It Takes A Village… Raising Positive Digital Citizens

Image by Jennifer Byrnes

Image by Jennifer Byrnes

The responsibility of teaching students to be positive digital citizenship lies in all of us. In order to create responsible, digital, prosumers, teachers, and parents must join together to create and follow best practice in digital etiquette. Sounds easy, right? In fact, it’s getting harder and harder to do this every day. The Internet is growing exponentially. There are countless ways to add to your digital footprint, with and without our knowledge and control.

How can technology integrators, teachers and parents work together to raise positive and responsible global citizens?

Knowledge is Power

Teaching teachers, students, and parents about digital citizenship is paramount to creating a positive online culture. Just like our students, colleagues and parents come to us with a wide variety of knowledge, understanding, and experience about Cyberland.  As a school, promoting positive digital citizenship should be part of the school culture. Raising awareness is key. In Andrew Marcinek’s Edutopia article, Digital Citizenship: Developing a Culture of Trust and Transparency he discusses the importance of creating a responsible digital-use or empowered digital use policies.

Regardless of the title you choose, it should provide a sense of purpose for using technology beyond the idea that “said devices may get me in trouble.” Similarly, this policy should be something that all students can understand and interpret. It should be simple and direct without creating an air of fear when signing on the dotted line.

The user agreement policy should be more than a slip of paper that is sent home with students the first week of school. It should be a document that is revised regularly (to keep up with the fast-moving technology trends) and should be created with input from staff, students & parents. It should encourage students to want to create and maintain a positive digital image.

Another wonderful way to up-skill community members is to make digital citizenship a topic of back to school night, parent coffees and teacher newsletters.

But I’m Not the Tech Teacher!

This is an argument I have heard from many colleagues over the years. There is still resistance and confusion to integrationist roles in education. I remember sitting in a PD session with EAL guru Dr. Ginny Rojas and overhearing the grumbles of disgruntled colleagues, “Why am I here? I’m not the EAL teacher!” In fact, we are all the EAL teacher and, we are all the Tech Integrator. We are all responsible for modeling and scaffolding language to make the curriculum accessible to each of our learners. The same is true with technology integration. The technology integration specialist is responsible for explicitly teaching teachers students about current trends in digital citizenship and how to follow best practice online. Teachers across all subjects, are responsible for modeling and reinforcing the skills necessary for creating a positive digital presence. Parents are responsible for keeping in the know about their child’s online presence and keeping the lines of communication open when it comes to their child’s digital footprint.

Technology is integrated into every facet of our lives giving each of us countless opportunities to talk to students, colleagues, and parents about the importance of positive digital citizenship. This infographic

There are countless resources available for teachers to reinforce positive, online behavior ( is a great resource for parents, students, and teachers). Having a quick class discussion about a relevant topic around digital citizenship can be easy to do and great “just in time” teaching.

Something I am excited to do with my students is a quick chat about Mindful Messaging during snack time. Here is my plan:

Watch: http://YouTube Preview Image

Each table group will read a comment. The comments will have the same message, but different punctuation, capitols, etc.

  • Each group will evaluate what the message means and document their thinking on a poster.
  • Turn over the posters, so the students cannot see them. Then, have students do a museum walk to see the other messages. (The posters will be turned over for the museum walk.) As students observe the posters, they will write down what they think it means on a post-it and put it next to the statement.

Turn the posters back over and complete another museum walk.

Class discussion:

Were the messages interpreted differently?
If so, why?
What changed the meaning of the message?
How could the author take steps to ensure the message is being interpreted by the audience?


Jennifer Byrnes

My name is Jen and this is my 10th year as an educator. I am a fourth-grade teacher at the American School of the Hague. I have lived and worked in the US, Uk, Italy, China and the Netherlands. I have taught grades K-4.

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2 Responses

  1. Sarah B. says:

    Hi Jen
    I think your plan for teaching about mindful messaging is a great idea. Even as adults I think we sometimes send messaged that can be misinterpreted and so it is something that needs to be taught and discussed by students. It can also apply to chat messages. My students use chat a lot, especially at home and there have been times when this has caused a lot of confusion and distress because of misinterpretation.
    I also agree with you about integration of tech. We have to take responsibility for it and use the integrators as advisors and supporters. We meet with our Tech Integrator once a week and share ideas and discuss how we want to integrate tech but the ball is very much in our court. Also as a school we have collaboration meetings and inquiry groups where if we want to focus on a particular aspect of tech then we can, with other interested teachers. At the moment I am in an inquiry group looking at how to develop STEAM in our units etc.
    Thanks for collaborating with me on the end of unit project.
    Have a great holiday

  1. December 19, 2016

    […] I have learned a lot during this project. Collaborating with people who are far away modifies your own schedule and practices. I was fortunate to be with two good educators who had clear ideas and sound resources to share. Jen reorganised in a smart way and built on what Sarah and I had started. The result represents a mix of the three of us, about how we would like to teach digital citizenship in Lower School. I’m glad we have had this opportunity to connect and collaborate with coetailers from different schools on this project and I would like to thank my two teammates #Sarah and #Jen . […]

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