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3 ways to bring student voice to digital citizenship

By Julie Randles 4/14/2017 Digital citizenship

Allowing students to have a say in their own learning is becoming more common in classrooms all the time. But there’s at least one more frontier in education that could benefit from student voice.

Digital citizenship.

As the definition of digital citizenship is refined, it’s important to bring student voice to bear.  After all, students are the end-users of technology and their experiences can help inform the definition of what makes for good digital citizens.

“This is not an add-on for teachers or students. It’s the world we live in,” notes Julie Paddock, technology integration specialist at North Kitsap School District in Poulsbo, Washington.

Paddock has three tips for bringing student voice to digital citizenship.

Make it part of classroom norms. Whenever you discuss classroom rules and norms, make sure you include the digital environment too, “because they really shouldn’t be any different,” Paddock says. Talk about what online conversations look like and how they compare to face-to-face conversations. Discuss how students can best represent themselves online and let students provide tips and examples.

“We talk about this as being your ‘professional self,’ because for students, school is their work,” Paddock says. “And explain that anything you put online helps develop who you are as a person and impacts the digital footprint you are creating and people are creating for you.”

Bring it to committees and decision-making. Paddock is a firm believer in including students in building- and district-level technology committees and decision-making. She suggests students serve alongside teachers on site-based tech committees – after all, they are the key users. “They can empower the use of technology and be a source of help in the classroom.”

At the district level, student voice needs to be heard when talking about what websites and resources should be filtered. Paddock saw the impact of that approach firsthand when students at her previous school lobbied to unblock YouTube so they could use it for research and projects. The district listened and made the change.

Allowing students to weigh in on such matters goes a long way in addressing the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, which directs students to understand the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world. 

Apply it to the home-school relationship. Students should also be invited to interact with parent groups associated with the school. Parents are accustomed to hearing from educators at parent-teacher associations and councils, but Paddock finds they’re also willing to listen to students about how they learn. Let students share what’s being allowed or blocked at school. Have them share how they are using technology to learn and complete projects. Give students a chance to share their voices about edtech so parents don’t just get the “wrecked-car image” of digital citizenship, Paddock explains.

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