Envisioning Digital Citizenship {Part 2}

This is Part 2 of the report of the meeting held on September 9, 2015. (You can read Part 1, reports on the Hackathon and HB213 implementation here.)

9-9-15 meeting agenda

After the excellent updates from Shannon and Paula (see Part 1), the group engaged in the working portion of the meeting, focused on Envisioning Digital Citizenship. This meeting comes at a good time, because EPIK founder, Jan Garbett, will be attending a Digital Citizenship summit in Connecticut in a few weeks, and we are anxious to have as much input as possible about Envisioning Digital Citizenship so that she can take Utah’s best ideas to the summit. We are excited about what came out of the meeting on the 9th and would welcome any input from other community members who are reading these reports and/or who weren’t able to attend.

The bulk of the work in the meeting ended up being a great discussion about digital citizenship. We started first by talking about how good digital citizenship can mirror good citizenship. Just as good citizenship isn’t just about avoiding bad behavior or staying safe from harm, good digital citizenship can and should involve more than just protecting children from harm (like harmful content or people) or helping them avoid harmful behavior (like cyberbullying or sexting). However, as has been validated through curating over 200 resources for the DigCitUtah site (see the Part 1 report), much (if not most) of the traditional digital citizenship curriculum and education tends to focus heavily on prevention and protection. The media also often highlight the negatives without helping us tap into and consider all the potential good of technology.

So how can we bring more positive energy and ideas to the conversation and collaboration?

Following are the flipcharts from the discussion, with some highlights and commentary. This is just the beginning of a discussion, so we welcome comments, insights, and ideas. We hope this can be a continual community conversation, for we will never arrive at having set solutions. Technology means that our world is constantly changing and we need to work together to be adaptive and responsive and connective in our responses.

  • Good citizenship (and good digital citizenship) should be principle-based, not program-based.
  • Kids can be taught that anonymity can hinder good online behavior. De-individuation leaves kids and youth separating who they really are with how they behave online. Integrity and being real about who you are online can be a key element of good digital citizenship.
  • Adults can help mentor youth by helping them consider what they want tech to do for them. When technology is used deliberately and with specific goals in mind, it can be less of a passive tool where harmful or time-wasting behavior can happen.

A simple insight for us all to realize is that whether we realize it or not, if we use technology in any way, we are digital citizens! When we use technology for any purpose, we leave a footprint and data is gathered. Those of us before the Millenial Generation experienced a different internet. It was mostly used for research, for information gathering, for consumption. But “that internet is different from this internet.” (This can sometimes be frightening, but that fear is often what can get in the way of us being positive mentors for the youth in our lives. When we approach the internet with fear, we magnify the potential for problems, and risk driving wedges between the generations.) When we are informed digital users, we can be more deliberate digital users (and mentors). So often, though, stories we get through the media and elsewhere focus so much

One of the insights that the group kept coming back to is that technology magnifies both the good and the bad. Where there is bad for kids to find or engage in (pornography, bullying, unhealthy sexual behavior) technology can magnify and intensify the potential for harm. (Anonymity also increases that impact and decreases accountability.) On the flip side, the good that can be done in families, communities, and the world can often be magnified through technology. (Countless examples exist, but we also believe that the potential for good is still largely untapped — and this is a key purpose of what the EPIK collaborative effort is about.)

An example we like to share is this trailer from a documentary called Cyber Seniors. Teens use their knowledge of technology to help seniors learn how to connect with family on social media, learn skills like online banking, or even just listen to the Hallelujah Chorus on YouTube! Another simple example was given by Shannon Babb. In areas where snowfall is heavy, technology is allowing the community to coordinate efforts to help clear fire hydrants in their areas through an Adopt-a-Hydrant app. We also like to share the example (a story that went nationwide!) of a student who used Instagram to spotlight other students in positive ways.

