My Digital Citizenship Journey
Marialice B.F.X. Curran, Ph.D.
The ripple effect that an idea can have on the world has always astounded me. One simple idea can have a profound impact and lead to a chain of events that alter one’s life. It’s about following a journey.
For me, that journey has been in the area of digital citizenship. Digital citizenship is a concept that can loosely be defined as the safe, savvy, and ethical use of social media and technology. Similar to the difference a person and a citizen who actively participates and is cognizant of others, there has been a growing movement with promoting its modern twist--digital citizenship.
2008 was the year I went headfirst into research and by 2009 I was writing, speaking, and promoting digital citizenship. I was a School of Education Associate Professor in Connecticut with an interest in middle level education. As a former middle school teacher and principal, I have always personalized my curriculum and instruction to match the developmental needs of young adolescents. Social media was the topic of conversation for our teens, so I began to embed social media tools into my teacher preparation courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
During the fall of 2009, I was invited into a third grade classroom to participate in a student tech event. As I sat on a rug with several students on their netbooks, they asked me to spell my name as they proceeded to check if I was making socially responsible decisions online.
This was the first time I was conscious of anyone doing a search on me. What would they find? Luckily, I grew up in the 80’s and my adolescence was not permanently captured online. The third graders could only find evidence of my work as a university faculty member, but this made me very aware that I had a responsibility to help prepare future teachers to meet the needs of today’s networked students. I spent that year creating and developing the first three-credit digital citizenship course specifically focused on digital citizenship in the country.
By the fall of 2010, I was teaching the new digital citizenship course. At around the same time, a tragic incident involving social media, homophobia, and invasion of privacy happened. Tyler Clementi, a college freshmen at Rutgers, took his own life after he found that his roommate was posting videos of his personal encounters. There have been many suicides that have affected me, but for the first time, it became personal. I blogged about it, Dinosaurs and Tiaras: Facing Intolerance:
I did not know Tyler, but his suicide made me determined to focus on a solution. Tyler Clementi could be my son, your son. He was a brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend and neighbor. This perspective launched me into uncharted territory. I am the mother of a son. What if this was my son? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can I make a difference?
As a result, I was determined to do more and began created and developed a new course for a First Year Seminar Course for incoming college freshmen, Pleased to Tweet You: Are You a Socially Responsible Digital Citizen? I was hoping that the course would create a student solution towards cyberbullying. A year later during the fall of 2011, I connected my college freshmen in Connecticut with high school juniors in Alabama through social media to collaborate on our Pleased to Tweet You project. What happened next has defined my passion and commitment to student voice in this critical conversation. Both classes went beyond a student solution towards cyberbullying, they defined citizenship in the 21st century through their iCitizen Project. Together they learned the difference between being an active citizen not just a resident, an enabler of change not just a bystander. They focused on empathy and learned the importance of humanizing the person next to them, as well as across the screen.
It comes as no surprise that student voice has been the impetus for launching me on my digital citizenship journey. Amplifying student voice has always been at the core of my beliefs and the reason behind wanting to host and moderate the first digital citizenship (#digcit) chat on Twitter as a part of my digital citizenship course.
In one year, the third graders and Tyler Clementi inspired me to create and develop courses specific to digital citizenship at both the undergraduate and graduate level, host and moderate the first digital citizenship (#digcit) chat on Twitter and plan and organize my first livestreamed event, The iCitizenship Town Hall Meeting which is the first chapter and foundation for the Digital Citizenship Summit. Both events connected multiple stakeholders including students, educators, parents, business leaders, concerned citizens to push forward new ideas and positive and practical solutions around the safe, savvy and ethical use of technology.
Since the iCitizen Project, my digital citizenship journey has continued as I’ve engaged more students to be part of the solution by making digital citizenship a verb through livestreamed events like The iCitizenship Town Hall Meeting which was the first chapter and foundation for the Digital Citizenship Summit. Both events connected multiple stakeholders including students, educators, parents, business leaders, concerned citizens to push forward new ideas and positive and practical solutions around the safe, savvy and ethical use of technology.
I have that third grade classroom, Tyler Clementi and my own undergraduate and graduate students to credit for my transformation and commitment to helping others be the digital change.
passionate about empowering students around the world with positive and practical solutions. An international speaker and named one of the Top 10 Digital Citizenship bloggers to follow in 2014 by Common Sense Media, Curran co-founded (2011) and moderates the digital citizenship #digcit chat on Twitter and also serves on the leadership team for the Digital Citizenship PLN through ISTE.
Contact: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @mbfxc LinkedIn Website Digital Citizenship Summit
Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.