The digital citizen is somewhat of a strange concept because when I think of a “citizen” it is usually tied to being a member of place or community. A digital citizen is a member of a place that doesn’t really exist, the digital world. Proven by what happened in Cairo, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t effect a physical community or place. Regular people were able to use technology to communicate and unite around a specific cause. They were able to organize and make a difference. That is the power of the digital citizen.
The next question becomes: how do we handle the digital citizens in our classrooms? Do we lock it down and insist that our students do not become digital citizens for fear of what might happen or for fear of what they might organize? I think that would be a huge mistake. As a teacher I think it is important to empower students and encourage them to stand up for what they believe in. Empowering students in that way can be scary because you never know what might come of it but that is how people change the world. Whether it is for the better or for the worse, that ultimately is up to them. If across America schools are denying them access to technology and the knowledge of how to use technology we are essentially isolating them from being able to change the world. Sure, they could start a case against the school, but I have also seen how one of my friends was able to keep in contact with his high school. When one of their favorite teachers was being fired, no questions asked, because he didn’t turn in a form on time, the students took to social media to start a campaign to fight the school and allow the teacher to come back. They organized and went to the school board meeting to fight on his behalf.
The schools though are not prepared to teach digital citizens because not all schools have access to technology. Even if they did have access to technology the teachers need to be aware of what digital citizenship is and how to support it. We need more education for current teachers on how to use technology and to help them understand the power of social media. If we want our students to be prepared for the future they need to be a part of the digital world. Being aware isn’t enough, being a citizen is important.