Nowadays rapidly changing world sets new opportunities and challenges in the field of technology-rich teaching and learning. The inclusion of digital technology in the educational process allows the teacher to organize different forms of teaching and learning activities in the classroom to make it active and purposeful. In its turn, digital citizenship can be regarded as a means of access to the information that provides search capabilities, data collection, and work with various sources. This paper is devoted to the analysis of digital citizenship that contributes to the quality of teaching and learning processes including such aspects as K-12, higher education, and teacher preparation to consider the issue in detail.
Digital Citizenship Definition
There is a variety of definitions given by different scholars. It seems appropriate to pay attention to some of them to create a comprehensive understanding. One of the most thought-provoking approaches to digital citizenship is provided by Ohler (2010), who states that “the concept arises from the need to reconsider who we are in light of the globally connected infosphere, in which we find ourselves” (p. 2).
The researcher claims that the ethics of the education needs to be “revised, expanded and refreshed” (Ohler, 2010, p. 4). The Internet becomes a factor of socialization and modernization of education changing the very paradigm of acquiring knowledge and skills. Education is the most powerful tool to accomplish the above goal. In order to prove his point of view, Ohler (2010) provides the evolutionary analytical perspectives of the connection between digital citizenship and education reflecting a history of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards, citizenship, and the prospective digital gathering.
In this connection, it should be pointed out that ISTE standards assume three integral levels of the community consisting of local, global, and digital establishing national standards for the technology used with the aim of learning and teaching. The implication of ISTE standards initiated a new era of standardized support, recognition, and the articulation of digital technologies for students (Larson & Miller, 2011). Therefore, the paramount purpose of digital citizenship is to show the students the core of the technology, its opportunities, and incredible perspectives. At the same time, it is also indispensable to show how to use the technology appropriately by means of teaching digital literacy.
Susan Bearden uses a community-based approach to digital citizenship education. She considers that digital citizenship is a free professional learning community that is initiated to help students to share ideas, stay connected, and be safe (Goins, 2016). The community-based approach focuses on the engagement of students, teachers, and parents to create a friendly and successful technology-based learning environment. Bearden emphasizes that digital citizenship should become an essential part of the education culture (Goins, 2016). Besides, students should feel safe and be aware of Internet safety measures.
Basically, the term of digital citizenship expands the concept of citizenship as it makes users’ citizens of the world. According to Ribble (2015), the educators’ role is to “look at technology, not as a collection of toys and gadgets, but as tools that allow individuals to communicate, and, ultimately, create a new society” (p. 20). The digital citizenship uncovers a range of significant goals:
- Teaches how to behave appropriately in the online environment;
- Recalls the importance of information, intellectual property, and resources protection;
- Stimulates and prevents misconduct in relation to others;
- Calls to avoid sharing inappropriate or harming information and publishing it;
- Reminds that any type of the digital piracy is crime (Bennett, Wells, & Rank, 2009);
- Teaches how to work together and appreciate what people have and what they use.
In other words, the digital citizenship assumes the appropriate use of the digital technology in order to take part in the political, economic, and social life of the society. It is also a concept determining the responsibility and effectiveness of the technology use.
Digital Citizenship and Technology-Rich Teaching and Learning
The digital world presents new demands to its citizens: to know and do something is still important, but not sufficient since it gives only a static picture. To explain and predict further development of the society, it is necessary to identify strengths, weaknesses, and ways of co-social changes; it is necessary to take into account how a person relates to the world, what he wants, and what are his rights and obligations.
Therefore, speaking about the digital citizenship in connection to learning and teaching, one means not only the acquiring of knowledge and skills but also the motivation and responsibility. No matter how good the knowledge and skills are, if the student does not want to study further, given the lightning development of the digital technology, he will fall behind quickly and inevitably. In this connection, let us consider some aspects of the digital citizenship learning and teaching.
The digital technology can be used at all stages of preparation to the learning process: during the explanation of the new material, consolidation, repetition, and control (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). The Web 2.0 tools might include the following components:
- blogs, wikis;
- laptops, netbooks, and tablet PCs;
- social networks;
- virtual learning environments (VLE);
- Web apps;
- interactive whiteboards.
Web 2.0 as a platform means that the use of the product (or service) does not require any other software other than the browser to access the Internet. If previously a text editor (for example, MS Word) or a spreadsheet (for example, MS Excel) were used to create presentations or software, now all this can be realized only with the help of the browser. All programs are already placed on the server, where the user has access via the browser. Therefore, the Web 2.0 tools ensure the equal access to the Internet technology.
