "needed" to hire teachers that understood how to effectively use technology for instruction AND who understood digital citizenship.
Additionally, more and more of my non-educator friends began to talk about it. They didn't use the term "digital citizenship," but they were undoubtedly talking about responsible and ethical use of technology. You see, they were "hearing things"... the media was full of stories about teens that had lost scholarships or college admittance because of something they posted on social media, the prevalence of sexting, and cyberbullying that led to tragic results. My friends were asking me what to do, how to keep their kids safe from harm, and how they would know if their kids were involved in any of these things they had read about or seen on the news. Those conversations were driven by fear, but they opened a very important door to begin a different, more positive conversation about technology use and digital citizenship.
Digital citizenship was more important and relevant than ever before.
That's when I made a commitment to the pre-service teachers at ASU and the faculty with whom I worked. I would NOT continue to promote more and more student technology use in the classroom until I paired that with digital citizenship. The conversations MUST go hand in hand, period. 2012 #digcitcommit
My commitment became an "all in" kind of thing for me. I began studying, researching, and discussing digital citizenship with a whole lot of people (both education folks and non-education folks). I authored a series of digital citizenship modules for all teacher candidates in the college. I even conducted my own study and wrote a dissertation focused on increasing pre-service teachers' intention to "model and promote digital citizenship" in their future classrooms.
In his 2018 keynote presentation, ISTE CEO, Richard Culatta threw out a challenge to all educators - "Commit to doing just one thing to promote digital citizenship in the coming school year and share pledges on social media using the hashtag #digcitcommit."
Since making my 2012 commitment, I've learned a lot about digital citizenship, both in theory and in practice; I've seen an "evolution" in the digital citizenship conversation (<< that's a whole other blog post that I haven't written... yet); and, I've developed a strong perspective on how educators & parents should work with youth to inspire them to lead a digital life consistent with who they authentically are. Today, my commitment is even wider, deeper, and broader than it was back then. As our digital lives continue to transform, I am more dedicated than ever to elevating the conversation about what it means to be a citizen in the increasingly digital world we live in, and helping educators to do the same, in partnership with students & families. I aspire to include student voice in this conversation, and I am committed to sharing what I learn with others. This is my #digcitcommit. What is yours?
Did you know that Digital Citizenship Week is Oct. 15-18? Just in time to think about how you will take one step forward in your digcit practice this school year!
If you're short on ideas, maybe one of the following suggestions will resonate:
Digital citizenship is an enormous topic that is constantly evolving, which is why this ongoing conversation is so important. #DigCitCommit ISN'T about mastering it all at once or turning into a digital citizenship guru... you don't need to conduct extensive research on digital identity or write a thesis on social media use to have an impact on your students' digital lives. #DigCitCommit IS about taking one step forward. JUST. ONE. STEP. If we all take one step, think about the collective impact we have on students. I'm in. Are you? #digcitcommit
P.S. Would love to hear from you - please feel free to comment and share your #digcitcommit for promoting digital citizenship this school year!
choreographers and perform in front of live audiences. One of the things about the show that I particularly like is that each dancer has to learn and perform dance styles out of their genre. So, Hip Hop dancers will do Broadway routines; Contemporary dancers perform the Cha Cha; Tap dancers try their hand at Krumping. And of course, this is what really sets the dancers apart. Those who can pick up another style show their superior talent, musicality, artistry, and what I like to call "the dance inside of them."
Even though I love this show, it's literally been 2 years since I've watched it... I have episodes saved on DVR since 2016. See, that's the season they decided to turn the show into a kids dance competition and call it "Next Generation." I guess I just wasn't that interested in it, so I set it to record and have never been motivated to fire it up... until a few nights ago.
The other night when I was fighting sleep, I flipped on the DVR list and noticed I had only about 2% space left, so I decided I better watch something so I could start deleting. So, finally, FINALLY I decided to give this So You Think You Can Dance - The Next Generation a try. 6 episodes later, I finally tore myself away (reluctantly) and went to bed. I was totally hooked.
This kids version of the show is better than I ever could have imagined. I think it might even be better than the regular adult competition... and here's why.
The kid version of the show is amazing because kids are freaking amazing. I mean, these kids are all talented dancers... but that's not what I'm talking about. What really hits me in the feels is these kids' mindset, attitude, and total joy when they dance. And when they dance out of their genre... they literally bring me to tears. Every. Time. Imagine a 10 year old asked to learn a dance that she's never even considered trying (possibly never even seen), thrown together with a world famous choreographer with a week to perfect a show stopping routine. And she totally nails it. These kids dance outside their genres better than the adult dancers that I've seen on this show, hands down.
You want to know the difference? These kids are fearless. They go into every new dance with joy... and they really don't seem to be nervous that they won't "get it" even if they've never done it before.
When the adult dancers are asked to go outside of their genre, they are typically scared and their sound bite often has them talking about their discomfort. They're scared that they're going to look foolish, that they just won't be able to pull it off. (But mostly that they'll look foolish.) Consequently, many of them hold back and it ends up being their demise in the competition. But these kids... these kids seem to lack this fear that the adults show. The kids seem to not really think about whether they will look foolish. They just kind of shrug their shoulders, as if to say, "sure, I'll give it a shot - why not?" and they go for it. Without this fear, these kids are uninhibited and attack these new dance styles as if... well, as if they know they're capable of anything that comes their way. And cue LeeAnn's tears.
Why am I writing about this on my blog? You'd think I'd write about something a little more "ed techie" - right??
I don't know... I guess In a weird way, I see the behaviors and mindsets of these "next generation" dancers and it resonates with how I view teaching & learning, as well as what we all need in order to be our best selves. The joy, the vulnerability, the lack of self-criticism, and the impeccable work ethic these kids exude is what I dream of for all classrooms, for both teachers and students.
In the show, the adult dancers who are acting as mentors keep talking about how much they are learning from the kids they're paired with... and I totally believe them.
What if more classrooms operated in such a way that teachers learned from students as much as students learned from them? What if both teachers and students embodied this level of joy and passion for each new learning challenge they faced? What if they committed to learning together?
Joy, vulnerability, authenticity, and work ethic. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, coaches. Empowered learning, digital citizenship. Voice, creation, stories. Learning, teaching, life.
Thank you, young dancers, for reminding me of these things and for modeling them. I take from you a lesson about not needing to fit in a perfect box and staying within my comfort zone. I take the lesson that when you learn something new, do it with passion. And don't stay exclusively with what you already know just because you're afraid of looking foolish. Be vulnerable - don't be afraid to try something different. Sometimes you want to color outside the lines, and that's okay. Sometimes you want to write about a dance reality show on your ed tech website - and who knows, maybe like Kida, the Hip Hop dancer performing a mean Paso Doble, just maybe it makes perfect sense.
I care deeply about helping educators cultivate healthy environments where every student and teacher can learn, grow, and thrive in this digital world!