Learning how to be citizens in a digital world.

I live my life very aware I’m an American living in a foreign culture. I have spent much of my life living in countries different than my own and trying to figure out how they work. Some aspects of living in Japan are no different than anywhere else (don’t hit, don’t steal, etc.).  But Japan has been a fascinating experience, because its cultural norms are so specifically Japanese. The history of Japan, the fact that so many people live in a small space, and prior isolation of Japan shape its modern culture. Sometimes, I’ve learned the rules of Japan by observing (taking off shoes before entering a house, the tone to use when writing an email). Sometimes I’ve learned the rules of Japan by direct instruction (do not close the door in taxis and do not talk on phone on the train). Sometimes I’ve learned the rules of Japan by mistake (too many to mention).

The experience of living in a new culture reminds me of how we teach digital citizenship at YIS middle school. Kim Cofino did an excellent job of breaking down our digital citizenship week and it was amazing to see how everyone in the school took time thinking  about how our kids live their lives online. And digital citizenship is something that we try to integrate into our curriculum and our teaching. In reality my students are learning the culture of the internet by recognizing universal truths of society, by observing, by direct instruction and by making mistakes.

As part of digital citizenship week, students were asked to explain what digital citizenship means to them. I love their answers and I turned it into a little video to show at our middle school assembly at the end of digital citizenship week.


We want our students to make connections between online space and offline space (be nice to others, we are a community, don’t steal). But the internet has it’s own rules and language. Our kids are starting to understand it, but it is not a smooth path all the time. We teach the digital citizenship because it’s a new space and culture for them to experience. Our students will make mistakes, but as a new citizens of this digital world, they are getting it.


About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in COETAIL @YIS, Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Learning how to be citizens in a digital world.

  1. Jason Graham says:

    Nice post. Such a great reminder to teachers to be aware of digital citizenship and making it explicit in our teaching and curriculum.

    • Thanks for the comment. If we get all levels (ES, MS, HS) working on this, then it becomes part of our school culture and makes the teaching of digital citizenship much easier. Can’t wait to see what you do next year.

  2. sonyaterborg says:

    A friend of mine was recently at a conference (EARCOS? perhaps?) and after discussion, participants decided to drop the ‘digital’ and just think of it as ‘citizenship’ as so much of just ‘life’ is digital that it is almost becoming redundant to make the distinction between the two. To encourage people to live their ‘digital’ life the same way as they live their ‘3 Dimensional Life’ seemed to make sense. When talking to kids about visiting websites etc I often draw parallels to real life: “If you walked in a store by yourself and it felt a little weird and creepy, you would turn around and leave. If you ‘walk into’ a website and you feel a little weird and creepy….leave.” Thanks for the post – love the feedback after DCW.

    • It is amazing how living online isn’t all that different than living offline and how those comparisons can be easily made. I do think there is something to teaching digital citizenship separate from just citizenship. While they overlap, there are special rules and norms to follow online that don’t fully exist offline. But when I teach essay writing, and discuss writing for an audience, I use that opportunity to also teach how to write an email to a teacher. It all goes together.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I was so impressed by their comments on that survey! Even though I feel like the idea of digital citizenship is something that we are just beginning to talk about with students, it clearly does resonate with them. I’m so glad that we’ve gotten started and we can continue to develop this conversation next year.

  4. Pingback: Learning how to be citizens in a digital world | One Change a Day

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