Over at the ISTE Blog, Hilary Goldman writes:

So let’s get the ball rolling! ISTE’s #10 and #9 ed tech priorities for the New Year are as follows:

10. Promote global digital citizenship. Growing competition in a flat world means technology is a great equalizer. It breaks down artificial barriers to effective teaching and learning, and provides incredible opportunities for collaboration across borders.

Now it’s your turn. Do these two ISTE priorities reflect key issues in your region? What is your school or district doing to promote digital citizenship and invest in R&D?

What indeed are school districts–like Eanes ISD and Navasota ISD in Texas–doing? Over the last few years, my local district’s efforts have focused on establishing web sites with connections to many of the free resources available for CyberSafety, which makes me ask, does cybersafety trump digital citizenship? Does our fear trump empowerment?

The answer is a resounding YES. Why? Why focus only a small aspect of digital citizenship? The answer is painfully obvious…eRate mandate that cybersafety be taught. The definition of cybersafety is defined by law enforcement, who in their rush to present on the topic with weapons on their hips, bore us with powerpointlessness and inspired respect for authority. In other words, the guys with guns set the agenda.

That’s not to say their work isn’t valuable, but there presentations are not Garr Reynolds-esque captivating us with compelling narrative that sweeps us off our feet and moves us from the legal to the moral imperative of citizenship.

Consider the rhetoric of posts like this one (via GenYes):

from YoungerWorld.org: 7 Rules for Adult Allies

  • If you don’t experience discomfort every time you’re listening to Youth Voice, you aren’t listening right.
  • If you can’t stay engaged enough to simply sit and listen to young people talk, you aren’t being an adult ally.
  • If you can’t speak your truth to young people you aren’t in a youth/adult partnership.
  • If you can’t expect and accept not having closure when young people share their voices you aren’t being an adult ally.
  • Listening to Youth Voice means listening for understanding, rather than to support your own conclusions.
  • If you’re an adult ally to young people you’ll engage, support, and challenge them, and not try to fix them. They aren’t broken.
  • If you aren’t taking risks you aren’t being an adult ally

Can we really be adult allies to young people if we are afraid to take risks like “Facebooking” them?

Consider that focus of the police and FBI is to give you the facts…and if you aren’t “scared straight” by them, what’s up with that?

Tell me what I, as a teacher, must know to avoid jail time, that kids involved in cybersafety is harassment and sexting can be misdemeanors or a felony, depending on how it happens and develops. Let’s see, how was it worded?

  • Sale, Distribution, or display of harmful stuff (misdemeanor)
  • Sex performance by a child (felony)
  • Possession or promotion of child porn (felony)


  • Jail
  • Probation
  • Registered sex offender that lasts ALL your life
  • Humiliation
  • No Work
  • Suicide

Yet, digital citizenship isn’t just about not misbehaving or recognizing abuse of technology for age-old problems (e.g. child molesters making connections with children via Facebook), but about charting the way ahead for folks like you and me who are NOT involved in education because we want to establish an illicit relationship. Instead, our focus is on education, socialization, and, well, learning to use technology for positive ends (enhance our lives and relationships).

Charting that path is what digital citizenship is about for me. While it encompasses cybersafety, it goes beyond it. Yet, in the rough and tumble of K-12 education, it may be that the only thing we teach is what is needed for survival…is that sufficient?

Digital Citizenship is a concept which helps teachers, technology leaders and parents to understand what students/children/technology users should know to use technology appropriately. Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool; it is a way to prepare students/technology users for a society full of technology. Too often we are seeing students as well as adults misusing and abusing technology but not sure what to do. The issue is more than what the users do not know but what is considered appropriate technology usage.

So, what we have to know is described by CyberSafety…what we should know is Digital Citizenship.

Consider Ric Murry’s excellent blog entry on the subject, albeit one many technology administrators–and probably counselors considering this issue–will object to:

This week, an educator friend (Georgia) of mine tweeted that he was being told to ‘unfriend’ many of his Facebook friends…because they are students.

