Thursday, December 11, 2008

Citizenship in the REAL virtual world

Today I was faced with a dilemma, how can adults who cannot tangibly conceive the virtual world, effectively teach digital citizenship. In order for one to be a good citizen in life, one has to believe that ones actions can impact society. However if one does not believe that society is real, how can you teach the beliefs that make that society a safe place.

What I am talking about is the perception of the virtual world by digital natives as a real place. One that his theirs. This place is where they go to be with people like them. Friends are not necessarily people you have ever met in person and may never meet. So as an educator I am faced with the following dilemma: How does a teacher who does not see the digital world as real teach citizenship for such a place and on the other side is how do students understand the need for citizenship in a place that is about as far removed from the social constructs of the physical world? The reality is that we as technology educators need to find the place where these two worlds meet, where the residents of the physical world and the virtual world can meet and see eye to eye if you will.

The part of the Dilemma that I am most interested in is of course what do I need to pass onto the digital natives that will serve them best in both worlds. As I said yesterday, I have been doing much reading on the topic of Digital Citizenship and came across an article in ISTE's Leading and Learning Magazine that gets right to the point. It is authored by Mike Ribble, an expert on the subject.

In the article Ribble speaks about the 9 themes of Digital Citizenship and how they not only guide students on proper technology use, but as Ribble says, "They also begin to set the stage for how we work with each other in a global, digital society. These nine elements create a foundation for helping to educate children on the issues that face them in an increasingly technological world."

Ribble speaks about how this is not just a problem for student use on computers, but rather a larger picture that crosses the boundaries between home and school, home and work, virtual and physical old and young. There is no one that will be immune in the ever increasing world of technology. Ribble concludes with a rather prophetic message:

There needs to be a common language between our schools and homes that clearly outlines what we expect our children (as well as ourselves) to know and follow. Digital citizenship can begin to bridge these groups so that when we talk about how we expect our students to act, we have some common ground on which to begin. Digital citizenship is not a culmination of how to work with technology but a beginning of a process. If we start this journey at the same place, both educators and parents can work together to prepare our children to become global digital citizens.

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