Digital Citizenship and the Impact of Technology

We’ve scheduled a TON of professional learning this summer. When we were setting the schedule a couple of months ago, we put out an offer to our teachers, asking them if they would like to teach any classes. We were happy when several stepped forward to supplement the classes that the members of my department are offering.  One of our wonderful third grade teachers  taught a full-house class on Google Classroom today. When she got to the part about “allowing comments” for students, many teachers in the room immediately did a collective eye-roll and made rumbling noises that indicated, “No way! I’m not going there! That’s just asking for trouble!” I couldn’t help myself; I had to jump in at that point. I explained how Google Classroom comments are actually the PERFECT thing to use in class – that way, the teacher can guide and moderate what the students are doing – with lots of daily and incidental conversations about what it means to be a good digital citizen. Class norms can be developed with student input;  as Jason Ohler (2017) says, they will either game the system or frame the system. Google Classroom allows students to get practice having a civil online conversation, with guidance, and if (WHEN) they make a mistake, it is done in a sheltered environment. I loved having the opportunity to challenge the thinking of teachers who indicate they “don’t want go there”; so often I think teachers decide that they just don’t want to deal with the online interaction stuff, but many opportunities for teachable moments are lost with this attitude!

I’ve been thinking this week about the impact of technology on all of our lives and how it relates to digital citizenship. I’ve heard people bemoan the state of humanity – people text each other when they’re in the same room! My students won’t talk to me – they only use email! People have such horrible manners online!

And yes: all of that is probably true. However, that’s not the ONLY thing that’s going on. It would be ridiculous for teachers to give kids a handwriting assignment and then only talk to the kids about NOT STABBING each other with the pencil. If you have a hammer, you can smash a window or you can build a house. If you drive a car, it can plow into people on a bridge in London or get you to and from work every day. For our students, technology is just another ubiquitous tool. What will be the best way to present that tool to them?

Some of these “technology” problems are not “technology” problems at all. They are HUMAN problems. Somewhere along the line, many of us have forgotten the lessons we learned when we were young about being careful with other people’s feelings. Technology may *amplify* this human problem, but technology is itself NOT the problem.

Fortunately, it is our humanity (and not the technology) that will allow us to FIX whatever these problems are, too. I may be a cockeyed optimist, but I believe that people’s better natures will ultimately prevail, and that we CAN turn the tide on the negativity that we so often see online. Let’s all work harder to be digital culture change agents. I gotta believe we can do it.


Ohler, J. (2017). We’ve got to give students opportunities to ‘frame rather than game’ the digital citizenship conversation. Retrieved from