If you google “Digital Citizenship Activities,” you’ll find thousands of videos, examples and suggestions. Use Google Scholar for the same search, and you’ll be practicing just a small piece of the World-Wide-Web-sized library of skills that relate to Digital Citizenship. While there are many, many sets of standards out there created to ensure that graduating students will be able to responsibly and safely use technology, it should go without saying that what we define as “Digital Citizenship” will change constantly as our relationship to technology changes and the availability of new technologies arrive each day. How and what should we be teaching digital natives, who are raised on iPhones and iPads and are often more apt to fix a technology issue in the classroom before tech support arrives at your door?
Our sister company, Southwestern Publishing began with the first edition of 20th Century Touch Typewriting over in 1927; a typewriting practice text that transformed to Century21 Computer Skills and Applications in the year 2019. This is a course that transformed from learning to use a typewriter to learning to key on a QWERTY keyboard and expanded to using databases, word processing systems, spreadsheets and presentations, as well as conducting internet research, using technology to problem-solve through career-related cases and basic hardware/software skills. In the last decade, keyboarding courses have moved down from high school to middle school and elementary as one-one schools require students to complete state testing online.
Instead, high school students are more apt to take courses like AP Computer Science Principles, which has grown 184% since its launch in 2016 (College Board). Or they are taking courses in Graphic Arts learning to use digital media-based technologies. The Arts, A/V Technology & Communications career cluster has grown more than any other Career Cluster of the last 10 years with the exception of STEM (Perkins Web Portal). Long-time CTSO organizations like BPA, DECA and FBLA which have offered word-processing-based competitions for the last 10-20 years, are now adding new competitive areas that reflect the increasing use of technology in business like:
Code.org has done an amazing job tracking state policy and data on students taking computer science courses with a study showing 90% of parents want their children to study computer science while only 45% of high schools even offer it (Code.org). And this organization as well as others are promoting newly updated CSTA Computer Science Standards for K-12 which goes beyond traditional Business apps like Microsoft Office or basic hardware—“What’s a mouse? A hard drive? A processor? Bits and bytes?”—and software—“What’s an operating system? Productivity and business software?”—to introductory programming, web development, digital ethics, networking, and IT security skills.
Using the CSTA standards, even kindergarteners are engaging in computational thinking. First grades are building programs. Second graders test and debug code—even if that’s with a block-based programming language like SCRATCH, students will be ready to dive deeper and start working with object-oriented languages by middle and high school. However, just because students are much more likely to be familiar with a variety of devices and have started computational thinking doesn’t mean that they come into middle school with the skills to use productivity tools like Google Docs, or Microsoft Office software appropriately for school, college and future careers.
Cengage CAREs (Cengage Computing Analytics and Research in Education) is an ongoing study to advocate for the need for computing and digital literacy courses and found that even today the average score of students entering college on a foundational computing exam was a 44%. This research was conducted in light of the growing trend of administrators in college and high school removing computing courses as mandatory requirements because of the perception that students were already coming to class with a vast experience and handle on new technologies.
While studies have shown that younger generations can type with two thumbs, faster on smart phones than older generations on keyboards may be even more ergonomic issues with the neck and shoulders and could lead to more grammatical errors or unprofessional communication (Baca, Washington Post). While students may grow up using mobile games, social media and surfing the internet, they still need to be taught how to use the power of the web responsibly and how to find reliable information (Sanchez). More and more teachers find that as students rely more and more on the internet for finding information, it can easily become method to find a correct answer and move on, rather than as a resource to build an argument and a means to learn beyond the current task at hand.
Additionally, students will not learn the skills they need to be successful for careers from personal technology use alone. Burning Glass Technologies uses big data to track real-time industry trends and required or recommended skills for careers across the globe from millions of job postings. Consistently the most sought for skills? Soft Skills and Spreadsheets. Two areas students will not learn on their own. Cengage CAREs research found that 86% students entering college were aware that business application skills like Microsoft Office are important to being successful in the work place and 87% had only ever learned Microsoft Office applications inside the classroom. Out of these same students, far less than 45% could complete basic spreadsheet tasks like merging and centering sells, using a SUM function, or building basic charts.
Beyond Microsoft Office, Burning Glass has found that the demand high-growth skills across many job openings is including a need for understanding of: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Natural Language Processing, Cloud Solutions, and Data Visualization—topics that students aren’t apt to discover on their own time.
In a recent survey to hundreds of Computing teachers in higher ed and high school, we found that the key skills that teachers are considering adding to their digital literacy courses replicates the findings of Burning Glass with: Cloud Computing, E-Commerce, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analysis and Digital Ethics. Because of this, all Microsoft Office 2019 MindTap courses and our Technology for Success digital literacy title will include 3 NEW modules for the fall in addition to basic web development, software development and programming, networking and security, which have been added in recent years:
In summary, Digital Citizenship is not a result of a generation of Digital Natives. While students are entering middle and high school with new skills and a familiarity with digital devices, they are not learning crucial skills like productivity tools and business applications needed for academic and professional life outside of the classroom. They are not learning how to utilize technology to safely and responsibly research information and explore for solutions to real-world problems rather than answers to a worksheet. The future digital citizen will most likely still need to be able to utilize productivity software, practice internet safety and understanding the basics of hardware, software and networking. However, more and more jobs, entrepreneurial activities, and consumer intelligence will also require computational thinking, programming, web design, data analytics, e-commerce, IT security, digital media and artificial intelligence.
While that is definitely way more than what the average student has learned in the past and today, examples are everywhere—from the way we research, to the way we shop, play and communicate with our friends and family. And you’ve got support! Organizations like LaunchCS offer training for even elementary teachers on introducing these crucial skills. Code.org hosts weekly webinars for CS inspiration and training. More and more states are introducing Computer Science standards and greatly increasing funding for teacher training and professional development and teachers interested in using online curriculum with virtual practice can always receive live trainings from Cengage Customer Success Specialists. Find your contact here.
In addition some of the standards and trends already mentioned in this post, feel free to explore national standards that consider digital literacy skills that may be beneficial to graduate true digital citizens below.
Common Career Technical Corse standards meet the need of setting a high bar for CTE programs to graduate students who have mastered “Career Ready Practices” that would benefit any chances for employment in any industry across the 16 National Career Clusters. They are developed from a group effort from the educational sector, academic sector and industry. Including life skills like personal Health and financial well-being to ethical considerations and professional communication skills, the CCTC also requires that students learn to use technology “to enhance productivity.” These standards focus on students being able to use professional software and programs to solve real-world problems while understanding how to use the safely and ethically. These standards also acknowledge that technology and it’s uses change all the time and having the ability to be flexible and to be able to learn the value of new technologies is key.
Partnership for 21st Century skills framework also brings together professionals, educators, and researchers to create standards for a successful life and career after graduation. This framework incorporates Life & Career Skills, Learning & Innovation Skills, and Information, Media & Technology Skills, including:
The IC3 Digital Literacy Certification is extremely popular for high school students as it is designed to test introductory technology skills that are needed to be a successful digital consumer and employee across many industries. Endorsed by ISTE, SkillsUSA and the Global Digital Literacy Council, many CTE students take the exam to count as an industry aligned credential. The current Global Standard 5 version of the certification includes 3 exams focusing on:
Developed by computer science teachers in conjunction with CSTA teachers and administrators, members of code.org and other policy groups with the goal of bringing computer science education to all K-12 students. These standards go well beyond the basics of internet and software safety and ethics that digital citizenship usually entails, and expands what we consider to be crucial technology skills to a new core discipline. 7 Core Practices that students apply in every grade through computer science include: