With great digital power comes great civic responsibility.
As our world and its digital interfaces overlap more and more, they become increasingly conflated. The gap between being a global citizen and a digital citizen is closing quickly; being an active and engaged citizen of one means being an upstanding citizen of the other. As a Social Studies teacher, this idea really resonates with me. I seek to teach students about their own civic responsibilities, about how their ethics determine those same responsibilities and shape how it is they choose to live in their community, society, and world. I would be remiss to forego educating them about how ethics should shape not only their communal but their digital behavior, and how the responsibilities of citizenship follow them in every step of their lives, no matter the forum.
In the 1990s, Doug Johnson, the Director of Media and Technology in Mankato, Minnesota public school district, foresaw the coming of the Digital Age in which students would need to undergo training in the rights and responsibilities of the digital citizenship. In his blog http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/developing-ethical-behaviors-in-students.html, Johnson details how teachers can educate students about ethical digital behavior by appealing to students’ sense of ethics. He writes, “the terms “ethical,” “safe,” “moral,” “appropriate” and “legal” are all used when discussing whether technology behaviors are right or wrong,” but cautions us to remember that just as in moral ethics, digital ethics are not always black and white — we as humans tend to think of most things on an “ethical continuum” (Johnson, 2002). For instance, Johnson offers, “A student using a school computer to view sports scores is not illegal, but it could be considered inappropriate if it violates school guidelines” (Johnson, 2002).
I find Johnson’s moral appeal very compelling, and know my students would connect far more deeply with the conversation surrounding digital citizenship if they could connect it to a philosophical exploration of their own moral judgement — what is right? What is wrong? What is in between? And why?
One of my classmates kindly referred me to The Global Citizen Foundation at https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and cultivating responsible digital citizens. The website offers digital professional development techniques that they urge be implemented school and district wide. The website also has several resources for teachers, and led me to historypin http://www.historypin.org/en/, a website designed for putting together local digital history projects — certainly a resource my students would enjoy! The Global Citizenship Foundation suggests that in order to be a knowledgeable digital citizen, we must be well-versed in solution, information, creativity, media, and collaboration fluency (The Global Citizen Foundation, 2016). Again, I couldn’t help but think about how transferable these fluencies are to global citizenship. I wonder if we can yet drop the “digital” when talking about digital citizenship, and consider just how universal our code of ethics can and should be.
Johnson, Doug (2002). Developing ethical behaviors in students. Retrieved from http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/developing-ethical-behaviors-in-students.html.
The Global Citizenship Foundation (2016). Global digital citizenship guide. Retrieved from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/21st-century-fluencies/global-digital-citizenship.