What does it mean to be a “good” citizen? While certainly not a new question, it is one that is experiencing a renaissance in many of our hearts and minds. Especially in the last few years, we have come to realize that our digital space and the way we inhabit it has the power to profoundly impact our analog world. We live so much of our lives on the digital plane that who and how we are in this space arguably begs as much reflection and intention as that of our physical lives.
In other words, there’s a (relatively) new existential angst in town.
My own anxious concern around what exactly it means to be an educator in this brave new world led me to @ONE’s Digital Citizenship course, facilitated by Aloha Sargent & James Glapa Grossklag (read James’ and Aloha’s thoughts about digital citizenship) Within week one, I realized I was not alone in my concerns & questions; James and Aloha encouraged us to “embrace the chaos” of the unknown and dive head first into an exploration of how we want to participate as citizens in the creation of our digital world — while simultaneously operating within it.
You Tell Me That it’s Evolution…
Prior to taking this class, I saw digital citizenship as relatively static. I knew the definition involved ethics and how we operate online — and that there were grave concerns about how all this was playing out in education. Frankly, I was also worried about how people were treating one another digitally and how that was translating offline.
This course challenged me to think about Digital Citizenship specifically in the context of how online education is emerging as a culture and industry. Topics considered in Digital Citizenship come with the realization that as educators, we are assuming a really critical role in learning, teaching, and modeling not only digital literacy but digital citizenry well outside our disciplines.
So for four weeks, we discussed, read, and thought about questions concerning digital presence, participatory learning, and ethics. We also explored Open Education and Open Educational Resources. As a result, my definition of digital citizenship has evolved considerably.
You Say You Got a Real Solution…
One of the most practical gifts of this course was the modeling of Participatory Learning – a way of teaching online that puts the learner at the center of their own learning as creator & curator; it allows for the learner to become part of the online community’s conversation in an immediate and contributory way. I’ve always been uneasy with the call and response that education – and online education in particular- could easily become, but #CCCDigCiz quickly dispelled that as we focused on ways to facilitate students developing content and creating our shared digital landscape. Harnessing the power of social media and learning to teach outside the LMS were introduced, and I quickly began to see just how far “beyond the classroom” we could take our students on this digital plane. Helping students learn to navigate the curation, evaluation, and creation rather than simply digest and respond to a prompt is an essential 21st skill set that is addressed by this course.
We were asked to think about and develop participatory and/or non-disposable assignments that addressed these skills and that we could use within our respective disciplines.
Another valuable and unexpected take away from Digital Citizenship was exposure to material sourced from Open Educational Resources, or OER. While involved in critical & ethical discussions around Open Education, we were guided to explore resources & materials that were freely available to all. What I love about OER is that many things can be adapted to suit one’s needs and individual course goals; how often over the years have we wished this or that textbook could just be altered a bit and then would be a perfect fit for our needs? Depending on the licensing, OER sometimes allows for just that, which I did not know prior to taking this course.
Adopting Open Educational Resources also addresses issues of equity, and alleviates frustrations of both students and instructors in making sure everyone has the materials — in other words, using OER levels the playing field. While these resources are somewhat still emergent, the value they offer in access and equity is inarguable.
We all Want to Change the World…
As I finished week four of Digital Citizenship, I realized my definition of Digital Citizenship was becoming more dynamic. Good teaching leads to further inquiry, and weeks later I am still thinking about the concepts we explored and their impact on our digital as well as physical world. I also have pedagogy and materials I can use right now in my course development. In short, I feel my own digital citizenship evolving. Perhaps the best thing about Digital Citizenship is that it forces an ongoing reflection and practice — and one that is anything but static.
As with most evolutionary mediums, learning to teach with – and within – technology is a bit like building a plane while flying it, and the topics covered in Digital Citizenship are an important chapter in this emerging flight manual.
“Revolution – The Beatles.” VEVO, 20 Oct. 2015