So, what is digital citizenship? To us at the Digital Citizenship Institute, digital citizenship is about human connections online where participants are active citizens who are designers, creative thinkers, global collaborators, problem solvers, and justice-oriented digital citizens. We believe that digital citizenship needs to be an action, something we practice and do every single day. Ultimately, we believe that digital citizenship is about seeing and valuing the human being sitting next to us, around the world and across the screen.
Now, let’s think about the future — specifically the future of work. With emerging technologies — augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence — our world is changing at such a rapid pace that we need to ask if we are preparing our students for their future?
Will our students be ready? It’s up to us to ensure they are DigCit Ready.
This is why, in today’s networked world, digital citizenship is everyone’s responsibility, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, where you live or what religion you practice — to us, digital citizenship is all about community. We believe digital citizenship is an opportunity to empower others to become changemakers in their own communities because once you make an impact in a local community, it has a ripple effect an influences both global and digital communities simultaneously.
Our mission and definition of digital citizenship came as a direct result of a collaborative student project called the iCitizen Project during the fall of 2011. The project happened as part of a First Year Seminar for incoming college freshmen at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut. The course, Pleased to Tweet You: Are You a Socially Responsible Digital Citizen? is the beginning of our digital citizenship journey. Despite geography and different time zones, the college freshmen collaborated with high school juniors in Birmingham, Alabama through a variety of social media tools like Skype and Twitter to connect and learn together. The iCitizen Project defined citizenship in the 21st century as an active citizen instead of just a resident; an enabler of change and not just a bystander. The focus on local, global and digital communities emerged as the foundation for being an iCitizen in the 21st century.
The iCitizen Project focused on student voice and student choice. It was the impetus behind wanting to create the first ever digital citizenship conference, the Digital Citizenship Summit, or the DigCitSummit as it is most commonly called, as well as the Digital Citizenship Institute. Understanding that the iCitizen Project is at core of our foundation will help better explain our digital citizenship community model which we refer to as our DigCit Community.
We want to help communities look out through this new community lens of digital citizenship. Instead of seeing local, global and digital in isolation, we want you to see them as one entity. In this way, we are able to model how all it takes is one person to stand up, to speak up, to take action and make a difference. In our work, we have repeatedly seen how ONE becomes MANY because of the ripple effect of choices, words and actions.
Our DigCit Community Model prepares us to see the humanity in everything we do both on and offline, where we humanize the person sitting next to us, people around the world and across the screen. Although today’s headlines might remind us that we’ve lost the art of civil discourse, that we are more divided as a human race; it is our goal to change those sensational headlines with stories about our young people as leaders who inspire and awaken others to action. Just like the iCitizen Project, our DigCit Community Model or what we also call being #DigCitReady allows us to be active citizens in our local, global and digital communities.
You’ll notice that our DigCitSummit logo includes a person shaped to resemble the letter “i” as a connection to the iCitizen Project. In many ways, the “i” also is a reminder of our own choices, words and actions. This local, global and digital community lens is our way to view digital citizenship as a foundation built on being safe, savvy and ethical. Our ‘we not me’ focus continues to highlight our shared humanity where we are learning together side by side in school, at home and in the workplace.
Knowing the “i” in our DigCitSummit logo represents each of us, our DigCitSummits happen in communities all around the world. We unite organizations, educators, industry, parents and students to work towards solutions, promote best practices, and empower citizens to be the digital change.
In order to do this, we have identified four core dispositions necessary to support this #DigCitCommunity Mindset Model with four specific attributes: an Empathetic Mindset, an Entrepreneurial Mindset, an Inclusive Mindset and an Innovative Mindset.
We believe that our students need to lead with empathy because an Empathetic Mindset allows you to understand and share the feelings of another and to walk in their shoes. The next layer we add is an Entrepreneurial Mindset because an entrepreneur is someone who identifies a need, any need and fills it. Our students need an entrepreneurial opportunities every single day to be action driven and willing to collaborate deliberately and mindfully to be critical thinkers, creative problem solvers and who ultimately are transforming minds, hearts and attitudes by solving real problems in local, global and digital communities. Our next layer is focused on an inclusion where access for all, diversity and equality are at the heart. Applying the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, an Inclusive Mindset gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. It promotes personalized learning where all learners and all abilities are recognized, included and valued. UDL provides flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs in order for everyone to have access to the same learning opportunities. An Innovative Mindset is our last disposition needed for a DigCit Community Mindset because innovators are asking questions that haven’t been asked yet, they are the makers, the dreamers, the doers, the futurists who constantly think outside the box. Leading with an Innovative Mindset allows you to be filled with an insatiable sense of curiosity.
When you combine these four dispositions into one DigCit Community mindset, we focus on being DigCit Ready, on being proactive and highlight the importance of providing our students opportunities to be actively participating deliberately and meaningfully online, who know how to navigate the digital landscape and produce media not just consume it. This DigCit Community Mindset unites people who are mindful that their choices, words and actions matter deeply. Much like the Future Ready Framework, our DigCit Community model prepares citizens to be DigCit Ready at school, at home, and in the workplace.