As I responded, another IT educator friend (Texas) of mine said someone from ChildSafe (no link ever for them) made a statement that teachers ‘friending’ students was “stepping over the line.” The implication was that pedophiles and molesters go to where children are, and teachers should not make online relationships with students for fear that they might be considered child molesters.

Yesterday, another educator friend (Nevada) of mine tweeted that his child’s friends were ‘friending’ him on Facebook, and the ‘kids’ thought it was cool.

Is “friending” your students recommended work for teachers in public K-12 schools? This isn’t new stuff, unless you work in K-12 and you just found out about Facebook and the fact your students all use it. Chris Lehmann, approaching venerable status in the edublogosphere after the push to get him as one of ISTE Conference Keynote speakers, which is really based on his exciting work at the Science Leadership Academy, points out the following:

Chris Lehmann (Practical Theory Blog and taken out of context):

…the more we ban, prohibit, regulate and legislate, the less we teach. If we want students to learn how to manage their lives, we have to let them live them.

Yet, in the face of that, legal eagles like Justin Bathon point these stories out. He shares:

Teachers use facebook at their own peril. If you use facebook in a non-professional manner, just be prepared to be fired for it. Students, parents and administrators absolutely will check your page and that information absolutely will be used in employment actions against you. I hate discouraging technology usage, but it is clear that this is one particular technology that many teachers simply have not figured out how to use responsibly.

Ric Murry’s advice runs counter to this…not only should you use Facebook responsibly, but you should model that responsible usage to your students by “friending” them. He puts it this way:
  • As an adult, do not join social sites so you can hide from the activities that take place there.
  • As an adult, join the social sites, model and monitor the activities of the children you care about.

Chris Lehmann and Ric Murry on one side of the argument advocating for education and responsible use, while others are saying something like this:

Teachers aren’t going to be responsible–at least for awhile–and they should maintain a respectful distance between themselves and students. Facebook, Twitter, social networking tools that allow a relationship to develop between teacher and student are, simply put, inappropriate.

One school district in Texas–Dustin Windsor from Eanes ISD, read their burgeoning “Teaching with Facebook” blog that will share their efforts–chose to embrace the use of Facebook under the following conditions…will this approach pass the test for those who educate against using social networking technologies to connect with students?

We just opened it here at the high school in Eanes ISD and have since had two very successful training sessions for our teachers.

Here are some of the ways we chose to implement it [Facebook]:

1. Teachers must have a professional account with a common identifier in the name to facilitate “friending” by other professionals. We chose to use our school initials for the first name. Since Facebook allows you to enter an “alternate name” this was no problem.

2. Teachers must go through training, no matter their personal expertise with Facebook. Otherwise it remains blocked for them here at school. This gives us the opportunity to document that the teacher has undergone our training on using Facebook at school.

3. Before teachers can begin working with students in this environment, they must review privacy and account settings with the students.
Here are some of the reasons we chose to adopt this:
1. We do not introduce an environment and ask the students to come to us for tutorials, etc. Teachers can go to the students in an environment that they are familiar.

2. Teachers can collaborate with other educators around the world and set up shared learning activities for their classes outside of Facebook. What a fabulous opportunity for collaboration this creates!

3. By setting up a group page or a fan page, we can reach others who share an interest in what we’re doing. This is a much more effective way to bring in interaction than posting on a teacher’s individual website. For example, we wanted to contact former teachers and students for our 40th Anniversary this year. We set up a Facebook group that went from 3 members to over 1200 in about 5 weeks.

4. As a bonus feature, this gives us an excellent opportunity to teach our students to safeguard sensitive or compromising information on the internet. Since universities and corporations are using social media like Facebook to screen applicants, this gives us a chance to intervene potential problem areas before the student is really hurt.
Here are some of the resources we used in making our decision and with our teacher trainings:

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