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So, Who’s Teaching Children About Digital Citizenship?

Jennifer is Director, Library Programs for DC Public Schools.

I would like to declare the term, “Digital Citizen,” passé and dead. Bold, I know. But I think it’s time to recognize that we are all citizens who are to varying degrees, mostly digital – our students and children certainly are the most digital among us. 

That being said, who should be teaching aspects of appropriate citizenship and behavior in the digital world? Who is showing this new generation of citizens how to responsibly find, evaluate and create content? Are parents the best teachers? Should schools teach social media skills? If so, how can we fit another topic area into an already packed classroom schedule that many feel is giving our students short shrift in too many areas (and I can certainly argue that we’re sacrificing too much in the arts, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant…I mean, blog)?

I would like to assert that many schools already have an expert ready and available to integrate all aspects of “Digital Citizenship” into instruction each and every day: the school librarian!

Really! If you haven’t been in a school library since you were a wee-one, things have changed! At least they should have, if your school leadership understands the true power of information literacy instruction.

All aspects of “Digital Citizenship” fall under the umbrella of information literacy which is truly in the purview of the school librarian (see the American Association of School Librarians’ “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner”). A certified school librarian is trained to help students (and adults) learn to find and evaluate information, to use information ethically, and to communicate new knowledge.

School librarians do more than provide access to print and electronic resources. They work as information specialists and vet resources to ensure students utilize the best quality information possible. They teach students to search effectively and safely and to evaluate the information they find.  They work collaboratively with classroom teachers and teach “Digital Citizenship” in the context of what students are learning, researching and creating.

A discussion of copyright becomes immediately relevant when students learn who “owns” the images they post to social media – and what the owner may legally do with the images. Conversations about Internet safety are scaffolded and integrated in to conversations about passwords and registering for sites to access information. Creation of digital presentations and sharing them on social media present the perfect opportunity to talk about appropriate language, behavior, commenting and bullying. All of this happens in the school library and it is probably happening in yours.

Given the important role of the school librarian in training today’s generation of connected citizens, why not talk to yours? They surely have plenty of digital tips and tricks to share and are likely willing to talk to you. Plus, in today’s school library you don’t even have to whisper!

Cover image courtesy of Flickr

Jennifer Boudrye is an ardent supporter of the arts, information literacy and quality education. Her career has spanned from radio talk show producer and host, to web publisher, to school librarian and administrator, to Education Partnership Manager at Discovery Education. Currently, she is Director of Library Programs for DCPS. The common thread has been connecting people with the information and resources they need. Her involvement with parents, students and schools around the country enhanced Jennifer’s belief that information literacy is truly essential for success in school and in life. Jennifer is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland and holds master’s degrees in Library Science and Educational Leadership. She is most proud of her three children who are following their own passions: her oldest daughter is serving with the Peace Corps in Panama, her younger daughter is pursuing studies to become a Lutheran pastor, and her son is a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan studying classical voice.

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