When I initially read the description for my digital citizenship course (EDLD 5316), I scoffed; I wondered how could an entire course be devoted to digital citizenship. However, after studying this subject and its many facets, I now understand that entire degrees and programs could be developed around this one topic. Because the term digital citizenship encompasses so much and our society is moving so quickly in the digital world, work has to be done to reevaluate the way students, teachers, and all others are educated on this topic and all that it includes. I have learned that much to my surprise that there is no widely accepted scholarly definition for digital citizenship.
Even though this course only lasted five short weeks, I faced many challenges within this time. The amount of material in this survey course was overwhelming: three textbooks, numerous weekly journal and online articles, videos, lectures, quizzes, eight part assignments, reflections, essays, and so on. I honestly feel like it was a huge accomplishment to stay current and manage to complete all of the required assignments each week. While I am proud of a lot of the work and time that I put into this course (especially since it was a great deal more than most of the courses that I have taken previously), I feel that my very best (and favorite) work in this course turned out to be my journal reflections. Because the reflections allowed me more freedoms on the topic and didn’t have as specific of a rubric, I felt able to express my unique voice and boil down the complex topics into fun, easy to understand metaphors. Through this process, I learned and confirmed that having the ability to express my thoughts creatively is huge for me to feel like the information will stick with me past the course I am in. This is likely why my second favorite thing was creating a rap song (Riley, 2018) for a portion of my culminating project.
As I have already established, this course was jam-packed with information about digital citizenship. Reading Ribble (2015), I felt like I had some understandings that will stick with me in the classroom and in leadership. Understanding what impacts a teacher can make on a student with regards to digital citizenship and which ones a school environment can help inform was really interesting. Reading about cyberbullying was very impactful and as a mother, I think that the stories are ones that will stick with me as my own children move from toddlerhood into adolescence.
This course is due for a bit of a makeover, and I would certainly warn any friends that take this class in its current form to avoid making social plans until they’re done. I would love to see the assignments throughout the course tied more specifically to the rubric. Often, I found that the two were not in alignment, and it led to confusion and panic. I would absolutely change the case studies. While I understand the importance of doing case studies, the way they are currently written is confusing. Overall, there were many times in this course that I felt like I was climbing uphill with a howling wind screaming in my face, but the triumphant feeling that I have in the end and the amount of knowledge I am walking away with is vast.
Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know. (3rd ed.) [Kindle Version]. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology.
Riley, A. (2018, March 29). Project Respect When You Connect Presentation [Video file]. Retrieved 30 March 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M16zh8GWloc&t=300
Many children are scared of monsters: monsters under the bed, monsters in the closet, monsters that creep into your room in the dark. Because of this fear, parents do a variety of things to make our children feel safe from these monsters that don't even exist. Look up "Monster Spray" on Pinterest, and you'll find a host of ideas for decorated spray bottles, essential oil calming sprays, and other do-it-yourself projects for protecting your children from these non-existent monsters. As little ones grow, the fear of Boogie Man begins to lessen, and kids come to realize that there are no such things as monsters. The reality sets in that a creature that looks like Mike Wazowski from Disney's Monster's Inc. just doesn't actually exist in our world.
While we have managed to teach the youth that monsters aren't real, what we have failed to do in this world is to properly prepare those children and young adults for the real life monsters that do creep and crawl everyday in the digital world. Cyberbullies are one of the monsters in the online world. While there are other kinds of scary and deadly monsters that lurk online, cyberbullies are often just kids themselves. Unlike most hackers and cyberpirates, cyberbullies do not always understand the consequences of their actions. These online bullies don't see the devilish monster looking back in the mirror.
As educators, parents, and adult citizens, it is our responsibility to educate students about what cyberbullying is and to begin to create a culture that doesn't promote this kind of behavior. The government is sadly behind on what supports and legal mandates that schools and society needs to better take care of our youth in regards to this issue. The government does have some legal measures in place to require schools to educate students; however, these measures only apply to schools that "receive E-rate and other technology funds" (Protecting Children in the 21st Century, 2012). Additionally, the measures put in place by this Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), that was enacted by Congress in 2000, are superficial (2011) because there is no specific set of specific requirements, nor is there a need to prove that all students have been educated about "appropriate online behavior" ( Protecting Children in the 21st Century, 2012). These actions while well-intentioned are not enough and are already outdated.
As a Texas educator, I would strongly advocate that our End of Course exams should be reevaluated and should push our students forward into the twenty-first century world that they are going to experience. For this reason, I suggest a set of required Digital Citizenship courses throughout Texas students' K-12 education and a culminating End of Course STAAR exam on these topics. While many opponents may argue that character education falls to students' parents, I contend that parents are working with outdated information themselves. How can we in good conscious ask parents to take the lead on something that they have never been educated in? My high school students' parents did not have social media or smartphone devices when they were in school, and therefore, parents are fundamentally unable to provide the quality of education on such a nuanced, complicated, and evolving topic like digital citizenship.
Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (2011). Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act
Protecting Children in the 21st Century. (2012). District Administration Magazine. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/protecting-children-21st-century
Copyright is a jungle; it is filled with clear streams, tangles of branches, sneaky animals, and a host of other rich metaphors for this difficult to grasp and wholly overwhelming topic. While some portions of copyright run clear like a blue stream of easy to understand transparency, other sections are like those tangled branches and filled with hard to judge, subjective lines that continue to change with the times.