The digital citizenship education is considered to be indispensable for all K-12 students. K-12 curriculum reinvents the learning and teaching activities. Through the technology-rich learning, it is supposed that the digital citizenship education should be taught steadily from the kindergarten to the twelfth grade (Hollandsworth, Dowdy, & Donovan, 2011). Modern kids learn to type on the computer before than write on paper and are able to draw on the gadgets as Picasso never dreamed. It occurs due to the commonly recognized fact that the digital technology develops visual and auditory perception as well as motor skills and attention.
K-12 sector allows an area for the proactive and comprehensible digital citizenship education (Larson & Miller, 2011). However, the educators should create a common ground for the future digital development applying “citizenship curriculum, peer mentor programs, effective role models, educational faculty/staff awareness, and enhanced awareness of the risks” (Hollandsworth et al., 2011, p. 39). In other words, students should use the digital technology competently understanding risks and taking responsibilities.
Ribble identifies the concept of the digital citizenship as more than just a teaching and learning instrument, but as a means of preparing students for a technology-based society. The nine elements of proposed by Ribble (2015) compose the concept of the digital citizenship.
- Digital access assumes the electronic participation in digital society that includes equal access to technology for everyone.
- Digital commerce reflects how to be effective consumers in the digital economy.
- Digital communication suggests how to choose a way to communicate with others. Ohler (2010) considers that “members of digital gatherings feel they belong to a real community, and thus project themselves into cyberspace in ways that have meaning and emotional significance” (p. 42).
- Digital literacy reveals the need to know how to learn in a digital society.
- Digital etiquette reflects the notion of inappropriate behavior on the Internet as well as the need to know how to behave appropriately so that other digital citizens feel comfortable and safe.
- Digital law. Digital citizens should not hack the information, download music illegally, use plagiarism, send spam, and engage in identity or funds theft.
- Digital rights and responsibilities. Digital citizens need to take into account such issues as privacy, freedom of speech, and others are also applicable to digital citizens.
- Digital health and wellness. Digital citizens should know how to protect themselves from the dangers inherent in the technology.
- Digital security. It is necessary to take care of the digital security creating secure passwords, using data backup, anti-virus protection, and other measures.
The listed elements are organized in the Respect, Educate, and Protect (REP) principles that are also assumed by Ribble (2015). Each of the principles includes the two aspects of individual responsibility and the other users’ awareness. The principle of Respect involves etiquette, access, and law. The respect to others, in particular, to their feelings, ethnicity, or any other peculiarity should be provided according to law.
Moreover, it is essential to understand that all the digital citizens have equal access opportunities. “Educate yourself and others,” states the second principle that is based on literacy, communication, and commerce (Ribble, 2015). The Internet allows a plethora of communication and information opportunities, yet users should correctly filter the information to protect their personal information.
Protect principle reflects rights and responsibilities, security, and health and wellness. The concept of privacy plays an important part of the digital citizenship as it helps to ensure citizens’ safety, guarantee their rights, and prevent any moral harm.
Ribble (2015) believes that teachers should educate digital citizenship throughout any course of education. However, the digital citizenship is significant for students of every level. In order to follow the mentioned principles, Ribble (2015) distinguishes the role of technology leaders, who are to discuss the existing problems and suggest their innovative decisions in accordance with the digital space rules. In addition, technology leaders are expected to evaluate the priorities in the framework of the digital citizenship.
The connection of the digital citizenship and higher education is also strong. The digital technology constantly expands learning opportunities, provides valuable experience, and improves the learning environment. The modern higher education system is a certain infrastructure including the necessary equipment, the accessibility of the Internet, and students, who need to have the knowledge and practical experience.
The technology-based learning ultimately leads to the creation of new higher levels of education and to the implementation of the new human capabilities in the process of learning (Delacruz, 2009). For students, digital technology is a learning tool while for teachers – is a source of opportunities for continuous improvement of the educational process. Currently, plenty of students, who had just crossed the threshold of the University, already have knowledge in the field of the Internet technologies. Every student is different in developing new knowledge; therefore, the teachers had to find an individual approach to each student.
