Digital Responsibility: Where does it lie? As the Beatles sang, “Here, There & Everywhere”

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
Tao Te Ching

The relevance of this Taoist profundity for me in relation to questions about who should teach what when about responsible citizenship online is the underlying principle that the one in the position to do what is right has the obligation to take the opportunity when it is there. More simply put, all care-givers share the responsibility for imparting good online habits including protecting oneself and respecting others; whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. As professionals trained in education and, hopefully, with a well-developed sense and understanding of “netiquette,” copyright, fair usage and the following of acceptable social norms and how to engender their understanding, clearly a large portion of this responsibility falls to us.

My approach to this week’s blog post is that of a literature review. I will make commentary on the readings while adding my own viewpoints in order to share my thoughts and tie the piece together as a whole.

“Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers
This piece starts off simply enough by stating that bullying hasn’t really changed. Adding the prefix “cyber” to it is, to me, only a reference to the new tools available. Not unlike learning to scribble an unflattering image of a friend in preschool, the technology is an indication of technical sophistication, not a prompt for anti-social behaviour in itself. As my mother so regularly says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Perhaps more succinctly put by this author however:

If we want to combat bullying, we need to start by understanding the
underlying dynamics.

Youth today do not have wildly different values or social norms to previous generations. They do, however, have some evolved linguistic nuances and, as all new generations, some different shared understandings. I found it quite instructive to read that, in terms of the issue at hand, youth were quoted as saying that “…bullying was when someone picked on someone or physically hurt someone who didn’t deserve it [my emphasis].” So there do appear to be rules here already. Our role then, is to understand them and inform them, in language that is meaningful to the students themselves, not just their parents, teachers and educational administrators. Again I defer to the author:

A lecture on bullying is going to be completely ignored by both of them,
either as irrelevant or meaningless to them personally. They don’t see what
they’re doing as bullying.

We had best keep in mind also that, “…in all cases, the point is to show who has social power. It’s all about creating and reinforcing hierarchies.” As stated earlier, the concept remains the same.

The most salient point I took away from this was that teens are merely doing what humans do best. They are learning from what they see mentors (adults) do around them. The bit about attention seeking reinforces the fact that cyber-bullying is just a new outlet for an old rite of passage made more public and further engendered by mainstream media. I doubt many would argue for a prohibition on literacy if a teacher found a nasty note being passed in class.

Our Space: Being a Responsible Digital Citizen (Overview)
This resource offered an invaluable source of easily-digestible definitions that would add to any educator’s repertoire of referral documents. It outlines fair use as a legal principle that allows limited use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder and further lists how creators and users of content have responsibilities to their audiences. There were a variety of detailed lesson ideas that were geared towards skills such as:

• Understanding the intent of copyright (to promote the creation of new works by
giving copyright owners the ability to control them and to profit from them for a
limited time).

• Describing the purpose of fair use (attempts to balance the rights of copyright
owners and creators of new content and to safeguard against private censorship by
copyright holders).

  • Identifying key factors to consider when deciding whether a given appropriation is fair use

Furthermore, there was a list of understandings that:

  • The use of copyrighted material must be transformative.
  • The amount of copyrighted material used is proportional to the purpose of the creation. This means that the new creator should use only a portion of the original creation that seems reasonable in the scope of their work as a whole. In other words, did they take the whole thing and call it their own, or did they use only the parts that are most relevant to the message they are trying to get across?
  • Users must always try to give credit to sources.
  • Consider whether the new work might potentially cut off financial rewards for the original creator?

All in all a very valuable site to bookmark.

Turning Digital Natives into Digital Citizens
Despite the condescending tone set regarding aboriginal peoples the world over that, “…natives can run wild,” the examination and suggestions outlined in this piece are relevant and worthy of consideration, if not execution such as the promotion of the idea that model digital citizens “practice safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and tools.”

While there is little on this page not easily found on a host of others, it is worth taking a look for the fabulous links like this absolute MUST SEE resource for teaching media literacy, copyright & fair usage.

When Dad Banned Text Messaging
This online New York Times piece illustrates just how confusing the issues surrounded online participation can be for parents. I have half-jokingly thought of not buying a child the latest gadget as becoming a mild form of child abuse as to be excluded from such pervasive media, often geared towards social activity. It is kind of isolating. In the end parents must decide for themselves but, like with anything else, they should take the time to fully understand all aspects of the situation first.

New media does place bullying in a new light as outlined to some extent in the Palo Alto online article, School heads called parents in cyber-bully case, wherein the blurred lines of jurisdiction became apparent in a cyber-bullying case which occurred on Facebook with no connection to the school affected beyond those involved. The point was further corroborated in the online piece by author , Avery Doninger, Free Speech Update: Online, Off-Campus Comments Punishable, Court Says, in which a student took her school to court on a freedom of speech claim. The student had criticized the school administration and had been punished as a result. The court found for the school, citing the, “…changed… dynamics of school communications since 1979, when a landmark student speech case set boundaries for schools regulating off-campus speech.”

All valuable pieces of the complex puzzle of considering how we teach these important new skills and understandings and who is ultimately responsible. To reiterate my thesis here, all of us, in an ongoing fashion and most pertinently, when the teachable moments arise.

After all… It takes a village.

Photo Credit:US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

About Sean Thompson

Sean is an educational technology specialist at Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo. He travels extensively across southeast Asia speaking, presenting and participating in discussions regarding the effective integration of technology in an educational setting. In 2014 he partnered up with DEEP Learning to support the team with the development, promotion and execution of professional development conferences for teachers worldwide. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader , a Google education Trainer and a Certified Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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3 Responses to Digital Responsibility: Where does it lie? As the Beatles sang, “Here, There & Everywhere”

  1. Hey Sean,
    Enjoyed reading your post. With regards to your thoughts on “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, I like how you pointed out how the teens saw bullying as happening to someone “who didn’t deserve it”. That statement in itself shows how teens feel and see injustices that get dealt with and sometimes not dealt with, hence the mention of the word “deserve”. I really enjoyed this article as well and liked the argument from the article you brought out regarding cyber-bullying as a new outlet for an old rite of passage. You do mention her argument that a lecture on bullying would prove itself to be irrelevant. I wonder if a sound Social Media policy that has relevance to students and touches on “good usage” of social media would resonate with the teens? Would it help to get their opinions thoughts into the policy?

  2. Well done on a well thought-out and very thorough post! It’s great that you’ve highlighted the blur between parents, schools, teachers, administrators, etc. in our shared responsibilities for the digital behaviour of our children. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that these students know how to use the digital tools in front of them and to then forget that they don’t always know how to be caring, responsible, and ethical citizens.

  3. Pingback: Meeting Technology Standards | Sean`s COETAIL Blog

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