In the fast-growing world of online and blended education, the concept of digital citizenship is becoming more of a driving force behind how our teachers and students use technology for learning.
It’s no longer enough for us to remember the virtual paths for accessing electronic file folders and storage systems where classroom materials and homework submissions are housed, or recall how to log into our courses remotely from our tablets. Digital citizenship adds an entirely new element to our e-learning lives; It establishes how each of us should appropriately and responsibly use, communicate, and interact with technology.
Defining Digital Citizenship
If you were to think about “citizenship” as being a term used to describe one’s relationship or affiliation within a particular society, then “digital citizenship” uses the same definition but within the context of a virtual community. A digital citizen, therefore, is someone who participates within a digital world—tasked with upholding appropriate behavior—where there are very few borders and a wealth of diversity. And because of the global accessibility that is now offered through virtual education programs, it is more important than ever to establish appropriate digital citizenship standards for interacting with one another online.
With digital citizenship, students and teachers from all over the world can connect with a mutual understanding of how to use their technology wisely and treat one another equally, despite differing cultural and religious backgrounds. This, in turn, helps everyone get along and creates a more positive learning environment for students and teachers.
Being a Good Digital Citizen
So what does being a good digital citizen look like? It means paying attention to online etiquette, following Internet laws, staying safe and secure online, and making ethical decisions when it comes to working in virtual classrooms. It also encompasses the dos and don’ts of online communication. This is vitally important in online and blended learning environments, where so much communication exists via emails, discussion forums, and chat rooms.
Digital citizenship has an undeniable impact on e-learning programs. Teachers and students are learning more and more about the importance of being good digital citizens in order to ensure that online education is effective. And when students understand and practice digital citizenship in the classroom, the online learning environment becomes more than a place of collaboration, but a safe place, where they feel comfortable sharing ideas and can focus on what’s important—learning.