(As an important side note, we believe that the best ideas of ways children and youth can use technology for good will need to be created with the children and youth — not about them without them! In fact, kids can probably do a lot to help us understand more about prevention and protection as well. One of the things that was mentioned by Shannon Babb (a tech expert) is that children as young as kindergarten can break through a firewall in minutes. It reinforces how limited the power of filters and firewalls really are. When kids want to break through them, they can and will.)

Another simple, tangible insight that people resonated with was the Boy Scout concept of leaving things better than you found them. What a great way to think about digital citizenship!


The last few minutes of our meeting included a brainstorming activity, just scratching the surface of thoughts and ideas, both specific and general, about how more positive energy and approaches regarding kids and digital citizenship can be leveraged. It was amazing, though, how many ideas flowed in such a short period of time.

The ideal would have been to have time for the group to assimilate and cluster their thoughts, but for now, here is a running list of things that were shared. What ideas come to your mind as you read this list?

  • Article about nature and STEM (Celina Milner mentioned there is some focus assimilating STEM education and nature)
  • Renaissance of principle-based teaching/learning
  • Politicians can be responsive to constituents and even engage in discussion (using tools like asychronous video?)
  • Anti-bullying online initiatives
  • Do for someone who can’t
  • What do you use tech for? (research, tool, entertain, distraction, creation?)
  • Create an app (like a science project)
  • Digital integrity; own who you are
  • Like the analogy of a good citizen
    • Not locked behind doors
    • Beautifies his/her space
    • Fixes problems
    • Serves
  • Tech as a way to see their creations (e.g., Deviant Art and Etsy)
  • Tech as a means to assist those with special needs
  • Example of a 3rd grader taught to do PowerPoint presentation so she could share with another classroom
  • Environment where student and teacher can provide feedback online
  • Teens teaching youth cyber skills
  • Teach teachers how to hack firewalls so they know when to be worried [as mentioned above, very young children can hack!]
  • Bring adults (teachers/parents) up to speed or they can’t lead [emphasis in original!]
  • Bring parents and kids into the same room
    • Parents share concerns (what they think is going on)
    • Students share fears/frustrations (what they are dealing with, what is really going on)
    • Students share solutions/ideas
    • Parents use students’ info to create an ongoing plan with students that includes regular communication
  • Tech Patriot Awards — honor, integrity, service, courage, being a citizen
  • Tech science fair
  • Learning how to earn and spend your social capital
  • Bring example of digital bread crumbs to the class in an understandable way
  • Listen. What is the need?
  • Paying students to present on topics (this is something already happening in library tech club)
  • Pay it Forward (the book)
  • Active participation; Authentic participation
  • Technology as a path out of poverty
  • Global tech (good citizens)
  • Encourage kids to make memes — small digital projects [and someone mentioned competitions around simple skills like this]
  • Apps, sites to organize and mobilize youth
  • Tech a way to connect with youth in other countries
  • Provide ways for kids and industry to interact
  • [Creating] something that creates a smile
  • Make your digital avatar your best self
  • Adopt-a-hydrant [mentioned above]
  • Need to teach citizenship before digital citizenship
  • Dual immersion changed to tech immersion in schools; Foreign Language [including] coding, html, Java, etc.
  • School culture = life culture
  • Does this problem go away when “digital natives” raise kids? Is it only a transitional problem? (No.)
  • Audience [for addressing the problem] — parents and youth — everybody
  • Train the trainer — the problem is too large to solve on our own
  • Partnerships
    • STEM
    • Education Policy
    • Entire tech industry and web consortiums
    • Faiths
    • (Everybody)
  • Help students understand the benefit of “productive” internet use / costs of “unproductive” use (NetSmartz / Cyber Civics)
  • Website to help youth set, track, share, and celebrate accomplishment of goals
  • Filters decreasing as child ages [progressive increase in responsibility and internal management rather than external control by adults]
  • Tech as a key way to find scholarships and money for college
  • Digital Shark Tank
  • App for scholarships and grants
  • Create safe digital playgrounds for both parents and children to play together
  • Public-private partnerships (schools can’t do it all)