Digital Citizenship and the Disconnection Dilemma

This week in class we talked about the importance of teaching our students Digital Citizenship as opposed to simply internet safety skills. As educators, it is our responsibility to provide students with the tools they need in order to be successful in the real world. With the world becoming increasingly digital and the normalization of younger and younger children accessing social media and other digital platforms, it is more important than ever for schools to respond proactively and teach students the skills they need to become an effective digital citizen. That being said I appreciated the perspectives of the articles we read this week but I do not necessarily agree 100% with the messages of the articles we read this week.

I enjoyed the practical nature of the article by Jason Ohler. The points he raised about the importance of teaching students through the “one life” perspective, where “educators to help students live one, integrated life, by inviting them to not only use their technology at school but also talk about it within the greater context of community and society”, were powerful (Ohler, 2011). We no longer live in an age where kids are not exposed to digital media. Our students live lives that are saturated by technology and as a result, it is important to use this to our advantage to make learning more authentic and engaging and to teach them the skills to handle it correctly.

That being said I didn’t agree completely with the immersion view of the article. I certainly believe that technology is an asset but in my opinion, kids should still be encouraged to be kids. It makes me mad when I see families out for supper and the kids are watching a movie on the iPad and the parents are texting or checking social media. I think that by encouraging an overconnected generation to become even more connected we are putting trusting, naive children at risk. The line that struck me the most from this article was near the end where Ohler stated: “our job is to help students not only use technology but also question it” (2011). It is our job as teachers to teach our students to be critical thinkers and I think this is especially paramount in terms of their engagement with the digital world.

I will proudly admit, even after reading “The IRL Fetish”, that I am a proud disconnection and IRL Fetishist. The article attempted to criticize those who choose to disconnect from the world of social media and technology claiming that the offline state they strive for is impossible to achieve.  I think it is a sad commentary on the human race when we believe that “the Web has everything to do with reality; it comprises real people with real bodies, histories, and politics” (Jurgenson, 2012). What people post online is not their real life, it is the highlight reel life that they want everyone to believe they are living. I absolutely love the idea of the Digital Sabbath Movement.   I think that it is important to find a balance between digital connection and disconnection. The importance of getting out in nature, of having face to face conversations, and having time alone with your own thoughts is becoming overlooked and that is to our detriment.

As I was reading these articles and thinking about digital citizenship I thought of this slam poem that I used in my internship. I think it is a great way to get students to think critically about their engagement as a digital citizen and I highly recommend it as a jumping off point for these sorts of discussions.