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[ICTs in English] Weekly update – How big is digital citizenship?

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  • From: Hamish Chalmers <hchalmers AT>
  • To: "ictenglish AT" <ictenglish AT>
  • Subject: [ICTs in English] Weekly update – How big is digital citizenship?
  • Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 17:09:19 +1300

When we approach the idea of digital citizenship as an English teacher, we might initially think of copyright and the responsible use of material that others have created. This is an important issue after all. No one wants to be stealing what belongs to someone else (or encouraging students to do so) and we certainly don’t want someone else using a creation of ours for their own nefarious, profit-making ends.

With all the horror stories around social media and the possibility of dirt-trawling future employers turning our students down for a job, it would also be difficult and perhaps irresponsible for us to ignore the safety aspect of the whole thing too. We want our students to be both responsible and safe in their interactions within the digital world. So it makes sense then, that both these issues are addressed when we design programmes that take advantages or opportunities to help students to become good digital citizens. There’s a myriad of work we do in English classes where these opportunities come up too.

While I hesitate to frame up the next bit as the “other side of the story” or being a deliberately irresponsible digital citizen, there are some other issues to consider when helping our student learn about the digital world and the world of intellectual ‘property’ (who owns thoughts anyway?) I wonder what a digital anti-citizen might look like? Really I just mean anti-citizen in their relationship to legislation. Actually, the kind of anti-citizen I’m talking about has a strong sense of social responsibility and desires a much fuller picture of how intellectual property laws are often used in ways that negatively benefit society and innovation.

While the scope of this may reach a little beyond subject English, you don’t need to look too far these days to find information on copyright and patent trolls and to find that laws can, and are used for bad. Perhaps we might also want our students to be aware that it’s not just cunning individuals who are more than happy to profit from restrictive legislation where the goal isn’t (and never was) to protect the rights of individuals.

One of the coolest thing about being English teachers is that we want students to develop critical thinking and information literacy skills. This means that we don’t need necessarily need to (and probably shouldn’t) hide the complexity of these issues from them. We have some great opportunities to widen the issues around something like the Kim Dot Com case into considering the pressure between large and small countries and the large influence that large corporations have. It’s not up to us to choose their response but it most certainly is up to us to give them as full a picture of the situation as we can, help them develop the necessary skills to search out further information and ideas and then let them make up their own minds about what their response should be. Whatever way we decide to integrate a digital citizenship thread into our programmes, whether through research, formal writing, creating visual texts, something else or all of these, we should make sure we’re presenting as much of a picture as we can.

So that’s the view of one individual, what's yours?

Hamish Chalmers
Facilitator: ICTs in English

  • [ICTs in English] Weekly update – How big is digital citizenship?, Hamish Chalmers, 03/01/2013

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