What I find striking about digital citizenship is the citizenship aspect. It is a very positive human trait, the willingness to engage in issues which go above and beyond self-benefit. It’s altruism in action which our digital networks have the capacity to amplify. As a result, in an increasingly connected world where borders blur and a global audience is but a tweet away, knowing how to be responsible and reliable citizens within digital environments is more vital than ever.

We are at a junction in the road where if educators do not begin to cultivate the desire and capacity to use digital tools to enhance connection, creativity, and cultural understanding, we’re doing a huge disservice to the students of today and society of the future. It’s now a teacher’s professional responsibility to engage with the new media environment of the 21st century and to design learning experiences for students which embed digital citizenship. Despite what it sometimes seems, students are not “magically empowered and fluent in the use of social media” (Rheingold, 2010). They need coaching and relevant learning programmes to assist the development of their digital citizenship understandings. It’s a teacher’s responsibility to facilitate this.

Many have explored different models of digital citizenship (such as Mark Ribble) but a key aspect that must be included is international-mindedness, where digital citizenship is enacted on a global stage through practised, embedded actions (Lindsay & Davis, 2012; Global Digital Citizen Foundation, 2015). An entry point for teachers wishing to get going on their journey to learn more about this is to dive into the world of education-based social media. Platforms such as Twitter allow teachers to connect and contribute to a worldwide think-tank of educators and develop their personal learning networks. Starting a professional blog, curating educational content, and commenting on the posts of others are meaningful ways teachers can begin participating in a global conversation and growing their own understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen. Of course though, not all rests on the shoulders of the teachers. “It takes a village”, a community approach with all relevant stakeholders working in sync, for holistic and lasting digital citizenship development (Hollandsworth, Dowdy, Donovan, 2011).

The other side of the coin looks at how schools as institutions are preparing to implement or extend a digital learning environment. This can be challenging for schools as a heady mix of parental concerns, teacher and administrator understanding, financial expenditure, and time commitment can become barriers. While these can often seem insurmountable, the power of a motivated teacher must never be underestimated. The teacher with gumption, ambitious goals, and a deep motivation (aka a Teacherprenuer) can view these issues as creative constraints to innovate upon. Teachers who take an active, purposeful, leadership role can greatly assist a school to face these obstacles.

During this course, many opportunities have arisen to develop our capacities as Teacherprenuers. Curating content and connecting in the #ETL523 Twitter stream has deepened understanding and led to many resource hunting “down the rabbit hole” experiences. The first assignment, which drew together four educators to collaboratively design an online learning module was challenging, but clarified for me what truly collaborative work requires: clear communication, understanding, doing your fair share, and being willing to compromise. Opportunities to explore the perspectives of others was evident in course forum interactions. The last assignment especially, a report in which we drilled into the issues in our own school’s digital learning environment then planned how to overcome them has helped enormously to build a “Teacherprenuer” mindset where evidence-based action can be taken immediately.

At my school, as Learning Technology Coach, it’s up to me to provide the way forward for leadership, teachers, parents, and students; to plan the planning, bring stakeholders together, discuss the issues, pilot, implement, support and evaluate. I believe this course has given me the skillset, mindset, and toolset to enable this to occur. In fact… it has already started. Due to the momentum from the last assignment and discussions with relevant stakeholders, an initial meeting has taken place with the Elementary Leadership team and we are on the road to drafting new blogging and portfolio policy documents, embedding digital citizenship learning into relevant units of inquiry for next academic year, and have already lead staff professional development on Creative Commons and professional blogging.

The board is set, the pieces are moving.

Thank you to Julie Lindsay, subject coordinator for providing a rich learning experience with Digital Citizenship in Schools. Jordan and Jacques for ongoing support, Hangouts, and comedic relief. And the other forty or so course participants for pushing thinking, answering questions, and sharing their varied perspectives.

 


References

Global Digital Citizen Foundation (2015). https://globaldigitalcitizen.org

Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends. 55(4) 37-47.

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. (2012). Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a time. New York: Allyn and Bacon.

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention and other 21st century social media literacies. Educause Review 45(5). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/attention-and-other-21st-century-social-media-literacies

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know. International Society for Technology in Education.

Being a Teacherpreneur sounds like something all teachers should be striving towards:

Pedagogically knowledgeable, technologically literate, striving for global connection and collaboration, developing a strong PLN, making a dent in the world of education, a community organiser, personalising learning, and someone who stays supremely focused on the learning experiences students are having.

Great stuff, of course. Lots of stuff, from many different educational sectors.

For a deeper look you can read more about teacherpreneurialisim in these articles:

Teacherpreneurs (by Caples, Casey, Cherian, Espejo-Vadillo) and Leadership for a Global Future (by Julie Lindsay).

Lets reflect for a second on the original meaning of the word, entrepreneur. Here are some snapshots from the Wikipedia article:

  • Entrepreneurs have a “pro-risk-taking attitude”
  • They “identify opportunities, evaluate them as viable, and then decide to exploit them”
  • They show “considerable initiative”
  • They invite in “creative destruction” and “dynamic disequilibrium”
  • An entrepreneur “assumes all the risk and reward of a given business venture”

Two points jump out at me from this. Entrepreneurs have a keen eye for spotting opportunities (and then acting on them), and they assume risk. Zeroing in on these two points, I believe, brings us to the essence of the term Teacherpreneur.

Lets drill down a bit further about how they might flow over into the world of education.

“Entrepreneurs have a keen eye for spotting opportunities (and then acting on them)”. This may be…

Teachers with open mindsets, who are curious, and question. Those who ask – why do we do it this way? So what, who cares? Those teachers who pounce on a teachable moment, who set up rich learning experiences from unexpected sources. Teachers who can empathise with their students, can locate what is blocking learning or comfort, and create ways to nullify these blocks. Teachers with hunches about what might work, and the gumption to try out small or big solutions. Those with an intuition, a sixth sense, highly attuned to the ebb and flow of student life.

The other point, “they take a risk that their ideas might fall flat”. This may be…

Teachers who speak up. Who are not comfortable with business as usual – who have a gentle “uneasiness” that they can and should be trying to innovate. Those who are brave enough to lead the way and try new things, sometimes against colleague, parental, and societal pressure. Those who are comfortable failing (and failing publicly), because they know they will learn something every time. Teachers who keep testing ideas, iterating, testing more, learning, getting feedback, and perfecting ideas. Those who are willing to be active, to take responsibility for enhancing the experience of “school” for their students.

Zeroing in on the essence of the term Teacherprenuer, I believe you find yourself at these points. A restless, active, and brave mindset, which you deploy in the pursuit of enhancing education.