While I feel as though I have only gleaned the most surface level understanding of copyright, fair use, and open sources, I, at very least, understand that the intricacies that go along with copyright are, in fact, their own industry. Because this is such a complicated and dense topic, entire careers are based on it. There are copyright librarians, copyright lawyers, and a host of other jobs associated with understanding and guiding others in the murky waters that can be the distinction between fair use and copyright infringement.
I learned that even copyrighted works can still often be used with appropriate credit (attribution), and art and music have taken on a whole new light, for me, as I understand that copyrighted works can be transformed into something new. (I am now humming Jay-Z's "Holy Grail" in my head and hearing his rap version of Kurt Cobain's famous lines from "Smells like Teen Spirit." Although, in that particular case, Jay-Z had after the fact permission from Courtney Love for the lines (Hogan, 2013). The line for what qualifies as transformational is so gray, and I, as an English teacher, love to hunt for the allusions and homages to other artists in music and art. That's probably why one of my biggest takeaways from the week involves 2 Live Crew. (Maybe honesty isn't always the absolute best policy.) In 1994, 2 Live Crew went to court over their use of the line “Oh, pretty woman, walking down the street.” (The line is from the famous Roy Orbinson song.) Ultimately, the Supreme Court determined that this was a fair transformative use because of the new meaning and direction (Stim). This is the part of copyright law that I do find utterly fascinating.
The "Copyright Jungle" has so many other densely tangled elements like the industry tigers that fight the smaller prey in fierce copyright litigation. The music industry in the past has come down hard on copyright infringement. Remember Napster? "Napster and its founder held the promise of everything the new medium of the Internet encompassed: youth, radical change and the free exchange of information. But youthful exuberance would soon give way to reality as the music industry placed a bull's-eye squarely on Napster" (King, 2002). The emergence and continual updating of the internet and our digital access has called for changes in the way that copyright laws and rules function. The last two decades have called for new understandings and new changes to how things are licensed, permitted for use, and copyrighted. I don't foresee this overgrown "Copyright Jungle" becoming more clear to navigate in the near future. If anything, I can see that this jungle will continue to add more hazards, more questions, and more tricky to navigate situations. I guess we will all just have to stay tuned as new digital mediums emerge and evolve.
Hogan, M. (2013, June 21). Courtney Love blessed Jay-Z's 'magna carta' use of nirvana lyrics. Spin. Retrieved from https://www.spin.com/2013/06/courtney-love-jay-z-magna-carta-smells-like-teen-spirit-lyrics.
King, B. (2002). The Day the Napster Died. WIRED. Retrieved 15 March 2018, from https://www.wired.com/2002/05/the-day-the-napster-died/.
Stim, R. (n.d). Fair use: what is transformative? NOLO. Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-what-transformative.html.
English is a living language. It changes with time. New worlds are added the dictionary every year, and old words take on new meaning. In 2018, the word "instant" means something different than it once did. With our incredible access to technology and the internet, we have an expectation that instant means right now.
We want no time to lapse.
No loading. No refreshing. No waiting.
There was once a time in our not so distant past that "instant" meant the five minutes that it took to cook "instant mashed potatoes" or the five minutes that it takes to cook "instant rice."
What has changed in our society to shift the instantaneousness of time from minutes to less than seconds? The level of access that the world has to the Internet has dramatically changed in the last decade thanks to the emergence of smartphones. We find ourselves increasingly dependent on technology. In fact "nomophobia," a fear of not being able to use a cell phone or other mobile device is on the rise (LaMotte, 2017). This constant need to be plugged into a world that responds instantly to our every question has revolutionized the way that we interact with each other and the world.
This instantaneous world that exists has created a "separate self" in the digital world. As a teacher, many times I see that students experience a bit of disconnect between who they seem to be in the "real world" versus who they are in the digital environment including social media. However, these two worlds coexist and overlap. Bosses, coaches, and others routinely Google search for potential employees or future players. Many people (adults and teenagers alike) are not always cognizant of the digital legacy that we call a "digital footprint" or "digital tattoo," and how that digital identity can follow them into their real life.
Actions online are often viewed as a direct reflection of a person. An individual's "digital footprint" may be a positive or a negative, and much like a resume, a person has to work to cultivate a digital footprint that is indicative of how the individual would like to be perceived in the world. Educators should begin to teach students directly how to do this with specific lessons and instructions. It is silly to assume that everyone understands how easy it is to find a person's "digital footprint." People, especially our teenagers, feel anonymous because they hide behind a username or some other identity, but they often forget about shared connections like mutual friends, location tags, media posts, and other identifying features included in their online actions.
Because "instant mashed potato" mindset of everything at our fingertips right now doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, we need to reflect and continue to push the conversations with society and education about what, who, and how we are in the digital world. Parents need to be encouraged to have conversations with their children about online safety. Teacher preparation programs need to include considerations for the digital environment that exists, and a plethora of other industries that need to consider how things have shifted, changed, and morphed in this last decade.
LaMotte, Sandee. (2017, December 1). "Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain." CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/30/health/smartphone-addiction-study/index.html.
Mrs. Autumn Riley
Native born Texan, Autumn Riley, is an educator-leader married to a dynamic high school teacher and mom to two wild little boys. When she isn't training for her next half-marathon, she spends time working on her sketch-noting and poetry.-writing. She is a Christ-follower and small group leader. All content is copyrighted to Autumn Riley. You may freely pin to Pinterest or link back to my blog. All other uses require permission. Thanks!