Digital Citizenship — Where Does it Fit?

For the past couple of weeks we have been talking a lot about the importance of teaching digital citizenship in schools.  Just because students are online and connected does not mean that they are digitally intelligent — we constantly hear stories about young people using technology inappropriately for things like cyberbullying, sexting, cheating, plagiarizing, etc.  As educators, I believe that we have a moral responsibility to teach students how to be productive, responsible, and contributing members of the digital universe.  Digital Citizenship Education can help us do that.

Not only do we have a moral responsibility to teach about digital citizenship, it is actually a professional responsibility of Saskatchewan teachers as well.  Like Treaty Education, Digital Citizenship Education is mandated in Saskatchewan — schools and teachers are required to teach about it.  Where I get stuck, though, is finding connections between digital citizenship and the Saskatchewan curriculum.

There are tons and tons of resources out there for teaching about digital citizenship — Common Sense Media has designed an entire K-12 digital citizenship curriculum complete with units, lesson plans, and resources.  However, if you can’t make curricular connections, the resources don’t matter.  Part of the issue is that digital citizenship is such a broad topic that encompasses many different themes — it is much more than just teaching about online safety. Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship provides a helpful framework for understanding the major components of digital citizenship.

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Using Ribble’s nine elements, I browsed the Saskatchewan curriculum and came up with a list of subject areas and specific curricular outcomes where Digital Citizenship Education integrates nicely:

Health and Wellness 

Outcome USC9.7 in Health Education 9 has students analyze tragic death and suicide as distressing community issues. I think this would be a fitting space to discuss current digital issues such as cyberbullying and sextortion — issues which can have a huge impact on one’s mental and emotional health. This outcome relates to three digital citizenship elements from Ribble’s framework: Digital Health & Wellness, Digital Communication, and Digital Safety & Security.

The Wellness 10 outcomes W1 and W4 also relate to the Digital Health & Wellness element of digital citizenship. Outcome W1 says for students to evaluate their own understanding of wellness. I think that digital wellness is an important dimension of overall wellness, but one that is rarely talked about. This outcome allows for teachers to have a discussion with students about their physical and psychological well-being in a digital world. Outcome W4 focuses specifically on mental health and its impact on the well-being of self, family, and community. This would be another fitting space to analyze topics like cyberbullying and sextortion, as well to discuss issues like social media depression

English Language Arts (ELA)

Both ELA 9 and ELA B30 have a unit called The Search for Self — a unit where students explore who they are and how they have been shaped by family, friends, society, etc. When talking about identity, I think it is important to also talk about digital identity (and why it is so important to create/maintain a positive digital identity) since the two are so interconnected. The ELA outcomes CR9.1aCC9.1aCRB30.1, and CCB30.1 can all connect to Digital Citizenship Education as they ask students to comprehend and respond to texts that address issues of identity, as well as to create and compose different texts that explore identity. These outcomes relate to the Digital Communication, Digital Literacy, and Digital Safety & Security elements of digital citizenship.


The Health Science 20 outcome HS20-HB2 has students investigate various pathologies and aliments and how they effect cells, tissues, organs, and systems of a healthy human body. This outcome relates to the Digital Health element of Ribble’s framework — it allows for a discussion about the implications of technology on physical health and well-being such as eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, etc.

Social Sciences 

Aside from the three mandatory units in Law 30, educators are also required to teach a minimum of two optional units. The Law 30 curriculum has not yet been updated to the new outcome/indicator format, so I couldn’t make any formal curricular connections to Digital Citizenship Education; however, I think Law 3o would make an excellent space to talk about the Digital Law element of digital citizenship.

These are only a few connections that I have made between digital citizenship and the Saskatchewan curriculum. My hope is that as I learn more about digital citizenship and find more resources that I will continue to make additional curricular connections. Please note that the above list only focuses on secondary subjects, as I am a Secondary Education student.

Where/how do you integrate digital citizenship into the curriculum — specifically the secondary curriculum? Know of any excellent resources to use to teach about digital citizenship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




Amanda Todd and the Myth of Digital Dualism

Digital dualism is the belief that the digital and physical worlds are distinct entities — one space does not impact the other.  After hearing about the story of Amanda Todd, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

This week in ECMP 355 we were to watch The Sextortion of Amanda Todd, a documentary by the Fifth Estate.  The video describes the extensive sexual exploitation, or sextortion, and slut-shaming the young woman experienced after she flashed her breasts to the webcam in an online chatroom upon request of a man she had been messaging.  The man was a capper — a type of cyber-predator who stalks websites and chatrooms looking to flatter women into performing sexual acts, only then to capture and distribute their images.  On October 10, 2012, Amanda Todd committed suicide after having dealt with the blackmailing and slut-shaming for over three years.

