Today's students are growing up surrounded by digital technologies and are very comfortable using these technologies in their everyday lives. Unfortunately, there is an assumption by adults - parents, teachers, schools, society - that these tech-savvy youth instinctively know how to use these technology tools in responsible and ethical ways. Just as we work to help children to become responsible, productive citizens in the 'real world', we need to actively work to help today's youth understand that "being a good citizen is just as important in the digital world as in the community" (Ribble & Bailey, 2006, p. 27). In their book, Digital Citizenship for Schools, Ribble and Bailey define digital citizenship as the "norms of behavior for technology use" and propose schools and families partner together to teach the following nine essential elements. You can read more about the themes on their Digital Citizenship Website.

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The three readings this week highlight several of the 'digital citizenship' themes listed above. In his article Trusting the Internet: New Approaches to Credibility Tools, Lankes (2008) tackles the themes of education and access by supporting the concept that today's youth need to be self-sufficient users of the Internet. They need to be able to examine information independently and determine on their own if what they see and what they read is credible and reliable. Before the advent of the Internet, individuals relied on the knowledge and testimony of experts and institutions to provide accurate, reliable information. Today, we are all more dependent on the information provided to us by others because of the open access of the Internet (Lankes, 2008). Students need to become fluent in a variety of technology tools so that they can (1) fully participate in conversations that take place online, (2) understand how information engines such as search engines display information, and (3) have opportunities "to assess credibility in participatory ways" (Lankes, 2008).

As I read Lankes article, I thought about one activity I use with my 4th grade students to address credibility. I start the lesson by introducing the students to the website for the Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. What students soon determine through continued evaluation of the site is that it is indeed a hoax. We then talk about what we need to look at when reviewing websites. I've found Kathy Schrock's Five W's of Website Evaluation an easy reference to share with students. When I first started using the website ten years ago, many of my students did think that a new species of octopus was found. In the last two years, my students have not been so gullible.

In Growing Up Digital: Control and the Pieces of Digital Life, Heverly (2008) speaks to the themes of responsibility, rights, and security, especially in regards to how what we do online today can negatively impact one's future. "Today's technology allows us to communicate personal digital media content to strangers, and it allows the personal digital media content to remain available and findable over long periods of time" (Heverly, 2008, p. 207). It is essential that children are educated to the long-term impact of what they create and how they create it. This is a discussion my school's college counseling office has with all students starting in 9th grade so that they are informed that colleges do indeed check social network profiles and conduct full searches on their applicants. A 2010 Kaplan Test Prep Survey of college admissions offices found 80% use profiles in the acceptance process.

In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media, Stern (2008) addresses the theme of communication in her discussion of teens using blogs and personal websites as a forum for expression, self-reflection and identity development. While the focus of the article was related more to the 'why' behind what teens say and do online, it is connected to the idea presented by Heverly, on the potential impact of digital media in the future.

More resources on Digital Citizenship:

K-12 Digital Citizenship Wiki - lesson by grade levels tied to the Common Core standards
Digital Citizenship from Cable in the Classroom - videos, lessons, and games
CyberSmart Curriculum - K12 lessons
Edutopica Article - Teaching Digital Citizenship in the Elementary Classroom

Book Resource: Raising a Digital Child: A Digital Citizenship Handbook for Parents by Mike Ribble


Heverly, R. A. (2008). Growing up digital: Control and the pieces of a digital life. In T. McPherson (Ed.), Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected (pp. 199-218). doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262633398.199

Lankes, R. D. (2008). Trusting the internet: New approaches to credibility tools. In M. Metzger and A. Flanagin (Eds.), Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility (pp. 101-122). doi: 10.1162/9780262562324.01

Ribble, M. and Bailey, G. (2007). Digital citizenship in schools. International Society for Technology in Education.

Stern, S. (2008). Producing sites, exploring identities: Youth online authorship. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, Identity, and Digital Media (pp. 95-118). doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.095