In their book Digital Citizenship in Schools, Mike
Ribble and Gerald Bailey (ISTE, 2007) define
digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate,
responsible behavior with regard to technology
use.” They have also established nine elements to
delineate the broad concept of digital citizenship.
While our social network does not yet fully
address all nine, it does address many of them.
Listed below are six of the elements and how our
network addresses them.
Digital communication. Our network promotes
appropriate communication between students,
faculty, and administrators.
Digital literacy. Students can learn to navigate
online communities and use them to enhance their
Digital etiquette. This may be the most strongly
supported element. Our network is a highly
accountable system that we monitor to ensure
that the student’s behavior is appropriate. If online
misconduct, such as cyberbullying, occurs, the
school is able to take a quick and redemptive
approach to discipline, promoting responsible
Digital rights and responsibilities. By extending the privilege to students to access and participate in the network, our school can directly teach
students about rights and responsibilities they
have as digital citizens.
Digital health and wellness. With time stamps,
teachers and administrators can monitor when
students post as well as the frequency and scope.
If students are on the network late at night or
for many consecutive hours, the school, along
with the parents, can address appropriate use to
promote the students’ health and well-being.
Digital security. Due to the highly monitored and
accountable nature of our social network, teachers
and administrators have an ongoing responsibility to
ensure that students are not posting material that will
leave them vulnerable to online attacks or theft.
This high-level learning activity
illustrates just one of the many ways
we have integrated assignments with
our social network. Other activities
include blogging about various topics,
discussing issues in our forum area,
and using the polling feature to gauge
student understanding. Students use
the photo album section to post images related to their assignments. This
year, our photography teacher plans
to use social networking to discuss
elements of students’ photos.
We have also used our social network to facilitate quality home study.
For example, class discussions, while
wonderful if done well, will always
have some major limitations. Not
every student can make thoughtful
comments without having some time
to process the information. In addition, a discussion that allows every
student to contribute and reply to
other students’ contributions would
take an enormous amount of time. A
forum, blog, and comment wall allow
students to gather their thoughts before posting comments, to consider
other students’ comments, and to
respond to as many of them as they
want. This process saves valuable
class time and leaves the students
with a rich experience. The system
saves all comments so teachers can
accurately and easily assess students’
knowledge and participation.
Expansion and New Curriculum
We have created subnetworks for our
sixth grade students at our elementary
campus as well as for middle and high
school students at our preparatory
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campus. We will grant sixth graders access to their subnetwork in the
spring of next year in an attempt to let
them gain familiarity with the site before using it in an academic setting the
following year. This will also provide a
safer alternative to Facebook—
something especially important to parents
who are not ready to allow their 11-
and 12-year-old kids to have a public
social networking account. Although
most of our use of the network has
been limited to middle school students, our high school will begin using its subnetwork next school year.
Digital citizenship does not just
happen. Teaching it has to be intentional, with lessons that show students the acceptable norms of online
behavior. While this can be broken
into small chunks and presented in
all subject areas, we decided to add a
middle school technology class with
an emphasis on promoting digital
citizenship. Students explore scenarios
and learn about legal, moral, and ethical issues associated with technology
use. This class is also the place to teach
students the ins and outs of our social
network and related software.
The Teacher’s Role
The role of our teachers is to model
appropriate behavior by interacting
with students and other faculty online.
Teachers are also encouraged to build
relationships with their students by
communicating with them via the
network. One teacher said that students respond to those who care about
them. By respecting students and being involved in their lives, our teach-
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