On the surface, Amanda Todd’s story seems to be a cautionary tale about cyber predators and the importance of developing and maintaining a positive digital identity.  In my opinion, though, the story of Amanda Todd is less about digital identity and more about the link between our online and offline selves.

It would be easy to say that what happened to Amanda Todd is the result of her one little digital mistake.  But let’s face it — society and its sexualization of women also played a  role. Women are led to believe that their worth is attached to their sexual desirability — the more “wanted” we are by others, the greater our worth.  The media sends women off on tangents to perfect our bodies; there is always an advertisement for some new, hot exercise regime, diet plan, skin care routine, fashion style, etc. designed to help make us more physically attractive.  These media messages are so powerful and widespread that women begin to internalize them from a very young age.  According to Media Smarts, “three-year-olds already prefer game pieces that depict thin people over those representing heavier ones, while by age seven girls are able to identify something they would like to change about their appearance”. Terrifying.


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If women grow up believing that their worth is attached to their ability to be sexually desirable, is it any wonder that Amanda Todd flashed the webcam?  The problem, however, is that women face a paradox: they are pressured into being sexy, but then punished for being sexual.  In other words, as soon as we act on our sexuality, we are shamed for it.  Amanda Todd fell victim to this paradox, and she paid the ultimate price.

So, as educators, what can we do about this? What are our responsibilities? 

Of course we have a responsibility to teach about digital citizenship and to educate our students on how/why to create positive digital identities.  But that’s only part of it. Amanda Todd’s story demonstrates how our online and offline worlds are not distinct entities but are, in fact, intricately connected, proving digital dualism to be a myth.  In this sense, not only do we have to teach students how to create and maintain positive digital identities, but we have to help them to develop positive “offline identities” as well.  This means discussing topics like body image, media influences, sex ed, and choice and consequence, as well as encouraging students to develop talents/hobbies, healthy relationships, and critical-thinking skills — things that nurture self-esteem.

So, what do you think? What other responsibilities do we as teachers have in helping prevent tragedies like this from occurring? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

Aww Snap!

[This post was written jointly with Robin Tuck and also appears on her blog]


Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian via Compfight cc

The world of #edtech is ever growing; the newest addition: Snapchat. Snapchat is one of the most popular social media apps used by young people today, and it is starting to make it’s way into the classroom in a variety of ways (more on that later).  The problem, however, is that Snapchat, although extremely popular, is also a very controversial app, so it’s use in the classroom might raise some concern.

A lot of the concern surrounding #edtech is often fear of the unknown, but that doesn’t make the concerns any less valid.  As teachers, we need to be aware of the concerns/oppositions held by parents, administrators, and other educators, and be able to justify our use of #edtech in the classroom.

Outlined below are several concerns that parents and/or teachers may have about using Snapchat in the classroom, as well as our responses to those concerns:

Concern: It’s not safe — I’m afraid that my child will send pictures/videos to random people.

Snapchat is not the only tech tool that young people use to communicate.  Different online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Tumblr allow students to connect with people all over the world.  However, Snapchat, like all of these tech tools, has customizable privacy settings that allow the user to decide who can contact them and who can view their Story.  

Concern: Snapchat has the reputation of being a sexting app!

Yes, Snapchat is known as “the sexting app” (although co-founder Evan Spiegel says that’s not what it was created for).  Some people believe that Snapchat encourages sexting because the pictures/videos that you send are time-specific — they only last for a designated amount of time before they “self destruct”.  This prevents, or at least makes it difficult, for inappropriate pictures to be screenshot and shared.

In the video below, Theresa Payton, a National Cyber Security Expert, discusses the dangers of Snapchat and advises parents against allowing their children to use the tool:

Note: Not all information in this video is accurate; Snaps can last for up to 10 seconds, and Stories last for 24 hours.

Frankly, we can’t control how students use their personal technology, but we can teach students how to be responsible online.  Just because a tech tool has possible negative repercussions doesn’t mean we should shy away from it.  Snapchat’s negative reputation allows for a teachable moment.  The truth is, everything on the internet is permanent, even Snaps. This opens up the opportunity for teachers to have a discussion with students about digital citizenship and online safety like one teacher from the UK who used Snapchat to teach her Year 5/6 students about internet safety; she took a screenshot of a Snap and shared it on Facebook to demonstrate how quickly a “private” Snap can go viral.  

Concern: Snapchat is too distracting.

Distraction happens, especially if students aren’t engaged in their learning.  As teachers, we have a responsibility to develop and facilitate creative and engaging lessons that keep our students wanting to learn.  Using a popular app like Snapchat might be a way to do this — if students on it all the time, they might as well use it for educational purposes

Concern: Some children might not access to Snapchat at home.

