Digital Literacy: Implementation Not As Easy As It Seemed…

My major project was initially overambitious; I see that now. I had wanted to do as social activism project that would incorporate a twitter hashtag, among other things. Two things got in the way of making this a reality:

  1. A misconceived idea that digital citizenship was something that could be taught in a few rushed lessons, before work on the social awareness project could get going, and;
  2. Having a grade 5/6 class who, as it turns out, are not nearly as critical as I had wrongly assumed.

Talking about the election in class, one student started criticizing Justin Trudeau, about how he’s too young and inexperienced. I asked him where he got this opinion, and he told me it was his mom and a commercial they watched last night. The video itself was a Conservative Party funded Attack Ad on Justin Trudeau.

We watched the video in class, and it was surprising to watch the student’s faces. What was more alarming was the reactions they all had after. Nearly all students took the ad face value, and were ready to condemn Justin Trudeau outright, simply based on these ads.

I think this example speaks to how terrible it would be to just assume that children are more technologically capable, and thus critically adept at sifting through information and coming up with a logical conclusion. Only after we watched some other attack ads from other parties, aimed at the other leaders, and to recognize that those ads were being made by other parties, did students start to recognize that these ads were not constructive, but simply a way to denigrate the other parties. I think part of why students didn’t initially recognize the problem because they still trust that whatever is being told to them is truth, especially when it comes from a higher power like the government.

I have also realized, as I read more about digital citizenship, that there is much I didn’t take into account. Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship  is an excellent framework that I wish we had read as a class in the first week. This framework enables a comprehensive look at digital citizenship, something that beforehand I hadn’t realized was so all-encompassing. Reading through the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools guide I was able to really appreciate the use of Ribble’s elements, and to appreciate the immensity of the content that would need to be provided, as well as the ongoing nature of the work.

While I’m still interested in pursuing a social activism type project with my class, both they, and I are not ready. A more realistic and important goal is to better understand digital citizenship, plan relevant lessons and activities, and educate my students so they won’t again blindly believe that some politician is a waste of time based on one attack ad, or that it isn’t alright to post akward photos of other people online.

I hope weekly to cover parts of Ribble’s 9 elements, as laid out on p. 14 of the Digital Citizenship Education in SK Schools Guide, where all 9 elements are separated into the three groups of Respect, Educate, and Protect.

SK Digital Citizenship Education seminar slideshow

As I build resources and lessons, I will create a corresponding website that will also be organized in 9 elements, where others can access these resources, as well as hopefully leave their own to share.

The SK guide to Digital Citizenship provides the justification for such instruction in the classroom, but falls short of providing tangible ways of implementing such content. In a 64 page document, very little actually provides direction as to how teachers can actually kick start this process in their classroom. It seems the guide was written primarily for divisions and administrators, to convince them of the need to make system/school wide perspective changes towards how technology use is handled, and the need to model and instruct children in digital citizenship, instead of creating the dichotomy of school vs real world.

While involving all key stakeholders (staff, community, students) is a good approach at creating content and lessons aimed specifically towards individual needs each community may have (rural vs. urban, vs. reserve), success at actually having this curriculum implemented in schools would be much higher were there more concrete examples of how each part of digital literacy can be implemented in the classroom. Simply offering outcomes is not enough. Were we to have concrete examples that we could critique and/or build off, I am sure many more teachers would wade into, what is for many, unfamiliar territory.

Because, let’s be honest with ourselves. As teachers, we are already stretched in every direction. Many of us are also ‘old school,’ and in addition to prohibiting students from BYOD (bring your own device), also rely very little on the internet, and as such cannot emphasize with the ‘millennials’ being taught. There are tons of excuses that are going to be coming up in regards to this being incorporated into classrooms until I suppose certain people take on the initiative and create content that will help provide direction for those less willing to jump in.


3 thoughts on “Digital Literacy: Implementation Not As Easy As It Seemed…

  1. Very interesting post. It brings me back to the old fashion “Media Literacy / Advertising Units” we used to teach where we made students aware of how the “hot girl” was put into the ad to sell the car, or discussed how advertisements (particularly on the cartoon channels) increase dramatically approaching Christmas time, or challenged students to analyze how toys don’t actually appear as big or as cool in real life as the commercials make them. I wonder if we still need to start with advertisement in television before we move into the internet or at least include that in our media literacy?

    1. Hello! Yes, I agree that it’s very much like the media literacy that is hopefully still being taught :). I would see the need to rework some stuff, but most of that content is still relevant to all media, internet and tv.

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