ICT ideas Keynote

TeachMeet – Digital Citizenship Presentation

Last week I presented at a TeachMeet #TMWA_DL in Perth, I’m always anxious when presenting to teachers. I’m not scared of teachers, it’s more like awe; I respect what they do and see the hours they put in, how much of themselves they give and this makes me want to do a very good job when I am talking to them. So I end up being anxious, also I’m a bit rusty with my presentation skills. Inevitably I didn’t get across the true nuance of what I wanted during the presentation. So in an more-than-likely misguided attempt, I will try to do so here and with any luck it might be worth sharing.

Also thanks @GabrielleTrinca for the opportunity to present.


Digital Citizenship Presentation

I’ve worked in Education for over 10 years, in a number of schools, and my most recent role was as an ILT Manager for a K-12 school. So I wanted to share with you a different perspective on Digital Citizenship in schools as my experience with Digital Citizenship is a bit interesting. I’ve written policies and organised PLDs yet the interesting part is I was only really involved in Digital Citizenship when shit hit the fan. When the principal, deputy or a parent called me directly.

  • “My 12 year old daughter has naked photos online”
  • “My 14 year old sons junk is on Facebook”
  • “SnapChat something something Tinder something something”

Mostly the calls were looking for “what do I do now” and I’ll write something about that later because responding to these type of situations really does deserve its own post. But that small sample is not indicative of the worst kind of calls I’ve had.

Why is it not surprising?

The really scary part here is you’re not surprised that those previous examples are the kinds of things that happen.

Your not surprised, but you should be.
You should be shocked, but you’re not are you?

If we take the first idea and leverage it into a bad “In Real Life” (IRL) example it would be something like this:

A 12 year old girl takes an inappropriate and compromising polaroid photo of herself. She then shares that photo with her friend, who then photo copies it and begins handing it around school.

Now thats not just surprising, its ridiculous and if it did happen “shocked” would feel like an understatement right?

So why is it shocking IRL but Online you’re not even surprised this would happen?

Before we consider this any further I need to define a term.

Online Reality

This is the term I use to describe the realm that your Digital World exists in. It is intangible but very real, it is where your social media interactions occur and it is where you leave your Digital Footprints. It does not have any feeling or sentience it just is, which makes it harder. It means it doesn’t care about you in any way, your age, gender, sexuality, religion or politics; it just exists.

Maybe at your birth your Parents took a photo and introduced you to the world through Facebook.  BAM welcome to your Online Reality you now have a Digital Footprint. Everyone lives here, also I should point out that the normal rules IRL don’t really apply here. The boundaries and restrictions are different or missing all together.

So it is no wonder we aren’t surprised by the initial examples, we subconsciously understand that our Online Reality is basically blank and the rules and boundaries are a bit sort-of-not-really-there.

Post Revolution Chaos

We have been through The Digital Revolution and we are now living on the other side, the ensuing chaos. Massive change happened and it happened too quickly for us.

The Digital Revolution was the convergence of hardware technology, the maturity of web services, economic growth and decline and bunch of different societal changes in a short period of time culminating in paradigm shift for our society. #badlyexplainedconcepts

Back to schools context – So for us in Australia at the same time as we are coming to terms with a Digital Revolution we see a massive influx of devices into schools. In fact the NSSCF wanted to help us get to a 1:1 ratio of computers to students in schools. Which from where we were was a massive undertaking, they came pretty close too, it’s yet to be seen if schools can maintain a 1:1 ratio (or near that). We were originally on a very slow path of technology adoption, one where we knew that “one day” computers would be a part of the classroom.


As Individuals we were unprepared for the immense changes that Online Reality had on us, not to mention how we tried to deal with this as Families.

It goes with out saying that Schools were super unprepared

We didn’t have wifi and internet bandwidth or sometimes the basic infrastructure to support a school network. Let alone providing training and development for teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum or how to use Digital Citizenship in our lessons and tasks.

This is still the case for a lot of schools

It shouldn’t be anymore

We have tools and resources available for Digital Citizenship that are brilliant; Check out Ribbles’ stuff You probably should have seen it by now, if not then you’re in for a treat. Mike Ribble presents Digital Citizenship in clear and concise way, I implore you to explore the nine elements and review the 3 repetitions to see where you fit and what you can do to support and foster Digital Citizenship.

The 3 repetitions should be used to help your school understand the role it plays and its responsibility for its own Digital Citizenship. It’s a straight forward example of a framework for implementation of positive Digital Citizenship.

Why are we so bad at it?

Firstly my premise here is that most schools have terrible Digital Citizenship. This is due to a number of factors from blissful ignorance to bad implementations. I would sumize that the biggest reason for poor Digital Citizenship is:

We use traditional approaches and try to apply them to our Online Reality.teachmeet.008

It will fail, so why are you surprised? inherently you know that our Online Reality doesn’t have the same rules as IRL. Thats why we’re not surprised that the initial examples are things that happen. Yet we continue to try and use traditional approaches towards student behaviour and curriculum development in our Online Reality.

At best forcing a traditional approach into an Online Reality will have little to no impact. At worst the impact is massively negative to the point the student disconnects with the schools or teachers’ Online Reality. This creates a scenario where a students Online reality is orphaned from IRL and that means if things go bad there is no-one to connect to; and I might end up getting one of those phone calls, in the worst scenarios I don’t get that call.

There are places where it works though, why?

This is kind of the paradox here, a few schools do have positive Digital Citizenship. The active kind, not the “we don’t ask and they don’t tell” kind. The really interesting thing is you can’t take their lessons or what they’re doing and use it in a school with bad Digital Citizenship because it will fail. Mostly because it’s already the same thing, that is to say the two schools approaches are traditional, it just that in one of them it works.

In my observations of schools with good Digital Citizenship, it is a combination of being mindful of Digital Citizenship and being open to connection. It is less about how we teach Digital Citizenship and more about how your students connect.

Culture is the keyteachmeet.009

It is the Culture of the school that defines Digital Citizenship success, specifically the culture of the student body. Schools with positive Digital Citizenship have students that interact with their school differently.

Just talk to connect with me

So what is different about these schools:

  • They have open paths to dialog
  • There is no fear of sharing
  • Low risk of disconnect


Disconnect is scary, it’s not hard to imagine what kind of impact that can have and is part of the reason I created Concern. It’s a platform for students to self and peer report to a trusted adult in an online environment. It creates an initial path to dialog for students and though it is faceless (pun intended) it has what students care about, with integrity it provides safety without judgement.

Strong relationships need open communication

This first step removes the scariness and immediacy of connection. It begins a conversation that spreads from Student-Student to Student-Teacher, Student-Parent, Parent-Teacher and so on. This changes the dynamic of interactions at a whole school level, in the simplest terms it effects cultural change.

As individuals we need to be mindful of our Online Reality
As Teachers we need to be aware of our students Online Reality

Summative points

  • Positive Digital Citizenship can only be achieved through open communication
  • Connect with each other and create open paths to dialog.
  • Don’t need to reinvent the wheel, use the great tools and resources already available.
  • Be an Advocate of Digital Citizenship
  • Be mindful of your Online Reality
  • Act the culture your school needs.
  • You are the person that can make a difference.