4. Engaging Student Voice
Activity 3.2a: Video
Now that you have taken some time to think about your own digital citizenship, it's time to break some news to you. That is, even if you are a "model" digital citizen, chances are, your students understand some dynamics of digital participation more (or differently) than you do.
Let me clarify. Students do NOT inherently understand the ethics of nor do they inherently abide by norms of digital citizenship. Unfortunately, the narrative around "digital natives" has, over the years, been distorted to imply that those who have been raised in the digital age somehow inherently know how to use technology correctly. The term was made popular by Marc Prensky, author of several books about the role of technology in education including one that was published in 2012 called From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (Prensky, 2012) In this book, he uses the term digital native describe kids growing up in the 21st century who have been using technology since an early age. In general, kids today are more comfortable with technology, less afraid of experimenting with new technology, and understand the "language of technology" better than most adults. Sure, kids today may be able to set up a video game system, text at lightening speed, and post videos to their social media profile page. However, most "digital natives" lack important technology skills, especially when it comes to using technology for learning and developing critical thinking skills in the context of digital participation. Many struggle to locate and evaluate Internet resources and don't realize the inaccuracies of information found on the Internet.
On the other hand, students (especially teenagers) are avid users of digital devices and social media almost entirely for the purpose of connecting with others. They use different platforms than their parents and teachers. They feel different social pressures and prioritize image differently than we do. As a whole, they interact differently than the adults around them. The bottom line here is that they do possess an understanding of digital participation in ways that we do not... not because it is inherent, but because of their experience. They also have different concerns and challenges than we might assume.
That being said, if we want to truly understand what digital citizenship means for the students we serve, all we need to do is ask them. More importantly, we need to really listen. We also need to embrace our role as a co-learner and facilitator of dig cit, as opposed to the expert with all the answers. We are not that and our students don't need us to be that.
Activity 3.2b: Task - Talk to your students (or kids, if you're taking this from the parent perspective)
You can approach this task in a variety of ways. You may choose to conduct a whole class discussion (although, depending on the topic, students may not feel as comfortable speaking up in this setting). You may ask a handful of kids to talk outside of class either individually or as a small group. You may give an anonymous survey. Whichever way you decide, it's important to make sure students know that you are genuine in your pursuit of their input, that you are not judging their answers, and that you won't share any of their responses unless you feel like someone is in genuine harm.
The best way to approach this conversation is to think about what you are genuinely curious about to drive the conversation. If you're genuinely curious, it will be easier to listen instead of speak or tell. You may have a personal set of questions/ideas to talk about, but if you don't, you can use the list below as a starting place. Obviously there are far too many items on the list below to cover in a single, or even a few sessions. The goal here is to start some dialogue, not to get every question answered... at least not right away.
Finally, be cognizant of your thoughts during the conversation. It can be hard not to make judgements about teens' behaviors, especially if/when they are being honest. Remember though, your goal is to understand their behaviors, thoughts, and challenges. Plus, some of the "desired" answers to questions below may be different that you think. Just listen and see if/how your perspective begins to shift.
I should make a list for different age groups
- What social media platforms do you use regularly? Why? Are most of your friends on the same platform? Do you avoid any platforms that your friends use? Why?
- How often do you log on? Do you ever feel "twitchy" when you haven't checked in for a while?
- Are most of your friends on social media also your friends IRL (in real life)? And on the flip side, are you connected with most of your IRL friends on social media? If there is a difference between the two, how would you describe it?
- Do you regularly post stuff on social media, or do you mainly just look at what other people post?
- What is the most surprising thing you've seen posted on social media? Why did it surprise you? What happened after it was posted? How did others react?
- Do you see much "drama" on social media between peers? What are your thoughts about that? Do you usually get involved? If so, how? Why?
- Have you seen anything that you'd actually consider cyberbullying? What did you do, if anything? What's the difference between cyberbullying and drama? Is the cyberbullying still going on?
- Do you post things on social media that paint you in a positive light? Like what?
- Have you ever posted anything that you regretted?
- Do you get a kick out of people "liking" your posts?
- Does being on social media ever make you feel bad? Feel jealous of other people?
- In general, do you think being on social media makes you feel good?
Safety and Privacy
- Have you ever encountered an online situation that made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe? What did you do?
- Do "strangers" often try to connect with you? What do you do? Do you ever agree to connect? What would cause you to agree versus ignore or delete them?
- Are you nervous about connecting with people you don't know in real life? Why or why not?
- In general, are you aware of the data that tech companies are collecting about you? Do you know what happens to all of that information? What do you think about that?
- Is there any information that you do not want to share with anyone else? What do you do to keep that private?
- Have you ever lost sleep (to the point where you felt terrible the next day) because you were on your phone/device at night?
- How much time per day do you think is a good (healthy) amount to spend on your phone or online each day? Do you think you use your phone about that much, more, or less?
- Have you ever felt "panicked" just because you were off your device for a while? (Not because it was lost, but just because you weren't on it.)
- Do you ever feel like you're "missing out" if you're not checking your phone or social media?
- Have you ever been "unfriended" by someone you considered a friend? Have you ever "unfriended" someone else that was a friend? How big of a deal is it to unfriend someone? How does it affect you, personally?
- Adults often claim that teenagers are always on their phones, even when their friends are in the same room with them. Some say that teens don't know how to have "real" conversations anymore. What do you think about that?
- Have you ever felt ignored by someone IRL (in real life) because they were on their device instead of engaging with you?
- Has your device use ever caused problems in a relationship?
- Can you think of a time that technology helped advance or repair a relationship?
Personal, Community, and Social Good
- Have you ever used the internet to learn something you were curious about (not including school assignments)?
- Have you ever used technology or social media as part of a community? What was that like? What was or was not helpful about it?
- Have you ever rallied a group together using social media or other technology?
- What's the most positive use of technology or social media that you have seen or been a part of?
- What is your biggest challenge with technology?
- Are there any online dynamics that you would like help or guidance on?
- Do you think I can help? What do you need from me?
Let's learn more about evaluating Web sites. Go to section 5.