Digital citizenship education doesn’t work in a lecture format. Dr. Kristen Mattson, author of Digital Citizenship in Action talks about how they’ve integrated digital citizenship into all of their courses at her school and how you can too.
Digital Citizenship that Works
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher/e242
Date: January 30, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Dr. Kristen Mattson @DrKMattson. She is a high school library media center director in Illinois and author of the book Digital Citizenship in Action published through ISTE.
So Kristen, in all of my years of blogging, we’ve been talking digital citizenship, but it still seems like so many people are just lecturing to kids about this topic.
Kristen: I think that lecture style of digital citizenship is what we see most frequently, and I think a lot of us are really kind of excited to move away from that, because we know that lecture isn’t the best way to teach kids. Yet we haven’t really talked about some other opportunities to do it in any other way.
In the book Digital Citizenship in Action, it really is encouraging teachers and students to stop thinking about digital citizenship as a list of personal responsibilities that we have as citizens, even though those personal responsibilities are really important.
Those are just sort of the stepping stones to what it means to be in digital relationships and in digital communities with lots of other people.
One thing that I really encourage teachers to do in the book is to actually really get into digital communities with their students, so that students can have an adult role model, have that mentor on the side as they begin navigating a world of a digital community.
Get into digital communities with your students
There are lots of ideas and tools in the book about how you can set up those digital spaces with your kids, show them, help them create norms for those spaces, practice all the things that we’re hoping will transfer outside of the classroom.
Vicki: So what kind of digital communities are you creating for your school?
Kristen: The teachers in my school come to me quite often looking for ideas and ways to engage with their kids online and also to engage with kids in other schools in other places of the country.
We use Google Classroom a lot. We use Padlet. We use Google Hangouts. We use Skype. All sorts of tools that can help us connect, not only with each other but with the other two high schools in our district and then with lots of professionals in the field as well.
A lot of my role is listening to those teachers and what their goals are curricularly but also what their goals are for digital citizenship and helping to match them with the tools that’s going to best fit their needs.
Vicki: So if a principal walked up to you and said, “Tell me your most exciting story about this approach and how it works,” what would you say?
Kristen: I think one of the things I’ve been most excited about this year is what’s happening in our government courses. All of our kids are required to take a government course before they graduate from high school. We talk about all sorts of things, from how to engage as a citizen in the United States to different laws and court cases that have an impact on them. I’ve worked very closely with the department chair for that group, and we’ve really woven in a whole other level of citizenship that talks about what it means to be a citizen online.
An exciting example: privacy and security
So let me give you a quick example. We had students always talking about privacy versus security. We all know that we have a right to privacy , but we also know that the government has the right to invade our privacy if it’s in the best interest to keep the public secure.
Our kids used to talk about their lockers as being sort of a private space in the school. But the principal has the right to search through their locker if it is suspected that the child has brought a weapon or a drug into the school. Sp that’s always the kind of conversation we’ve had with kids about privacy and security.
This year we kind of ramped it up a whole other level. We started talking about privacy and security in digital spaces.
Our kids had some really fantastic conversations about how much people outside of our digital communities should be able to have an influence over what happens inside of our digital space. They had some great points to make about how much employers, or government, or colleges should be able to sort of dictate what they’re doing while they’re in community with their friends.
They also talked about the role of tech companies as censors or not as censors, so it was really cool to see how they were able to apply some of the things that we’ve traditionally always talked about in government class, and taken it into this digital space where they spend a good portion of their time.
Vicki: Where were they having these conversations? In class or online?
Kristen: These were all happening in the government classroom, sort of as an extension of that curriculum that they traditionally go through.
Vicki: How interesting. So they were having a face-to-face conversation about the digital space.
Having a face-to-face conversation about the digital space
Vicki: Interesting. Did you do anything to document that? I guess you’re kind of moving between your blended and digital space classrooms pretty seamlessly at your school?
Kristen: We are. The course that I was just talking about is actually one of our blended courses. It was a pilot course this year. We should have many more blended courses on the books next year.
