I love to watch Bella challenge herself and explore new territory. Throughout the past year, I've seen her learn to rollover; I watched her turn her army crawl into a crawl; and I witnessed her journey learning to walk.
Side note: Watching any child learning to walk, I dare you to not thoroughly delight in his/her experience!
And you know what? Watching all this gently reminded me how we all learn to do new things. Bella learned to walk... by walking.
By "walking" of course I mean that she got up, fell down, adjusted, and tried again. Many times. But without question, she learned to do the thing by doing the thing.
We learn to walk by walking
Which OF COURSE reminded me of digital citizenship and the way we learn to be in digital community with others. (What... it doesn't remind you of that?)
During my off-gym hours, I spend a lot of time thinking, reading & writing, and talking to other educators about digital citizenship. If you're not familiar with the concept, in general, it refers to responsible and ethical behaviors using digital technology. The term derives from the idea that as technology users, we are inhabitants, or "citizens" of the digital world and therefore, we have rights, privileges, and responsibilities within the community. And it is absolutely essential for our 21st century students/learners.
And the question of HOW to teach digital citizenship comes up often.
There are some great lesson plans out there that teach digital citizenship concepts, like how to stand up to cyberbullying and how to build a positive online reputation.
And while those are fine... and sometimes quite engaging for students, I stand firmly by the notion that we learn to do a thing, by doing the thing. Therefore, the best way I know how to teach digital citizenship is by giving students opportunities to participate within digital communities, and providing them guidance to engage in ways that shape a collaborative space conducive to learning.
We learn to be digital citizens by
participating in digital communities
In 2019, we (educators) have access to an array of powerful tools to engage students in digital learning communities. Online experiences can amplify learning in any content area, and according to COSN's latest report, device to student ratios continue to improve. It's possible to make meaningful digital participation a regular part of teaching practice.
When it comes to learning to walk, practicing is really the only effective strategy. I would argue that the 'learning by doing' approach also works best for learning yoga, solving math equations, and learning to fix that pesky jam in the copy machine.
When it comes to digital citizenship, students also need to practice doing. I don't mean to imply that we should never implement digital citizenship lessons. We can do that, too. But teaching lessons ABOUT digital citizenship without giving students opportunities to authentically practice definitely misses the mark.
Just like Bella exploring all of the shiny objects in the gym, under careful and caring adult eyes, so can our students practice navigating digital spaces with informed guidance.
What are your favorite ways to use digital communities to teach your content? How have you helped students shape their online participation? What do you do to set students up for a successful online community experience?
I can't wait to learn from you!
P.S. For further reading, I recommend Dr. Kristen Mattson's book Digital Citizenship in Action. She paints a picture of what it looks like to encourage positive and engaged digital citizenship at the secondary level. It's an excellent read for teachers of all grades.
I care deeply about helping educators cultivate healthy environments where every student and teacher can learn, grow, and thrive in this digital world!