Reflections on Digital Citizenship

Welcome to a series of journal entries that will reflect on my journey towards defining and redefining my understanding, application, analysis, and evaluation on digital citizenship within both my personal and professional environments. 

Journal Entry #1: June 11, 2017

I have always been interested in digital citizenship. I have always had some small bit of knowledge as to what it was and why it was there. I remember when I was in elementary and middle school, I was taught how to type without looking at the keyboard. I was taught the parts of a computer and how to turn it on and off. I was taught that surfing the Internet was something I needed to be careful with. And when I excelled in all of that, I fell in love. I fell in love with technology. I fell in love with the idea that I could move mountains with the touch of a few buttons. Later on, I took a technology class in high school. Here I learned about Microsoft and all of its wonders. I learned how to use Excel, Access, and one of my favorites, Publisher. One of my assignments was to make a brochure on the university that I was interested in attending one day, and I remember it so clearly: Princeton. Yep, not Harvard, not Yale, but Princeton. And my teacher had so much hope for me. But as life has it, I didn’t go to Princeton; I couldn’t afford it.

But I did the next best thing, I kept working hard. I obtained my Associate’s, then my Bachelor’s, and soon, my Master’s. All in education. And when I started my Master’s, I saw a problem. I saw that not everyone was on board with technology, much less with the rapid change associated with new breakthroughs, new technologies, and especially with the new devices coming out every six months.

So now I evaluate schools based on their involvement in creating a generation of digitally informed citizens. Fortunately, when I was bullied in school, it was not via the web. It was done face to face. This taught me to be a little bit more tough and to face problems head on. But nowadays, we hear about all these stories about students hurting themselves and others because of the communication that is performed through various social media. So now the essential question is: how do we battle this new form of bullying? Or the new form of stealing copyrighted works? Or even sending something so simple as an email to your teacher or boss or company to complain about a faulty product?

We start with empathy. We start with teaching our children, our students, our peers, and colleagues about what being a good citizen is. And once they understand that, we make it a bit more specific. We talk about what it means to be a digital citizen. What is digital? What are the elements that define a digital citizen? How do we define those elements at home, in schools, or at the workplace? And how do we apply them? Analyze? Evaluate? And even create? Because we are a part of a new world where technology is part of everyone’s daily lives. And what we are doing is witnessing what ignorance is doing to our children, to our teens, to parents and teachers. And that should not be the case. We should be confronting it.

Journal Entry #2: June 18, 2017

I am part of the iGeneration. I was born in 1992. I don’t think I touched a computer until I was in fourth grade. But since then, I have not gone without some sort of technology device in my hands, even if it wasn’t mine (okay, I’m talking about my mother’s prepaid Virgin Mobile cellphone). So, when I think about the impact that access to technology has had on my personal life, I think, “What part of my life hasn’t been impacted?” I can say I am not as addicted to it as I used to be when I was a teen, but I rely on it for my career and professional development as an educator, for the advancement of my career (my master’s program at Lamar) which falls under education, and for personal uses such as reading the news, shopping online, paying bills online, etc. So yes, it makes a great impact in everything I do and everywhere I go.

Now, when it comes to my students, well, most of them come from a low socio-economic background. Maybe 1 out of 16 students will have computers at home and about 8 out of 16 will have access to mobile devices at home. Right now, I don’t think technology plays a huge role in their lives. They’re first graders. But, I do think they would like more access to it. For example, something as simple as borrowing a book from my personal library will excite them. Imagine how they react when I allow for more opportunities to explore applications on the classroom iPads. They go wild! I hope that this is not the case when they grow up. I hope that they have an increased access to technology so that their opportunities for personal, educational, and professional advancements are not limited.

