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Helping Digital Citizens Engage With Empathy

Diana Fingal, ISTE |

Digital citizens, according to the ISTE Standards, are “PK-12 learners who proactively approach their digital access, participation, and associated rights, accountability and opportunities with empathy, ethics, and a sense of individual, social and civic responsibility.”

Educator and author Kristen Mattson, Ed.D., has a bone to pick with a lot of the digital citizenship curricula used in schools today. Too much of it, she says, focuses on what not to do, and it rarely addresses the opportunities and responsibilities of the digital world. In addition, much of it is isolated from any real context and doesn’t give students many opportunities to practice their skills as citizens of digital communities.

“Being a citizen of a community means interacting with each other, supporting one another and working together to make our corner of the world a better place,” she writes on her blog.

Mattson, author of Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities, is not alone. She points to the venerable John Dewey, the early 20th-century education reformist, who argued for better citizenship education in schools back in 1909.

Instead of limiting digital citizenship lessons to “golden rule” type messages, there are many ways to guide students and give them practice in interacting thoughtfully in online discussions, Mattson says.

She offers these tips for helping students — and adults! — engage in effective online communication.

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