As a Teacher Librarian, Digital Citizenship has always been a passion of mine. In my role of over 25 years, I have seen numerous examples of students and staff not using information effectively, not applying good scholarship principles, teachers ‘spoon-feeding’, a reluctance to acknowledge sources and the list goes on. This subject has certainly consolidated my thoughts and beliefs around DC but has also presented me with many other questions.
Throughout my years as a Teacher Librarian, rarely before has the focus on technology and the ethical use of digital information been discussed. With the increasing emergence of digital technologies in schools, our methods of teaching have struggled to keep up with the new ways of learning with technology. Schools are making decisions around devices, electronic platforms, flexible classrooms, 21st Century pedagogy, digital policies, embedding technology into the Curriculum, ethical use of technology and so on. Most decisions are being made for the first time and a number have failed and in some cases, at great expense to the school community. Our school purchased hundreds of HP tablets for the junior school, only to realize that desired apps couldn’t be loaded and the battery life was less than a school day. This decision has now changed to a BYOD model, which has its own issues with equity, consistency and management across the whole school. Perhaps no digital model within a school is perfect, but whatever decision is made; clear policies and guidelines, ongoing education and computer support are essential.
Models such as; Inquiry-based learning, Guided Inquiry and Project-Based Learning have long been emphasized by Teacher Librarians and other educators as being essential for students to become ‘information literate’. However, embedding this way of learning into the Curriculum has presented challenges as teachers have been reluctant to change their traditional methods of teaching to accommodate this more student-centered, collaborative approach. With digital literacy being at the forefront of education today, the approaches required to embed technology are not dissimilar to the inquiry approaches of previous years. The digital environment presents numerous opportunities for inquiry-based learning. Our students need these skills more than ever to succeed in today’s global and information-based world.
Also, I find that too often assumptions are made by educators about our students
and staff with regard to information use. Students are referred to as ‘digital natives’ so it is assumed that they are born ‘digitally literate’ even though they have never been taught what this actually is.
Plagiarism is rife, thanks to the internet and work is often accepted by teachers, who themselves are not modelling ethical digital behaviours.
Students must acquire information skills alongside digital skills to connect, communicate and create in our global world.
So, how do our students learn these skills?
There are so many facets of educational pedagogy that need to change to facilitate a new way of teaching and learning that incorporates digital technologies. This significant change needs to be managed effectively by school executives and involve all stakeholders. It is crucial for ongoing success and improvement in education. I see Professional Development as the key to educating teachers on 21st century pedagogy. Unfortunately, with schools being so busy, time for essential Professional Development is difficult to manage. This is why much of technology-based learning has often been thrust onto teachers and students without much thought or planning taking place. This situation has made it all the more harder for school communities to remain positive about the benefits of digital technology within the Curriculum.
I believe that all schools need to address Digital Citizenship as soon as possible. 21st century pedagogy, teaching and learning models, professional development, policy and decision making all revolve around educating our students to locate, organize and ethically use information. Our students are tomorrow’s adults and unless we as a school community and also the wider community; address these issues with students, the problems within our society around the misuse of technology will only become worse. An ideal scenario in any school would be not to ‘teach’ digital citizenship, but for students to become digital citizens by just understanding the digital world and being a part of it.