A digital footprint is every track that you leave when you access the Internet. It is the track you leave when you’re doing research for school. It is the track you leave when you are looking up a video on YouTube on a funny compilation of cats. It is what you leave behind when you are shopping on Amazon.com or paying bills online. It is everything you access, everything you search, copy, paste, share, like, etc. I was in the market of trading in my SUV for a more fuel-efficient car. So, I did some research. Well, lately, I’m seeing all these ads of cars everywhere I look-even on my WordPress E-Porfolio!

When I performed a search on myself, thankfully, there were not any negative results. Because I perform searches on myself every few weeks, I was not surprised. I have learned to be very careful and cautious of what I share on the Internet. A few years ago, I started to delete accounts that I didn’t find useful to my personal and professional life. I deactivated Facebook a few months ago. I’ve been a happier person ever since. The accounts that popped up in my current search included Twitter (which is my PLN), my profile on the staff’s directory on my school’s homepage, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube (which is the same account under my personal Google email). All other results were of different people, which I find interesting because there are not a lot of Isaura Herrera’s that I know (none, actually). Usually, I tend to avoid digital profiles like Instagram, Snapchat, and Timblr. I find myself very proud of my digital footprint thus far. Even though some of it I deleted, I know that some of it still remains somewhere out in the universe of the Internet. Hopefully, none of it ever comes back to haunt me.

Journal Entry #3: June 25, 2017

As teachers and students that participate in an ever-changing period of digital learning, we are not only permitted, but also encouraged to exercise our fair use rights under U. S. Copyright Law. But with exercising that right, we must consider the purpose, nature, amount, and transformation when making decisions related to fair use. This applies to both the teacher and the student.

According to Hobbs (2010), “the most troubling thing is that all this copyright confusion has a price: Teachers’ lack of knowledge about copyright and fair use affects the quality of teaching and learning” (p. 7). Teachers must begin by considering copyrighted material. Do you actively use copyrighted material or do you tend to avoid it? If you use it, what type of copyrighted material does it fall under? If you don’t, why not? Because of the legal issues associated with fair use? Or maybe fair use isn’t so friendly in terms of clarity and understanding. For what purposes do you use copyrighted material? Does this purpose coincide with the copyright holder’s purpose? Also, consider the nature and amount. And lastly, is it transformative? In other words, did you create a new piece of work from the original copyrighted material? If so, what will be the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work?

In the 21st century, not only teachers, but also students are using mass media, popular culture, and digital technologies to support the learning process. In this day and age, students are learning in ways thought impossible and unconventional. Their consumption of media is endless. Their synthesis of incoming information is rapid and momentary. And their originality and creativity gets lost in the midst of all this chaos. So, what do we do? As teachers and parents, it is our duty to guide their learning process through an organized and systematic approach. This means teaching them what citizenship and digital citizenship is. It means teaching them the ethical values that defines character education and relating them to our new world that revolves around technology. It means teaching students how to use the information that they find in mass media, popular culture, and digital technologies in a way that enhances the learning process from the beginning stages to the final product.

And the way we do that is by being informed. We inform ourselves of two elements: digital law and digital rights and responsibilities. Now go. Google it.

References

Morrell, E., & Scherff, L. (2015). New directions in teaching English: Reimagining teaching, teacher education, and research. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=RmFoCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA147&lpg=PA147&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

Hobbs, R. (2010). Copyright clarity: How fair use supports digital learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=FBEz-PhyGDkC&pg=PA5&lpg=PA5&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

Journal Entry #4: July 2, 2017

It used to be that we only had to worry about one type of bullying. Now, that same type of bullying is tagged as “traditional” bullying. A new type of bullying has come in and taken over as if we needed a new bad guy. Cyberbullying. That’s his name. And he’s here to stay.

So, what is cyberbullying? According to Hinduja and Patchin (2015), cyberbullying is defined as, “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (p. 11). How does it differ from traditional bullying? Well, traditional bullying still falls under “willful and repeated harm,” but it does not necessarily involve electronic devices. However, Hinduja and Patchin (2015) do mention several other sources that claim the involvement of “an imbalance of power” in the traditional form of bullying (p. 5).