Now, by the use of the Internet technology in higher education, teachers can issue new information to satisfy all the individual student’s needs as far as possible. Internet technologies in education provide an opportunity to make the learning process more interesting, to provide the needed information in time, to participate in worldwide research projects, and to communicate with teachers as well as other students.
The digital technology in higher education reflects the modern realities. The introduction of the Internet technologies in the educational process is determined by the knowledge that had been received earlier. A complete integration with the Internet gives students the opportunity to exchange information obtained during the development of new knowledge (Ribble, 2011). In this regard, it seems relevant to pinpoint the distance learning that is the distance learning is a fundamentally new high-tech approach to knowledge transferring process.
The fact that the distant higher education is becoming increasingly popular and the number of Universities offering the distance learning that has increased dramatically are explained by a number of fundamental aspects (Collins & Halverson, 2009). First, the availability of the distance learning from virtually anywhere requires only a remote Internet access and a personal computer. Second, comfort and efficiency of the distance learning are expressed in a very flexible and convenient system of higher education. In fact, the student can independently set parameters of learning choosing the schedule and the pace of lessons.
At the same time, for the person receiving the distance education, there is no problem of training materials and search as he receives them by default. In addition, the distance learner has the opportunity to gain knowledge from the best teachers, who are unlikely to be teaching in some distant corners of the country. Finally, democracy and variability of the distance learning allow the higher education for everyone regardless age, profession, or geography.
It should be stressed that didactic properties of the digital citizenship include the possibility of publishing the information, access, and the ability to share the information as well as the distance learning, which is the communication between the learner and the teacher at a distance. All the typical learning process components such as objectives, content, organizational forms, and teaching aids are specific means of Internet technologies.
However, one of the negative essential issues arising from the digital technology is students’ cheating. According to Jones (2011), “high-tech cheating is gradually replacing the simple cut-and-paste cheating” (p. 142). Moreover, some students do not hesitate to use the Internet plagiarism. In particular, the research described by Jones (2011) revealed that “92% indicated that they had or they knew someone who had cheated” (p. 143). Therefore, teachers should create specific programs to prevent new forms of cheating.
Modern students live in a world of the electronic culture. Consequently, there is a need to change the role of the teacher, who should become a central point of the information flow. The teacher, keeping up with the times, is expected to be psychologically and technically ready to apply the digital citizenship principles in teaching at any stage of lectures or practical exercises that can be supported with the establishment of new methods (Borko, Whitcomb, & Liston, 2009).
Previously, the preparation of teachers had one focus – to teach new concepts. However, it supports the productive activity of the teacher: experimentation and creativity introducing innovations in the educational process. The difference between these two approaches is about the same as between knowledge of traffic rules and driving a car in a long journey through an unfamiliar route. It should be emphasized that the digital citizenship makes teachers more efficient and secure than before.
The mantra leading teachers might include goals and objectives identified as follows:
- The improvement of the digital literacy of teachers to meet modern standards;
- Raising awareness of teachers about the lifestyle and the features of the digital generation;
- The enhancement of knowledge concerning the broad possibilities of the Internet in the teaching area.
- The improvement of knowledge of teachers about the impact of the Internet risks to health and personal development of students;
- The provision of educational programs for teachers aimed at the safe use of the Internet;
- The methodological support of teachers in their integration into the digital world acquiring the digital citizenship (Borko, 2009).
Consequently, teachers should apply a critical approach to assess the reliability of the information to teach students. More precisely, the teacher should be aware of the need to evaluate the reliability of the Internet sources and evaluate their accuracy in the preparation of teaching materials. Speaking of the copyright and licenses, the teacher should respect them and encourage students to be guided by the generally accepted rules of referencing.
Besides, the teacher is expected to be familiar with the laws and regulations governing the safe use of the digital technology and to be able to interpret them consciously organizing learning activities in such a way as to decrease the risks. While preparing the lessons, it is of great importance to stick to the principles by Ribble that were mentioned before.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the digital citizenship becomes an integral part of the learning and teaching activities. It is necessary to be digitally competent both for teachers and students. There are a variety of technology-based educational programs aimed at K-12, distance learning, higher education, and teachers’ preparation. However, the paramount role is taken by the proper use of the Internet technology and engagement in the global digital citizenship, where it is necessary to respect, educate, and protect each digital citizen.
The core of the connection between the digital citizenship and education is the effectiveness based on technology-rich learning and teaching and the appropriate use of the digital technology according to rights and responsibilities of the digital citizenry
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