Citizenship has had many meanings since the ideas was first established. In ancient times it simply meant to belong or be part of a group, whether a military troop or an established city state (Ohler, 2010). As nations grew, its meaning took on a more specific definition, linking a person to a country or place which endowed the citizen and government with certain duties and responsibilities (Ohler, 2010). As the borders are eroded by electronic connectedness, individuals are able to interact freely across the globe, the idea of citizenship has again become less about a specific place, and more akin to the original idea of belonging freely to a group. Despite the fact that digital citizenship now expands the globe, very little has been done to prepare digital citizens.
Based on recent data from the Media Literacy Project , little is being done to include the ideas of digital citizenship in school curriculum. Children today are digital natives, growing up in a world surrounded by these technologies, as opposed to earlier generations that immigrated or assimilated to these ever evolving innovations (Ohler, 2010). This proposed curriculum focuses on more than just the nuts and bolts and technology, but how people interact via the digital world. Schools generally teach social appropriateness even if it’s not part of the official curriculum. This is not necessarily true for digital interactions.
One group has created nine elements of digital citizenship—access, communication, commerce, literacy, etiquette, law, security, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness (Ribble, 2014). Each of these elements have curriculum that is taught to children so they can understand and navigate the digital world safe and effectively (Ribble, 2014). This needn’t be difficult as many of the same real life skills can be applied to digital interactions.
Media literacy and digital citizen go hand-in-hand and could be taught as a single course. There are numerous resources for schools looking to teach about media literacy, but very few include in their curriculum (How To Teach Media Literacy in the Classroom , 2014). Many of the elements of digital citizenship listed above could be crossed with media literacy to create a curriculum that covers both.
Despite the initiative to increase technology use, most schools do not provide education on navigating the digital world. In a world where everyone with access to the internet is in contact with an ever expanding digital audience, the ability to understand and navigate this world is imperative. In a digitally connected culture, how the individual represents him/herself online may be as important, if not more important, than how he/she acts in face-to-face interactions.
How To Teach Media Literacy in the Classroom . (2014, Feb 2). Retrieved from Understand Media: http://www.understandmedia.com/index.php/ml-pta/26-how-to-teach-media-literacy-in-the-classroom
Ohler, J. (2010). Digital Community, Digital Citizen. Corwin.
Ribble, M. (2014, Feb 1). Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from Digital Citizenship: Using Technology Effectively: digitalcitizenship.net
Rose, F. (2012). The Art of Immersion. New York: Norton & Company.