It was cool because in this blended course, our kids are taking their coursework online. They’re using tools like Google Classroom and different things that I curate for the teacher and for the class. They’re able to come together in the classroom and have those really awesome conversations that happen while face to face, too.
Vicki: Excellent. So what are some of the cautions you have for schools as they tackle digital citizenship? Some things that maye don’t work…
What doesn’t work when you are teaching digital citizenship?
Kristen: I think the biggest thing that I have found just in my research is that digital citizenship is not very effective when it becomes, “one more thing.”
People that I’ve talked to, both kids and adults, feel that when it is just one more thing, teachers don’t feel very comfortable teaching it — because they may not have been trained, themselves, in what it means to be a good digital citizen, and so they’re not comfortable sharing that with other people.
Kids also feel like it’s very out of context of anything that they’re doing, so the more that we can weave it into the curriculum as it already stands and make it an extension of what we’re already doing, I have found to be very effective.
Our health classes are another place where we’re able to weave a lot of digital citizenship conversation in, and we talk about it a lot more from the personal perspective. We already had a unit in place about healthy relationships, but we never talked about the digital component of that.
You and I both know that a lot of our kids relationships — a lot of our relationships — are happening online. So we were able to take that unit of study, break it apart, and weave in areas where we can talk to kids about healthy and unhealthy relationships and the influence of technology on both of those things.
So the more that we can make it a part of what we’re already doing, the better off we are and the better off our kids are, too.
Vicki: It sounds like you have really helped infuse digital citizenship into all the courses at your school. How are you doing that?
Kristen: I wish I could say, “all”… (laughs)… I wish I could say all the courses. It’s definitely a work in progress. How did they do it, is that what you were going to ask?
How do you infuse digital citizenship into all courses?
Kristen: I think it’s really — first and foremost — looking for those followers that are excited about the topic, that are already using technology in their classrooms, that are already volunteering for these new initiatives in our district — like the blended learning opportunities.
Just sitting down and having a relationship with those teachers allows me to say, “Hey, let’s take a look at your curriculum. Let’s see where there are some opportunities,” and then truly being a partner in helping create that content, deliver the lesson, reflect with the teacher after the fact.
I really see my role as the school librarian as being that instructional partner who can come alongside and help make that happen, versus just sort of giving it as a directive, which is unfortunately sometimes happens in schools.
Vicki: And digital citizenship is something that concerns all of us in all of our examples.
I love these examples of digital citizenship not just belonging to one teacher — “OK, it’s your job to teach it.” — but actually having it in many different topics, because our students live in the physical world, but the digital world is also part of their physical world.
So digital citizenship is for all of us in all subjects to understand and to integrate. I think you’ll find students will be more engaged and more excited because this is the world in which they live.
Kristen: Oh, I agree 100%.
It can even be done in the elementary curriculum
I’ve been working a little bit with some folks in the elementary world, which is a stretch for me. I was a middle school teacher prior to this. But we’re even looking at some of the things we talk about in terms of community and careers.
When we think about the traditional curriculum — like, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” — and we talk about the firemen and the police and all those other roles that people in our communities take — we can also take a look at “Who are the people in our online neighborhood? Who are the people that we connect with and see when we are visiting thes online spaces? What sort of jobs are available that help develop and keep these online communities running?”
This is the same way we look at jobs that keep our physical communities running.
Instead of having it be, again, one separate thing, if we can look at what we’re already doing and extend it into that digital realm, we can talk about what it means to be a human being and a citizen, both in physical spaces and in online spaces simultaneously.
Vicki: OK teachers. So her name is Dr. Kristen Mattson. We’ll have the book giveaway and also her full bio in the Shownotes. So check it out!
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio as submitted
Kristen Mattson, Ed.D., is a high school library media center director in Aurora, Illinois. As part of a Future Ready school district and a member of the Future Ready Librarians leadership team, she enjoys supporting others in her field by presenting at conferences, facilitating professional development sessions, and blogging.
Kristen received her doctoral degree from Northern Illinois University after conducting a critical discourse analysis of digital citizenship curriculum. Her new book, “Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities” (ISTE, 2017) is a practical guide to teaching digital citizenship that is grounded in her research.
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