How to drive digital citizenship in online learning

One district's library media specialists are guiding teachers in getting most out of digital resources
By: | April 17, 2020
The big shift to online learning is a valuable opportunity for educators to recommit to digital citizenship to show students how to use technology to its full potential. (Ludovic Toinel/Unsplash)The big shift to online learning is a valuable opportunity for educators to recommit to digital citizenship to show students how to use technology to its full potential. (Ludovic Toinel/Unsplash)

Digital citizenship and protecting student privacy in online classes have become of even greater concern for K-12 administrators since coronavirus shut school buildings down.

In Baltimore County Public Schools, educators are only using online tools and platforms that were a part of the existing curriculum, meaning the resources have already been vetted for security, says Ryan Imbriale, the executive director of innovative learning.

“Our teachers and students are already comfortable with our learning management system,” says Imbriale, who presented on digital citizenship at FETC® 2020. “The transition has been about how to take full advantage of the systems and make it the core of the delivery of instruction.”

For example, students have user names and passwords to log on to online sessions.


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Baltimore County has tapped its library media specialists—who aren’t directly involved in online learning—to help teachers find online resources to use. That includes ensuring no one violates copyright rules by, for instance, reading a certain book online, Imbriale says.

He also notes that many publishers are loosening their rules regarding online use of their books.

In the weeks right after the closure, administrators also worked with teachers on management techniques for online classes.

“There is a process where if a student is doing something inappropriate in a virtual environment, the teacher has the ability to counsel the student in an offline conversation,” Imbriale says. “We’ve also recommended that teachers doing virtual class meetings or office hours record the sessions for their own safety and protection.”

Digital citizenship has been a regular part of instruction when students receive during regular visits to the library, where they learn about cyberbullying and basic security techniques such as not sharing passwords, Imbriale says.

“It helps them in their school experience and it helps them in their social worlds outside of school,” Imbriale says. “It helps them understand their digital footprint is real, which is really important as they grow up in this day and age.”

Digital wellness in online learning

The big shift online is a valuable opportunity for educators to recommit to showing students how to use technology to its full potential, says Marialice B.F.X. Curran, a former longtime educator and founder of the Digital Citizenship Institute.


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Along with distance learning, administrators should also focus on the well-being of students, teachers and families, says Curran, who presented at FETC® on how communities engage in digital citizenship.

Many schools have “cyberseniors” programs where students log volunteer hours helping older community members learn to use technology. Those programs can continue virtually, with students helping seniors download music or order groceries online, Curran says.

Another key to digital citizenship guiding students—and adults—when not to use technology, Curran says.

“This is more than remote or distance learning—the focus should be on digital wellness,” Curran says. “This is the perfect time to say as a school community that we are all going to learn together about how to be informed, engaged and inclusive.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


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