The importance of Digital Citizenship increases with remote learning 

These days a great number of toddlers can unlock a cellphone and load their favorite video on YouTube within seconds, their tiny fingers scrolling across the screen with ease. Yet, students are not born technology experts.

Digital Citizenship, the appropriate and responsible use of technology is something that has to be taught much like other valuable life skills. HCISD has been teaching digital citizenship for years as the world has transformed into a more digital place. Amid a pandemic, the importance of this set of skills has continued to increase as students across our school district began school remotely this school year.

The definition of digital citizenship has evolved over the years to be more than just about online safety; it’s a little more all-encompassing. Lessons on digital citizenship include topics such as media balance and well-being, privacy and security, digital footprint and identity, relationships and communication, and cyberbullying, digital drama, and hate speech, and news and media literacy. Lessons and topics vary by age group.

“It is important for young children to learn about digital citizenship because we are living in a digital era,” Stuart Place Elementary Fifth-Grade Teacher Jacqueline Escobedo said. “Technology is readily available to them like never before, and we need to be able to prepare and teach them about the responsibilities that come with the use of technology and the internet. If we start having this conversation early, young children can be cautious and responsible when online.”

Learning about digital citizenship teaches students to make smarter choices when using a device or logging in to the internet. Escobedo shared some of the advice she gives her students.

“We need to remember to be safe by protecting our login credentials and all of our personal information or that of others,” Escobedo said. “As digital citizens, we must also be kind to one another and stand up and report any cyberbullying. When navigating online, we must be cautious since websites we visit and the comments we post will follow us digitally. It is best to always do the right thing and treat internet and device usage as a privilege.”

This year, HCISD created Video Conferencing Norms and a Digital Citizenship Pledge which students and their parents reviewed, signed, and submitted as part of an assignment on the first week of school.

Currently in remote learning, Escobedo’s students have been able to learn and practice these skills on a regular basis through their use of online learning platforms.

“When we are in class students are easily managing the usage of two platforms at once such as Zoom and Seesaw,” Escobedo said. “Through Seesaw they have been able to open up an avenue of creativity that allows them to express their understanding of the content in a variety of ways. As for Zoom, it has been quite the experience. Who would have thought that young children were to learn how to log on for their virtual class and follow videoconferencing expectations?”

Overall, Escobedo was impressed with how quickly students are learning to become better digital citizens and experts in remote learning.

“Over the first few weeks of school, my students have had plenty of practice on how to navigate and use the device and the online platforms we are using,” she said. “For my very first class, we used the chat feature for an activity. At first, they were hesitant, but slowly they got comfortable with the chat which has been the best student participation feature available. The amount of progress we’ve made in three short weeks with remote learning has been astronomical, and I am excited to see where my students’ technology ability and comfort will be as we continue our school year.”

As the world continues transforming into a more digital place, it is important for students to keep learning and practicing how to be smart, safe, responsible, and respectful online.

“Our teachers, students, and parents are doing an amazing job navigating the digital learning platforms and digital citizenship,” Stuart Place Elementary Principal Dawn Burbach said. “Even our Pre-K students have already mastered Zoom Norms. Our teachers and parents are helping to remind students about the expectations for digital citizenship. Our Thunderbirds have got this and are stepping up to show us, ‘Today’s Pride for Tomorrow’s Success.’”

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