This is a concern when using any type of technology in the classroom.  As teachers, it is our job to make learning as equitable as possible.  This means providing students with the appropriate resources that they need to learn as well as making adaptations to our teaching.  For example, if a student does not have access to a cell phone or Snapchat then we could send them the same information via email or in a Remind message.

Concern: As a teacher, I do not want my students to have access to my personal Snapchat.

This is a simple fix! If you do not want students to have access to your personal Snapchat then you can create a second account (like a classroom Snapchat) to use for professional purposes only.  If students add the classroom Snapchat as a “friend” then they will have access to the teacher’s Snaps and Story, but the teacher will not have access to students’ Snapchat acccounts. 

Another concern along the same lines is that a teacher might not feel comfortable sharing their personal phone number with students, nor should they have to.  Snapchat makes this easy — you can add “friends” by scanning a barcode (aka a “Snapcode“) or by searching a username. 

Concern: How does Snapchat enhance my child’s education?

Snapchat is still a relatively new tech tool (released in only 2011), so it is not as commonly used in the classroom as other tools like Twitter, Edublogs, Remind, Kahoot, etc.  In fact, neither of us personally know of any teacher who use Snapchat in their classrooms.  However, that doesn’t mean Snapchat doesn’t have any educational value.  

Snapchat can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways:

These are just a few suggestions as to how Snapchat can be used in the classroom.  Amy, who is a chemistry major, also had the idea of using Snapchat to share a mystery chemical reaction with her students prior to class.  This would get students excited for, and thinking about, the learning that is to come. Ultimately, Snapchat is another tech tool that can be useful in the classroom — you just have to be creative!

Cybersleuthing: A Whole New Level of Friendship

Our digital identity is our online presence; it is who we are online.  Our digital identity is a permanent collection of all the data about us that is available online, and each time we comment, blog, tweet, snap, pin, post a picture, update a status, etc., we are adding to that digital identity.

This week in ECMP 355, we were given the task of cybersleuthing a classmate in order to evaluate their digital identity.  I decided to cybersleuth my friend Robin, and she cybersleuthed me.

Robin and I are good friends outside of this class, and we follow each other on multiple social media platforms.  As such, I knew this assignment would be require some extra effort on my part because if I were to search Robin on Google, the personalized search feature would bring her up automatically.  So, in order to make the activity authentic, as if I were looking up Robin as a stranger, I used DuckDuckGo — a search engine that avoids the filter bubble of “personalized search results”.  This is what I found online about Robin:

Robin doesn’t have a huge online presence, but the information that I did find on her was very professional.  Right away I found Robin’s LinkedIn profile which describes her employment history and past volunteer experiences.  Robin’s LinkedIn profile told me that she is an alumni of George Brown College where she studied Early Childhood Education.  Using that information, I discovered that Robin was involved in a study-aboard program, and for her final practicum, she had the opportunity to go to Jamaica and teach in a kindergarten classroom.  I even managed to dig up a letter that Robin wrote while in Jamaica in which she talks about her practicum experience. While cybersleuthing Robin, I found out that, in addition to Jamaica, she has also travelled to India and China for teaching opportunities.


A picture of Robin in Jamaica during her final practicum.

Photo Credit: George Brown College via Talk Back Jamaica 2012

In addition to her LinkedIn profile, I was also able to find Robin’s Twitter and WordPress; however, she’s relatively new to both sites, so there wasn’t much to dig up.  Aside from those few sites, I couldn’t find any other information on Robin using DuckDuckGo (expect for a church service program in which she is mentioned for her work as a peer support student at Campion College), so I turned to her Facebook and Instagram accounts (both of which are private, and I only have access to because we follow each other).

Robin’s personal social media accounts are also very professional; I tried to see if I could dig up anything scandalous but found nothing (I’m starting to think there is something wrong with her ha ha).  On social media, Robin often posts pictures of her niece and nephew, shares flashback photos from her travelling adventures, and connects with friends.  She also regularly posts about, and advocates for, Treaty Education and social justice issues such as mental health issues and LGBTQ+ issues.

Photo Credit: Robin Tuck via Facebook

Overall, Robin has a very polished digital identity that frames her as a professional — although she is an “undersharer”.  One way in which Robin could improve her digital identity is be creating more of an online presence for herself by posting more regularly to public platforms like Twitter and her blog. Hopefully ECMP 355 can help Robin with this!

This cybersleuthing activity was eye-opening — it’s amazing (and kind of scary) how much information you can find online about a person if you dig deep enough; once you post something to the internet, it’s pretty much there forever. This activity reaffirmed in my mind the importance of having and maintaining a positive digital identity, especially as a teacher.  I think teachers are some of the most influential role models for young people, so it is important for teachers to model a positive digital presence that we would want our students to emulate.