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Digital Contribution vs. Digital Citizenship

Last week's frigid weather not only prompted many school closings, it prompted some students to take to social media in a negative way. The reaction to the negative messages was swift and predictable with teachers, administrators, and parents calling for digital citizenship training programs. A common popular analogy suggests young drivers take coursework and an assessment before obtaining a license to legally drive. Shouldn't similar steps be taken before people put their reputations and futures at risk from ill-advised sharing on social media? 

"We need to look beyond the scary stats and help kids start thinking about the things they want to share with their families, with their classrooms, or with a larger audience." - Alec Couros

With the stakes being so high, it's hard to argue against teaching young people about responsible use and proper etiquette when using digital tools and social media. However, I would like to suggest another way. Educators should model, enable opportunities, and guide students in the ways of becoming digital contributors to learning. Here are three reasons why digital contribution trumps digital citizenship;

  1. Digital citizenship assumes a minimum standard. Learners can move beyond consumption of rules and regulations by sharing processes and creating products that contribute to a worldwide knowledge base. Teachers who model and guide digital contributions are raising expectations and going beyond the minimum standard. Digital contributors are developing the habits of relationship building, growth mindset, and lifelong learning.
  2. Digital contributors are taking ownership of their digital footprint. Self-publishing and entrepreneurial learning will increasingly gain prominence in a web 3.0 environment. People who conscientiously share their learning are building followings and reputations worth protecting. Naturally, digital contributors are less likely to risk damage to their work with dishonest or distasteful posts.
  3. Digital contributors are assigning purpose to their sharing activity by feeding and supporting the learning of others. Digital contributors are inviting learning relationships through conversation and the sharing of perspective. Digital contributors extend learning beyond the walls and schedules of the traditional classroom. Deeper and richer learning is the result of digital contributions. Digital contributors quickly learn the meaning of the phrase, "give more, get more". 



So, how does one become a digital contributor to learning? Engaging in Twitter chats, creating and sharing video and slide show presentations, and posting to blogs are popular ways for learners to share their knowledge and experiences. Digital portfolios are quickly becoming an essential component of writing and sharing to authentic audiences. Learners of any age can share processes, reflections, and products of their learning in a digital portfolio. Longitudinal tracking of progress make portfolios a powerful tool for sharing learning stories. (5 Reasons Your Portfolio Should Be A Blog - George Couros)

I am not opposed to the goals of students learning about, and living as, good digital citizens. However, too often the digital citizenship lessons involve someone telling someone else the rights and wrongs of social media use. Wouldn't it be better to provide students with an authentic canvas to share their learning? Raising expectations, modeling best practices, and building a positive network presence are better ways of helping young people make good choices when sharing online.


Does digital contribution trump digital citizenship?

How are you and your students contributing to the learning of others?


Related Learning Resources




Students as Meaningful Contributors - Langwitches Blog, Silvia Tolisano



photo credit: Remko van Dokkum via photopin cc 

Comments

Ben Wilkoff said…
I really like the way that you have framed this as a case of "modeling" rather than of "gatekeeping." I don't see the need for a digital content 'license to drive' as much as the need for really great use of digital content within learning experiences.

I also think it is important to think about the idea that great use of any medium (paper, video, etc.) doesn't happen all at once. The first few hundred tweets I sent were mostly rubbish until I figured out what social media was all about. Can we allow a space and time for kids to be able to experiment and get better, rather than expecting them to be experts instantly?

Lastly, I think your point about making connections is an important one. The difference between social media and traditional media is that it about building a conversation and connecting with those that previously lacked connection and context. We are enabling a "citizenship" that isn't just about being informed. It is about informing others and sharing in the process of information. The digital contribution is how we get there.

P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/C4C15
Robert Schuetz said…
Hello Ben,
Thank you for reading and commenting. Also, thank you for the helpful reminder - proficiency takes time. Your comment is contributing to our learning - what more could we ask for?!? Thanks again, Bob

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