Let’s start with the basics, what does it mean to be digital citizen today? Digital citizens are people who utilize digital technologies in order to engage with their society, work or studies. This means that students, educators & staff are all on the path to being digital citizens today. But what does that mean? With more of our students’ lives occurring on online platforms today, students are going to be more exposed to different sets of digital technologies & content that will help them to learn & live more effectively. This includes not just their online homework, but also their social interactions with their teachers, peers and even people they’ve never physically met before. These leads to a whole new set of opportunities for improving communication, enhancing learning outcomes & supporting teachers in better managing their classes. On the other hand, it also poses a lot of questions on cyberbullying, online cybersecurity & digital data sensitivity and much more.
Thus, we need to consider what digital citizenry means for VMA today. As stated in the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in 2018, online privacy and security should not be only issues that should be focused on. Rather, we need to consider how citizens in the digital world plays a part in engaging with their communities. For example, teachers & students are both active citizens in having online dialogue about issues shaping their learning and respective communities. Another important element of digital citizenry is for students to consider the validity of online sources and always counter check their facts through research validation of these sources. Examples of these arms of digital citizenry alongside many other arms, all indicate the importance of where we see digital citizenship playing out at VMA.
Thus, the next step is to consider is how we define digital citizenship. As indicated in a recent Teach Thought article, digital citizenship can loosely be defined by the quality of habits, actions and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities (Heick, 2018). This means that as we move along to consider how we interact with technology, we must also note that it is through habitual changes of our daily behaviors, such as how we communicate with each other in the digital space or how we consume information online that will truly mark how we live in this digital world. But why does this all matter you may ask?
1 Heick, Terry (2018) ”The Definition of Digital Citizenship“：https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship/
With China leading the world in the number of Internet users (Xinhua, 2019), we are witnessing the rise in mobile usage both within the classroom & outside of it. Each person at VMA is now equipped with at least a minimum of 2 mobile devices as we’ve surveyed in our digital literacy report. This suggests that the proliferation of internet access & mobile devices is starting to become part of our school’s culture. Therefore, good digital citizenry requires us to think about how we utilize technology to communicate with respect, draw the line when it comes to private versus public life, see things from other’s perspective, add helpful information to discussions, support others by offering feedback, encourage each other in sharing their work with others, etc.
In order to accomplish this level of digital citizenry, we have initiated our school’s Digital Citizenship Committee (DCC) which aims to address the growing concerns of cyberbullying, cybersecurity, online content publishing and other issues which have arisen during the school year at VMA. The idea behind this committee is not to penalize students for bad behavior, but rather for them to know what it means to be a digital citizen in this day and age.
We also plan on taking the following actions to support our decisions in creating good digital citizenry, such as first analyzing the temperature of digital literacy at school by conducting frequent digital surveys on understanding the behavior and perceptions of using digital technologies. We are also pushing continual efforts in supporting the understanding of digital citizenry in school by having panel discussion on ethical uses of technology and also having continual professional development sessions in supporting our teachers engaging best practices for uses of technologies in their classrooms.