Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Becoming responsible digital citizens - the role of ICT in the PYP

One of the 6 strands that we use when considering the role of ICT in the PYP is that of becoming a responsible digital citizen.  The document issued by the IBO last June states:
Becoming a responsible digital citizen involves using ICT to make informed and ethical choices while acting with integrity and honesty. In a globally connected digital world, learners are empowered to be responsible for their actions, to value others’ rights and to practise safe and legal behaviors. 
A couple of days ago I posted an RSA Animate video based on a talk by Evgeny Morozov about how the internet has given people more access to information through social networks such as blogs, tweets and YouTube movies - this can lead to reform and change and can promote Western democratic values, but Morozov points out that we have to consider the negative consequences as well.

For example, it's easy to create content to promoting positive change, but sometimes this ease of publishing can also allow hate groups and extremists to publish misinformation online and cause negative reactions as they also have ready access to a large audience.  Students need to be taught how to evaluate what they see or read on line - what is the purpose of this information?  Perhaps it is just to entertain us and may not actually be true, perhaps it is to inform us, perhaps the creators of websites are trying to sell us something or to influence our thinking.  As teachers we have to be sure that our students can tell the difference!  They also need to learn what constitutes quality information - there is an awful lot of rubbish being published!

Another negative aspect is that what is published online is available for potentially billions of people to read or view.  Students need to make sure that what they are publishing is safe (for example we tell our students not to publish their last names) and that it respects copyright and does not plagiarize someone else's work or ideas.  Sadly I am still seeing many images in the work that students are publishing that are found through a simple Google image search - so these may not have a creative commons license - and students are still not being taught that they have to go to the original image and cite the source of that image properly.  Although our IT teachers and our librarians are constantly reinforcing this message with students, many homeroom or subject teachers don't seem to support this idea quite as often.  This probably indicates that we need to do a lot more work on being responsible digital citizens with our teachers as well as our students.

Another negative side of the open access to information on the internet is that some people are using the information that is being published in order to crackdown on what they see as "problems".  This could be a government or even an employer who doesn't like what people are writing and so decides to eliminate or silence them.  Examples were given of the Thai government encouraging citizens to nominate websites that are offensive to the king, so that these sites can then be blocked (the whole of YouTube was blocked for a while during our time in Thailand because of one video that appeared to criticize the king), or citizens in Saudi Arabia being encouraged to complain to YouTube about the content of certain videos.  This week I was also reading on the BBC news about Google and Facebook agreeing to remove content from some Indian websites that were deemed to be religiously offensive.

As teachers we can talk about these issues with our students, but we also have to educate students to make their own ethical choices about how they use technology and encourage them to make responsible decisions about what they post.  We also have to model ethical and principal behavior, for example making sure the software we are using is licensed, that the images that we use are labelled for reuse, that we are respectful when commenting on work that a student has created.   Today with our Grade 3s and Grade 1s we were discussing how to write good comments on the class blogs.  How we should say what we liked about the work that students had posted and perhaps offer some advice to make it even better.  We discussed how we could ask questions to prompt the students to think a little deeper.  

This evening I was reading a chapter in Literacy 2.0 by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher and Alex Gonzalez. They write:
The likelihood that students will integrate the ethical use of information into their own academic practices is dependent on whether their teachers continue to model how they locate and attribute sources.  The bottom line is that learning to make responsible and ethical decisions related to using information requires consistent exposure to people who do so themselves and who are willing to discuss their own decision making processes.
I think this basically sums it up.  Students will look to us for examples of ethical decision making, integrity and honesty.  If they see us behaving in a principled way, they are more likely to be principled themselves.

Photo Credit:  Attitude: Honest by Michael Dreves Beier  AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike 

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