Digital Citizenship as Standard Operating Procedure

Dear Teachers,

I was working with my friend Julie Paddock today on our presentation for NCCE in a couple of weeks. I say “our” presentation, but it is really going to be all Julie; although I had originally hoped to be heading to Portland to co-present with her, it didn’t work out that way. So I’ll be Skyping in (barring any technology failures) and moderating the Padlet that Julie will be using for the backchannel chat. (Aside: honestly, how cool is that, that I’ll be able to participate in a conference in the Pacific Northwest from down here in Texas? It’s such a fun time to be in Education!)

So anyway, “we” have this presentation – which we’ll actually BOTH be doing at ISTE in June – about Cultivating a #DigCit State of Mind. Julie and I are of one mind about the uselessness of stand-alone digital citizenship curricula or “special weeks” dedicated to digital citizenship awareness, so our focus is on the daily work of digital citizenship education, done in micro-lessons. At some point during our conversation today, something Julie said leaped out at me and my Inner Voice yelled at me: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE. *THAT* is what Digital Citizenship should be!

So many things in our lives have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Going to a ballgame. Grocery shopping. Taking public transportation. Attending a cultural event. Most of these things, we learned because we grew up watching them, or maybe made an effort to learn by observing others. There wasn’t a formal class on “how to buy vegetables” or “being quiet during the movie”; there were just the cultural norms and expectations that we absorbed from our experiences. We learned the Standard Operating Procedures of each of those very normal life experiences from what we observed and what we were shown.

How is one’s behavior different at a baseball game different from what it might be at an opera? How is buying vegetables at a Farmer’s Market different from making a purchase at a Wal-Mart? How does someone learn which fork or spoon to use at a formal dining event? Maybe we get explicit directions from someone more experienced, or maybe we figure it out from observation, but somebody has to show us what the norm is: the Standard Operating Procedure.

Back in December, I spoke to several AVID classes at one of our senior high schools. I got the best quote ever, from a young lady named Naj:

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Wow! She articulated in two sentences what I’d been trying to put into words for months! Showing kids what to do and how to act should be our Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to Digital Citizenship. We need to be able to show our students what the norms are.

Teaching students at an early age to be the same online as they are in real life should be SOP.

Celebrating others publicly should be SOP.

Guiding students to use social media for social good: SOP.

Mentoring students into positions of digital leadership: SOP.

Giving students opportunities to make positive contributions to the digital landscape (for example, with projects like CLICK*): SOP.

Talking aloud about what is on your smart phone and explaining what you decided to include (or not) in a Tweet or Facebook post: SOP.

Showing students how to use their devices for learning, instead of just entertainment: SOP.

Getting your students to determine the norms for their online behavior, and then revisiting those norms frequently, could become your SOP. Co-creating, with your students, the Standard Operating Procedures for digital citizenship allow positive norms to develop organically and naturally, with new students learning by observation what those norms and expectations are.

One thing I know for sure, things don’t become “Standard Operating Procedure” from a one-time conversation, one pre-packaged lesson, or a single “digital citizenship event.” It is the constant small doses of SOP, repeated frequently over a student’s entire school career, that ingrains the values and the lessons that we hope they take with them. What is your current Standard Operating Procedure for digital citizenship? What are the cultural norms for social media use in your situation? If they’re not as positive as what you might like, what can you do to tweak your SOP?

I can’t wait to hear back from you on how you’re becoming a digital culture change agent.



*shameless self-promotion

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