Tag Archives: Vicki Davis

Digital Citizenship in the New Global Reality

This last couple of weeks has proven to be a good place to circle back and think about all of the material we have been investigating in the Flat Classroom Certification course. A lot of the initial material was not the newest for me. There were a few added wrinkles, but it was pretty familiar fare. Yet, once we got into the digital citizenship material, while not new in concept, it certainly was newly articulated for me in a framework that I both appreciated and needed some time to consider. The concept, as advanced by Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay, has been particularly interesting to me. For me at least, it adds a far clearer political dimension to our work, for better, worse, or perhaps both.

Shortly after reading the chapter, international events in Germany started catching my attention. perhaps it is the mid-term elections here in the States that has my radar more attenuated to the political arena. Still, a couple of weeks ago Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about her native Germany’s multicultural approach having “failed, utterly failed” got my attention almost as immediately as her words were published and translated. Subsequently, a slightly more nuanced version of Merkel’s words began to appear in English language media. To my surprise, the story didn’t have the legs I thought it would.

Fortunately, it did not disappear completely. I was bolstered by the sentiments of James Carroll’s op-ed piece in my local daily newspaper, The Boston Globe. Reading his column, I almost felt that he had read my original message to the Flat Classroom Certification cohort. Additionally, Carroll was a guest on National Public Radio‘s daily show Talk of the Nation, which had a segment called “Multiculturalism Debated In The U.S. And Abroad.” In both entries to the public discourse, Carroll echoed many of my thoughts on the subject.

In particular, Carroll’s comment, “To date, no responsible American government figure feels free to openly echo Merkel’s “Christian values’’ excommunication. But multiculturalism can fail in the United States, too, as mounting negativity toward immigrants (“aliens’’) suggests,” strikes to the heart of why efforts like the Flat Classroom Projects, in all flavors, are such worthy ones.

Alluding to lessons of history, I found the German Chancellor’s comments particularly alarming. Yet these sentiments are definitely part of a dark undercurrent in the States. Of course the US is not Germany. The US has a long history of multiculturalism, however contentious, even violent, it may be. It also has a history of isolationism, especially in times of difficulty. Yet, there is a code, as Carroll puts it, that is designed to incite a more insidious part of the American body politic. Merkel’s statements may have been uttered in German but they too read as the same code. Only education can combat the kind of ignorance, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia that threatens “to swamp the foundation of liberal democracy,” as Carroll evocatively suggests.

Ultimately, the digital citizenship we are promoting is really built upon a modern global citizenship with a long, wide digital footprint, as well as deeper understanding of etiquette and international protocols. Digital citizenship is definitely a more expansive concept and I have already voiced my problems with the term. Regardless of what its called, the concept has never been more needed as an underpinning of education in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Like it or not, this new reality have a political dimension that is full of its own codes, subtlety, nuance, and rhetoric. Students need to be prepared to navigate their way through this reality, hopefully with a more sensitivity, enlightened compassion, and recognition of just how interdependent humanity has become.

Catching My Breath & Reflecting as Teacher & Student

Like many in my Flat Classroom Certification cohort, I have to admit that having a week to breathe in the certification course and do catch up really was appreciated. Simultaneously following and participating in PLENK2010, has been arduous and taken a bit of a dip the last two weeks. Plus, I found myself in what an old friend referred to as an assessment bottleneck, which is code for English teachers, meaning I had a load of papers to read. Combined with a few Writing Project initiatives I have going with NWPMWP and BWP, I was feeling like everything was converging at once.

An added benefit, it gave me a little time to do a little reflection both for my work as a teacher and as a student. For one, the timing was great in terms of teaching, as I am approaching a midterm point in the classes I teach. As far as being a student in a couple of courses, it is the midpoint in one and close in another. I often feel like courses should have an equivalent of half-time, a chance for some assessment and adjustments. In this case, it has worked out to be kind of like one.

On the teaching front, I wrote a bit about my grading experiment last week and continue to monitor. However, at this point I have seen enough work from my students to have a much clearer idea about who is meeting expectations and who is not. In fact, I am planning on administering a short survey to gather some of their thoughts about the class more than the grading. I will survey them about the grading later. I am interested to see how their answers, which involve some reflections and self-assessment will match with my initial impressions and assessments. More on this to come.

Also on the teaching front, I am rapidly approaching a transition point, where most of my classes will be wrapping up some existing work and venturing into a new unit of study. I always find the transitions from one unit to another kind of exciting. It is an opportunity to make adjustments based on the growing understanding I have of the current students, while accounting for what has been successful in the past. I am always interested to see how the current students respond to the new material.

As a student, I have felt a bit like I was falling behind the pace. This is certainly the case with the PLENK2010 course. However, I do feel like that course will have a long aftertaste. Considering that it does not have any assessments, other than self-assessment, and my participation is completely based on my own interest, I feel a little less pressure. Plus, I have been a bit more in consumption mode with that line of inquiry, reading a lot of material. In some ways, it is hard to slow down the gathering and reading of material long enough to truly contemplate it in all of its complexity until after it is over. At least, that’s is sometimes how I feel.

However, even if I have not had a chance to collect my thoughts on that material and produce any artifacts of that thinking I still feel engaged and like a participant, just one that has had to slow down and move to the outside and behind the frontrunners. I only wish that I had more time to be even more immersed in it. I am finding the whole massively open online course (MOOC) experience extremely fascinating as a phenomenon. Plus, I am learning a whole lot. Even from my temporary place on the side, it remains exhilarating.

As for the Flat Classroom Certification course, it was the most welcome break. I had been making pretty strong headway in that course and very much feeling like a front runner, getting things done quickly and early. Then, I started running into some communication problems since a few changes to my email configuration. It has left me a little out of the loop for a short time, a problem that took awhile to discern, which I just recently have been able to address.

All in all, it has been a welcome break and I am ready to jump back into the fray more aggressively. I feel like I may have caught a second wind.

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.