Thursday, April 24, 2014

The fundamental things apply ...

Magnifying Glass by Auntie P, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by Auntie P

Technology is driving radical changes in how we approach learning and education and this demands that students develop new skill sets to be able to work and learn in a world dominated by the application of digital technology. The question is how many of these digital skills are really uniquely digital and how many are adaptations of established principles? Aren't we often talking about fundamental skills and competences but applied in a digital context? Is being a good digital citizen so much different from being a good citizen?

An article by Sam Stecher in EdReach caught my eye this week, The Myth Of Digital Citizenship And Why We Need To Teach It Anyway. He questions whether the concept of digital citizenship is so different from just good citizenship:

The reason why is because there is no such thing as digital citizenship. It’s just citizenship. The rules don’t change just because you have a screen in front of you.

Perceived classroom problems with multitasking students is not essentially a digital issue. Students have always written notes to each other, doodled, daydreamed and messed around when the lesson becomes dull and the issue is one of classroom management rather than about digital technology. Similarly they can of course find irrelevant or misleading information on the net but they could find equally irrelevant material in the libraries and bookstores of the past unless they asked for help or had developed the skill of source criticism. The basic principles of good citizenship, argues Stecher, apply equally in the analogue and digital world; namely Is your use respectful, responsible, and safe? Whether the medium is digital or not the principles are the same. Taking control of your digital identity is all about showing respect for others' feelings and integrity, taking responsibility for your own actions and taking action to ensure the security of your passwords, profiles and keeping safe from virus attacks and suchlike.

The difference is that technology acts as a magnifying glass. Careless comments used to reach only a few ears and the damage could be controlled with a quick apology, whereas today such comments can go viral in minutes and can have disastrous consequences, destroying reputations and careers. Today everything digital is social and once you release a tweet, a Facebook comment, a photo or a film it's out of your control. We have extremely powerful tools in our hands and it takes time to learn to use them wisely. If there is a concept of digital citizenship it involves learning to apply these basic principles of respect, responsibility, critical thinking and reflection and applying them through the highly magnified digital lens.

The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.

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