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Digital Citizenship during Distance Learning

Thank goodness for 21st century digital communication. Now more than any other time, we as a Perkiomen School community along with many others across our entire planet are depending on digital communication and media to stay connected to each other, entertain ourselves, access news and information, and of course, learn and teach. It is amazing, when we stop and consider, how technology allows us to remain connected in spite of being separated by distance, and in many cases, experiencing the present moment in different time zones. 

Of course, this isn’t our preference. We would all rather that the pandemic we face were over; humanity safe from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. We would all prefer to be together in our classrooms, dorms, libraries, theater, dining hall, and playing fields. One way in which we are showing our care for each other and our fellow humans as global citizens is in the social distancing and self-quarantining we are doing our best to abide by. Strangely, by pulling apart from each other, physically anyway, we are pulling together to stop/slow the spread of this virus. 

As we conduct more of our school life online, another way we care for ourselves and each other is to practice good digital citizenship. Digital citizenship refers to the responsibilities we share to conduct ourselves appropriately and to use informed judgment when it comes to sharing, using, and creating digital media and modes of communication. Now is a great time to reflect on our digital lives and relationships. Below are some things to consider and resources to help us think critically about how we use digital communication and media to relate and learn. 

Over the past couple of weeks, our average daily screen time has probably increased. Be aware of how much time you are spending looking at a screen, and why you are looking at a screen. Our screen use is contributing to our learning, connectedness, and entertainment, but it can also lead to sleep disturbances. Take breaks, especially near bedtime. Instead of automatically picking up your phone pick up a book or magazine, draw or write in a journal, do some yoga or stretching, or, if you’re able, go outside. If you do pick up your phone, use it as a phone - call a friend or family member.

Social Media, Digital Communication and Online Speech
Social media is a wonderful way for us to keep in touch with friends and family. It’s a great way to feel connected to the wider world, and to share content that brings joy, information, enrichment, and entertainment. (Check out this beautiful video shared on Facebook by a Berklee College of Music senior.)

Unfortunately, social media platforms also provide opportunities for false information, rumors, and negative social interactions to spread. Keep in mind that digital communication is, as Richard Guerry says, public and permanent. This includes not only social media but also email, recorded video conferencing, and text messages. Don’t say, post, or share anything that you wouldn’t want attributed to you in a newspaper or on a highway billboard. Be kind and positive. 

Digital Footprint
A person’s “digital footprint” is the trail left behind by their online activity. It’s what might be discoverable when a person’s name is entered into a search engine. Our digital footprints can work to our benefit when they represent our best work and positive actions. They can also damage a person’s reputation. As digital citizens, we should do our best to cultivate digital footprints that represent us the way we intend. 

Perkiomen students and faculty in library


News and Information Literacy
When reliable information could be a matter of life and death, it is critical that we have the skills to evaluate the news we see and hear. Beware of false information, rumor, and conspiracy theories. Stick to a couple of credible news sources and verify anything that sounds too good, bad, or outlandish to be true. Stories, quotations, and images can all be taken out of context and twisted to deliver messages that play on our fears and biases.   

Conducting Ourselves on Zoom
Under normal circumstances, we meet each other in classrooms wearing snappy, dress code-adhering outfits - awake, well-groomed, and ready to teach and learn. There’s no reason that should change much when participating in class via Zoom. 

Tips for Zoom Class Netiquette:

•   Be aware of your background - is it visually or audibly distracting to your teachers and classmates? Are you respecting the privacy of the other people sharing your space? Use a virtual background if that would be best. Mute your mic and turn off the camera when that would be better.

•   Consider your position. Make yourself a special work space wherever you are, and that probably shouldn’t be your bed. Join Zoom sessions from a spot where you can replicate a classroom-type feeling. 

•   Attire. True, students are not required to be in school dress for Virtual Perkiomen, but do dress appropriately. Getting dressed to learn and work (not for sleep or for a day at the beach) will help put you in the right frame of mind.

•   Behavior and expressions. Respect your teachers and classmates when it comes to how you’re acting on camera. Use chat productively and appropriately. Be particularly mindful of what you say and do when sessions are being recorded.



Staying Connected

Parenting During COVID-19 from the WHO

Great tips and infographics for talking, managing stress, and being home with children of all ages while spending time at home.

Steer Clear of Rumor and Myth

COVID-19 Myth Busters from the WHO

Coronavirus Rumor Control from FEMA

More on Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship in Education from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Infographic: I’m a Digital Citizen from ISTE

Family Resources from Common Sense Education*

Your Digital Footprint Matters from ISOC

*Ms. Hammond’s favorite resource for digital citizenship!


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About Katie Hammond, Director of Library Services, Perkiomen School

Katie Hammond has been Director of Library Services at Perkiomen since 2009. Following her curiosity about young people’s information seeking skills and habits, she earned her MS in Library and Information Science from Drexel University specializing in youth services. Katie is a member of ALA, PSLA, ISTE, and AISL. She serves on the PA Young Readers’ Choice Award Committee and you can find her on the AISL blog, Independent Ideas.  

I believe in young people's power to ask questions of their world, build new understanding, and promote justice. I believe that inquisitive minds, a love of reading, and encouragement in the pursuit of one's passions are grown and tended in a school library. Katie Hammond, Director of Library Services, Perkiomen School