Reviewing the Notion of Digital Citizenship

Chapter five of the forthcoming Flat Classroom book is squarely focused on what Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay call Digital Citizenship. I know it is not exactly a new term but I must admit I struggle with it. It seems inadequate in its characterization of the nature of  citizenship, which is tied to our conception of the state. Also, I feel that we may have exhausted the word digital as much as we have the letters “i” or “e” extraneously prefixed onto words with their own utility. The only reason, I even include this point is that labels matter, words matter, and in the last decade or so we have not completely risen to the challenge of freshly minting new vocabulary to meet the evolutionary needs of our dawning experiences in the virtual realm.

Regardless of these semantics, this chapter is an impressive synthesis of sources into a cogent pedagogical framework for developing what might be thought of as a kind of meta-citzenship, although I am not entirely are that terms is any better. It’s just that I have been doing everything I can to resist dropping the ineffectually feeble phrase “21st century skills” into the mix.

In the interest of confidentiality about the forthcoming book, I feel compelled to be more general in my comments. Nevertheless, by parsing Five Areas of Awareness that underpin behaviors and decisions related to life online a defining foundation is established. What I like most about the areas is that they are expansive and holistic, taking into consideration the broader, international reality the Internet fosters. Moreover, they are combined with Four Competency Areas inspired by some of the work in Don Tapscott’s Grown Up Digital.

Together these areas of awareness and competencies are used to comprise tables which serve to problematize the aspects of what they have defined as digital citizenship. This combination is, in fact, one of the deft strokes on the part of the authors. By presenting the tables with questions at the intersections of the elements, clear problems or challenges are established that demand thoughtful answers. Again, this is the kind of quality guidance that this text will support for an educator looking to develop internationally collaborative projects using the Web . Of course, there may be some elements, either in awareness or competency, that might be added, but, as I eluded, the list included is quite ambitious and covers lot of ground. Having worked with both of Davis and Lyndsay on a couple of projects, I must admit that I found the table presentation charmingly familiar, considering a substantial matrix is one of the key organizational tools for managing any of the Flat Classroom Projects.

One of the competencies included involves legal compliance and copyright. I will say that this is a topic that is critically important to me, if for no other reason than the sheer volumes of misinformation and ignorance that it encompasses. I spent years slowly investigating the Gordian Knot that is American copyright. It was inexperience that was fraught with a lot of fallacious and inaccurate information, as well as a substantial amount of propaganda from mammoth media conglomerates.

Due to the subtlety and flexibility of the law, it is a topic that really demands its own separate and in-depth inquiry. So, while I understand why it is included with the rest of the list, its complexity and consequence simply demand deeper understanding on the part of educators and students. For starters, I would encourage anyone to begin with Renee Hobbs, founder of Temple University’s Media Education Lab. The resources available there provide a blade to cutting the knot and gaining some understanding.

All in all, this chapter may well be the most original and interesting work in the book. It certainly has been the most intriguing and new for me yet.

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4 thoughts on “Reviewing the Notion of Digital Citizenship

  1. Vicki Davis

    Great comments here, Fred. This particular chapter did have a lot of back and forth between us as we struggle with the digital citizenship frameworks floating around us that don’t quite really “make it” yet. I’m glad to see that you feel we’re getting closer and I look forward to your feedback “behind the scenes” as well. Great work.

    Reply
    1. akh003 Post author

      Vicki:

      I admit to really struggling with how much revealing I did in writing about this area. It is one part of the course where I felt the most reticence so far, questioning how much I made public. As I suggest, this is really where some of the most interesting forthcoming work will be.

      Reply
  2. Julie Lindsay

    Fred, appreciate your comments and analysis so far. I am still struggling with this chapter as, with much of our work, we are trying to be ‘global’ and inclusive and accessible and meaningful for all. This applies to terminology as well as habits of learning, attitudes and learner expectations and responsibilities. We want the information and approach to be applicable across school systems, cultures, countries and ages and not specific to certain groups or areas. This is difficult! but not impossible……

    Reply
    1. akh003 Post author

      Julie:

      I don’t think it is impossible either. In fact, I think it is quite possible, especially if the focus is on the experience. That was my fundamental concern with the sections that I have brought into the projects. The experience alone is a kind of teacher, since it is so different from what many students are used to doing in class. The content is deep and vast, the tools are many, and the demands are significant. So I have felt from the beginning that finishing the project successfully is an accomplishment for the individual student and the experience alone may be the best teacher and assessment.

      Reply

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