Basically, anyone who is in contact with others runs the risk of being affected by cyberbullying, whether it is a direct or indirect attack or being the witness of it. No one is safe. Unfortunately, those who have created a digital footprint have exponentially increased their odds of being victims of cyberbullying or being cyberbullies themselves. These days, students of all ages are being reported by the media to be victims of the virus. We see students falling under attack by their classmates, and the consequences of such attack results in those very victims hurting themselves because of the psychological, social, and educational harm it brings.

The best we could do to help our students be more aware of the issues and consequences of cyberbullying is doing just that—raising awareness. It means having those difficult conversations with them about what it is, who is affected, and how we can combat it. It means getting down to the nitty gritty even if we see our older students rolling their eyes. It also means integrating a curriculum of digital citizenship, character education, and “How to be a Good Human Being 101” within the scope of our daily scheduled activities in the classroom.

This education, this awareness, that students need starts with one person. It starts with you. Students spend about a third of their whole day with you. You are responsible for educating your students on how to appropriately use technology inside and outside of the classroom. But before that happens, you need to be properly informed. So, again, I will ask you to…go get informed!

References

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Journal Entry #5: July 9, 2017

Hmm, what did I learn about digital citizenship? A better question would be: What didn’t I learn? I certainly didn’t know there were distinct elements, nine to be more specific, that were part of the bigger picture that defined digital citizenship. And they are all related and connected, whether they are focused on respect, educate, and protect, or whether they are geared towards student learning and academic performance, school environment and student behavior, and student life outside the school environment. I think my biggest accomplishment in this course was discovering Padlet. It is a software that is a mix between a bulletin board and a blog and can be used to create, collaborate, and share multimedia content with others. I used Padlet to create the technology presentation that will now be my digital citizenship curriculum for my soon to be third graders.

One of the biggest challenges that I faced in completing this course was getting a good grip on the copyright laws and fair use guidelines. I literally felt like a lawyer at the time. Another challenge was facing the multiple cases of bullying. It made me go back to when I was young and bullied in elementary and middle school. But, it did make me feel thankful that social media was still relatively new at the time. I didn’t get consumed by the innerworkings of such a world of uncertainty and chaos.

Like I mentioned before, my best work has to be the Padlet I made. One of the reasons I joined this master’s program was to learn and apply different aspects of technology, and because I was allowed the freedom to choose a platform, I discovered Padlet. And I sincerely believe I will use it with my third graders not only to teach them about digital citizenship, but also about other similar topics like character education. They could probably create their own padlets too! What I learned through completing this course allowed me to connect to my experiences in the classroom. I’ve recognized, time and time again, that students need introductions and modeling and guidance when you want them to use a new technology. You can’t just throw it in their face and say, “Here you go. Have it done by the end of class.” No, they need you to teach them the appropriate uses of technology.

I’m very excited to use Mike Ribble’s text, Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know, to teach my colleagues and students what digital citizenship is and how to implement it inside and outside of the classroom. I believe this to really help me continue to grow as an educational leader. I will probably want to design and implement a professional development course on digital citizenship. My favorite aspect of this course was the variability and diversity in the coursework compared to the previous courses I have taken. The assignments were all very different, but they helped me effectively summarize all the information that was required of me to learn and know. One suggestion I would give other students would be to take the time to read and reread all the required and suggested resources. Allow plenty of time to get to know the material because not only will you get a better hold of it, you will also enjoy it. That’s how you can get the most out of this course.

And, if I could change any one of the activities that I did for this course, I would change the animated video assignment required at the end of week 2. I would change it so that it was worth more because of how much time was put into creating it. It was perplexing to see how little it was worth in the amount of points. Lastly, if I had a chance to speak to my friends, peers, or colleagues about this course, I would like to pick at their brains about certain cases that were presented within the course. I found them to be very thought-provoking, and I think they would too.

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