Getting Sneaky About Digital Citizenship

Dear Teachers,

I met with a librarian friend of mine today to brainstorm ways to get digital citizenship embedded in lots of different areas of her school. She confided to me that she wanted to INFILTRATE her school with her digital citizenship efforts. Isn’t that a great word? I mean, seriously: unless you are leading a secret double life as a spy, how many times have you gotten to use that word lately? And how often have you been able to DO it? My librarian friend gave the example of when you add something to your email signature line, people just sort of absorb it over time until it becomes known as a part of who you are, sort of the way a sponge gradually soaks things up.  Think of all the potential sponges in your organization that could be soaking up your drops of digital citizenship wisdom over the course of a school year!

This talk of infiltration and subversion for getting our digital citizenship point across reminded me of Kristin Ziemke‘s blog about sneaky reading – getting in extra reading minutes whenever and wherever. Did you do that when you were a kid? So many adult readers I know confess to having been sneaky readers as kids: reading while walking, reading with a flashlight under the covers, reading when we finished our class work. That is really what we digital citizenship fanatics want to see happen for our cause, too: conversations about digital citizenship happening naturally and frequently, and not as a separate event, an add-on, or the dreaded “one more thing to do” (which, frankly, ain’t nobody got time for). And not only conversations about digital citizenship, but digital citizenship in action, in sneaky ways, all around us, all the time.

I love the idea about being insidious [see also: stealthy, surreptitious, sly] about working digital citizenship into what is already happening in your library or classroom. A casual conversation, a brief mention, a note on the top of the borrowed stacks of books, a well-timed tweet, a picture of #digcit in action, or -yes- a new phrase at the bottom of an email signature. These are the kinds of natural (devious?) things that a committed librarian or teacher could do to advance the cause of better digital citizenship for everyone. The librarian I met with today, though, had some other ideas that I’m also excited to share here – with her permission, of course.

She told me that she really had four pillars of her library that were important to her, and that these were the things she plans to focus on next school year. The four things most important to her are: ensuring that the library continues to be a welcoming place; putting students in touch with the right book; digital citizenship; and the overlapping concepts/skills of digital literacy and information literacy.

Here’s what I thought was pretty cool about our brainstorming session. Those four goals or areas of interest are HERS. She owns them. This simple exercise could work for ANY teacher or ANY librarian: ask yourself, what are the non-negotiables of what I want my students to get from me? Maybe those include the standards you’re required to teach, but more than that, I bet most of you would admit  to wanting your students to see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, or maybe that they can trust adults to do what they say they’re going to, or that they will start to look at math or science or history in a new way. Decide what your goals or core values are. Then take those three or four core goals or trademarks and start thinking about how you can be absolutely insidious about getting some digital citizenship lessons in there.

We also talked today about how crucial it is to get students to have a true voice in the digital citizenship conversation. I’ve quoted Jason Ohler before, but it certainly bears repeating: students who have a hand in framing the system are much less likely to try gaming the system. If we know and truly believe that students have a huge role to play in promoting digital citizenship, we would certainly want them to be just as insidious as we are in driving decisions, coming up with new and innovative ideas, and ultimately holding their teachers and librarians accountable to what they say their digital citizenship goals are. And they would probably really enjoy the subversive angle too!

Ziemke suggests posting pictures of sneaky reading; you could also post pictures of sneaky digital citizenship! Maybe that’s a student-created bulletin board or website showing images of positive tweets or blog posts or examples of fact-checking news stories. Maybe it’s just calling attention to a photo credit on an Instagram post, like this one we saw this morning (hat tip to the student who not only asked the owner of this image for permission to repost it on her own Instagram but also gave credit on the image to “Connor’s mom”):

connor-w-photo-creditIt’s exciting to me to think about getting students to help with my subversive goals for digital citizenship! With the students’ help and ideas, I know we would come up with many more ways to use social media for social good. The kids then become co-conspirators in my plot to take over the world, gently nudging other teachers to change their own behavior through the positive things they see the students doing. When teachers begin to see more examples of positive student participation online, they are more likely to start being better digital citizens themselves… possibly without even realizing it! In your stealthy scheming plans, you actually help all your stakeholders to understand how to claim not only the rights of digital citizenship, but also the responsibilities and the amazing power they have in evolving into truly active participants and leaders in digital culture.

What do you think? Could a sneaky approach to digital citizenship work in your situation? If so, share how you might subversively, treacherously, slyly, or craftily sneak in a small dose of digital citizenship every day. These lessons need to be taught and experienced in these sneaky little bites so that your sponge-y stakeholders have the chance to soak them up over time. What will happen if lots and lots of people at your school start getting sneaky about digital citizenship is that sooner or later, using social media for social good won’t be a subversive thing at all. It will just be the normal thing.

Fondly,

Nancy

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