Thursday, May 6, 2010

What is Digital Citizenship?

Empowering the Potential of Digital Citizenship for Teachers in Narrative

As I sit with my colleagues in our staffroom and listen as the new digital citizenship strategy is revealed, I see a wave of fear and confusion slowly spreading across the faces of the teachers in the room. What is it we have to do now? What is this digital citizenship stuff people ask? Why can’t kids just get up off the couch and talk to each other? They’re going to bring computers from home? Who’s going to fix it when it doesn’t work? I don’t know how. Being an educational technologist I am quite familiar with all of the terms but the others are not. They are uncomfortable and confused as to what is being asked of them.

On it’s website the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) states that it is committed to helping its students thrive in the 21st century and that digital technologies are a key component for students to reach their full potential within the CBE and beyond. That digital citizenship should be practiced in every course, throughout the school and at home.

Given the reaction from my staff I wonder how teachers have come to experience what the CBE is calling digital citizenship in their professional lives? As teachers what opportunities do we have to personalize our learning? Are we able to choose who and how we collaborate with other teachers? Much research and effort has gone into examining the barriers for teachers in using technology in their classroom but have we really taken the time to explore the tension that is creative for teachers when we ask them to give something they have little experience doing? My experience as a classroom teacher and a doctoral student has opened an awareness of the need to describe the lived experience of teachers as they endeavor to create these safe, personalized and collaborative learning environments for their students within a digital landscape.

The CBE and the university of Calgary are currently involved in a research project around digital citizenship and mobile learning that are similar to my interests. So while the CBE’s research focus questions are:
1. How can the use of mobile devices inform the CBE's digital citizenship strategy?
2. How might mobile learning support the personalization of learning?
3. What impact on student achievement will these devices have?

I wish to explore possible tensions between what teachers are being asked to provide for students and what they have experienced for themselves regarding the democratic use of technology in their classrooms. My research questions would highlight the teacher’s experience and voice:
1. How does the digital citizenship strategy impact you and your teaching?
2. As a teacher what you feel you are a citizen of?
3. What ways do you use technology to collaborate with other teachers?
4. How are you able to participate and personalize your learning what digital citizenship means?

I will bring many voices with me on this journey but the theoretical landscape in which this work lives has grown out of the work of John Dewey in experiential learning and democracy in education. To fully uncover the stories teachers have to tell of their experience I believe will best be told through narrative inquiry.

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