Digital Citizenship in the Classroom


flickr photo shared by The New School under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Digital citizenship is an important thing to consider when teaching. Although it may not obviously fit into your subject area, it is important to remember at which points your choices as a teacher impact the digital citizenship of students. Are you asking them to use websites or social media? Are you asking them to use software that has a terms of service? Are they expected to participate in anything online? Do you allow (or ban) laptops, tablets, and cell phones in your classroom? Could they use sites or software like Google Docs or Skype to collaborate with other students? Do you communicate with students using email, text message, or social media? All of these things connect with digital citizenship.

If you are looking for ways to incorporate digital citizenship issues into your teaching, a great place to start is Mike Ribble’s The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship:

  1. Access – It is important to be aware of issues with access as not all students have the same access to technology or knowledge of how to use the technology they may have.
  2. Commerce – Consider how ecommerce fits into your course. This includes things like textbook purchases and accompanying logins but also discussing relevant issues to the course
  3. Communication – Think about how you choose to communicate with your students and whether you will include digital modes and which ones. There are ways to incorporate this into your teaching such as having digital guest speakers, digital presentations, etc. Also consider how you deal with digital communication in your classroom. Are students allowed to retain their laptops, cell/smartphones? Perhaps a jointly written policy would be helpful. This could also include netiquette, a development of accepted behaviours for digital communication and classroom behaviour.
  4. Literacy – It is important to know that not all students come to class already knowing how to use all technologies. Even if they are familiar, they may know only rudimentary uses that they use in their day-to-day life but be unaware of more advanced features. Keeping this in mind when teaching can help everyone be aware of what they need to know. For example, having library staff give a session on digital research or on evaluating information found on the web can be useful. If you expect students to use software or hardware, be prepared with resources they can use to learn how if you will not be going over it in class or offering tutorials.
  5. Etiquette – Discussing clearly expectations about behaviour and setting them out with students is an important part of digital citizenship. This includes things like a technology policy, time frames for replies, appropriate communication styles or modes, privacy issues, etc. It is worth a discussion with students to determine what you all agree to abide by and some of the reasoning behind it.
  6. Law – One of the biggest laws impacting teaching lately is copyright. It is vital to know what you can and cannot do according to copyright law and to model copyright compliance for your students. This includes the use of images and videos. You can check out the U of R Copyright site for additional help. Consider discussing Creative Commons with your students. It is also good to be aware of privacy issues which include privacy policy at U of R and international laws such as the Patriot Act. These issues can impact both you and your students if you choose to use software not supported by the U of R which may store information in the United States or may require that students provide personal information to someone outside the University. Think about how digital laws might be relevant to your area of study.
  7. Rights & Responsibilities – Discussing these aspects with your students when relevant is important in helping them to become better digital citizens. It is also worth informing students of their digital rights and responsibilities as it relates to the university (including issues such as use of university supported vs non-university supported software, use of university email, etc). Netiquette can also be considered under this.
  8. Health & Wellness – Ensuring that students know about the health and wellness options available on campus is important, including making them aware of Counselling Services.
  9. Security – This element includes aspects previously mentioned such as privacy concerns. It is worth reminding students about choosing carefully where and how they share information. This also applies to privacy and security for other students such as not posting or sharing information without permission.

Here are some additional sites and resources that can give you ideas:

Third Party Software
It is also worth considering what software or websites students may use to complete their assignments or may be requested to use. There are softwares supported by U of R (UR Courses, Banner/UR Self Service, Echo360, CASPUR, FAST); anything else is considered third party software (Turnitin is licensed by U of R but not totally supported). If you choose to request or suggest students use a site or software that is third party, there are some important issues for you and your students to consider:

  • What information must be provided to the company to use their site/software? (Remember that these companies are making money from information and there may or may not be guarantees of the security of information)
  • What privacy issues are there? (Keep in mind that asking students to share sensitive topics, personal information, or anything they are uncomfortable sharing publicly can be an issue and do your best to respect their privacy)
  • Who supports it? (Information Services will not be able to help students with most software. Be aware of who students need to contact for help if something does not work, whether that is you, a TA/Lab instructor, the company, online tutorials, etc.)