Even though there are many ways to define character education, for the moment let’s assume that Wikipedia provides a reasonable starting point: “…an umbrella term loosely used to describe the teaching of children in a manner that will help them develop variously as moral, civic, good, mannered, behaved, non-bullying, healthy, critical, successful, traditional, compliant or socially acceptable beings.” While there is plenty in this definition to inspire healthy debate, my primary concern with it is this: it assumes character development only applies to human beings.Read More
What's Happening in Character?
The issue of fake news speaks to the core of any character education agenda because it threatens our ability to be informed, civil contributors to social discourse. Unfortunately, fake news is not as straightforward an issue as we would like it to be. An example will help us understand the challenge we face in this area.Read More
Technological innovation moves so quickly that we often don't have time to consider its unintended consequences. A result is that it’s difficult to respond to hot-button character-related issues like cyberbullying and sexting because they seem to appear out of nowhere. Our challenge is to find ways to teach our children how to navigate the ethics of the rapidly moving digital present, consciously, proactively and reflectively. In K-12 parlance, we want them to become wise, skilled and caring digital citizens.
The Evolution of Digital Citizenship
Digital citizenship has evolved over the years. In its original set of K-12 standards for the use of educational technology, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) defined the broad area of ethics and technology as addressing “social, ethical and human issues” – the phrase “digital citizenship” was nowhere to be found. ISTE only became concerned with issues of citizenship when the development of the Internet led to the creation of common virtual space. This led to the formation of communities, which in turn made us want to understand our expectations of each other as community members. Years later, when the ISTE competencies were rewritten, the Internet had become a staple of modern society. At that point, digital citizenship had become one of its primary standards.Read More
by Jason Ohler
In many parts of the world, one of the most universally available international experiences is traveling the World Wide Web. It’s hard to believe, but the Internet and the world of ubiquitous connectivity have only gained widespread adoption within the last fifteen years. Yet they are so embedded in our everyday experience we can’t imagine life without them.
It is because the Web is so pervasive and invisible, and provides access to so many different kinds of experiences, that we have developed such a keen and sometimes urgent interest in understanding how best to help students navigate this new world. In the educational arena, this interest has been given the name “digital citizenship,” a reference to our belief that the Internet offers a kind of community experience. Our goal as educators is for students to become the kinds of citizens who know how to interact safely and responsibly in this new community without losing the sense of hope and creative possibility that the Internet inspires.
In a few words, our goals for our students are as follows. We want our students to be safe, ethical and responsible; inspired, innovative and involved; passionate, reflective and empathetic; and informed, savvy and ultimately wise. We want them to interact in this new land as skilled researchers, participants and leaders. As we move forward blending and balancing our lives in the real and online worlds, here are some points to consider to help us realize those goals.
Digital citizenship and character education need to inform each other.
We tend to think of digital citizenship as a technical matter. However, the foundational issue is character, and the digital citizenship movement needs the foundation that character education provides. Yet the digital domain introduces new situations and considerations to issues of character that are complicated and challenging, and bring a breadth and depth to issues of character that are quite new. Character education and digital citizenship need to join forces. Our focus needs to be on how character plays out in both worlds, and how students blend those two worlds into a single, integrated, healthy approach to life.Read More
Digital citizenship should not only be required, it should also become the primary lens through which we ask our children and ourselves to view the world. Our prosperity, humanity, and indeed even our survival, may well depend on it.