Would We be Talking about Digital Citizenship if We Were…

I received an email the other day from ISTE, asking me to complete a survey to assist the National Council for Digital Citizenship in creating a shared definition for — digital citizenship. Even though I whole-heartedly commend and recommend the work of Mike Ribble and others in describing and creating practical frameworks for helping learners develop responsible behaviors over the Internet, the term Digital Citizenship has always puzzled me.

I tried filling in the survey, but found that my status as an independent and a lack of “Not Applicable” options on the form rendered my input unacceptable. But the experience prompted me to go to my (digital) dictionary and look up citizenship. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, a citizen is

a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.

Reading on, I learned that the word comes from Middle English, deriving out of the Anglo-Norman French term, citezein, coming from the Old French citeain, based on the Latin civitas, or city.  This conveys to me a sense of place and of belonging to that place, either by birth or by earning.

I don’t want to fuss over the old ground of native versus immigrant.  But I wonder from which perspective citizenship needs the most defining?  As a check, I downloaded the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.  In the last paragraph of the introduction is written,

They (students) reflexively demonstrate the cogent reasoning and use of evidence that is essential to both private deliberation and responsible citizenship in a democratic republic.

Nowhere else in the 66-page document does the word citizenship appear.  Of course many have used better words than mine to point out the omission of citizenship and the pursuit of personal fulfillment in the current and influence-weighted conversations about education reform in its drive toward better college students and more effective workers.  So why do we need digital citizenship?

I guess that digital citizenship irks me because of my shame.  We need to champion concerted efforts to define and teach our students to be digital citizens because we’re not.

As a society, we have failed to recognize the crucial educational implications of the incredible shifts that ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) has provoked in recent decades.

As politicians, we have shrunk from our responsiblities to provide for our children, eagerly trading leadership for partisan gamesmanship.

As educators, we have grown less confident, more complacent, and just plain meek, when we should have been insightful and bold.

Much is made of our falling behind the Chinese and the Finns and behind our digital native children. But the real shame is that in working to prepare our children for their future, we have fallen so pathetically far behind our own times.


Interesting and Predictable Article on Standardized Testing in Alberta Canada

Flickr Photo by Lauren Brown

This one caught my eye because I’ve done a good deal of work in Alberta lately — but also because of part of the title, Who can Unlearnall the Facts That I’ve Learned?.  It’s an article from VUE Weekly, an independent newspaper from Edmonton.  From my experience, standardized testing does seem to be a central part of education in the Province.  But I’ve also talked with educators there, who have a keen interest in what’s going on with education in Finland.

The article mostly refers to statements by Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, an education specialist at the European Training Foundation (ETF).  There’s nothing really new here for those who have questioned my country’s growing and continued reliance on standardized testing as an avenue to education reform.  But I found interesting, his explanation of the growth of the movement and the response by Finland.

From the article, Sahlberg says,

Sahlberg says that the reliance of standardized testing to judge the success of student performance started in England in the 1980s and quickly spread to North America, Australia and other developed nations. Sahlberg’s home country of Finland, on the other hand, was not swept up in trying out the new approach. 
“Scandinavian countries were not convinced that through competition education would be improved. Instead an idea of equality is pervasive—that every child needs to be provided with equal opportunity through good education,” he explains.
This perspective means schools in his country look different than those in countries that embraced standardized testing.
“For example, schools in England have only two or three core subjects in the curriculum, whereas in Finnish schools there is more of a broad focus that includes the social arts, based on the belief that the success of individuals is not solely achieved through the instruction of only math and sciences. The whole education system in Finland, from kindergarten to Grade 12, has no high-stakes external testing system,” he explains. (( Couture. Xanthe. “Standardized Testing: Who can Unlearn all the Facts that I’ve Learned?,” VUE Weekly 5 Marth 2009. Web.16 Aug 2009. <http://www.vueweekly.com/article.php?id=11228>. ))

Offering a U.S. perspective, Dr. David Berliner, of Arizona State University, defends standardized testing under certain specific situations.  “I would not want a pilot flying a plane unless he has passed all his pilot exams.”  He then continues,

..when high-stakes testing is applied to kids and can mean that they will not graduate and that teachers can get fired, this is a different situation all together.

There are problems with relying heavily on test data.

When you value an indicator too much you can predict that there will be corruption in the numbers because the people who administer the evaluation will corrupt the figures. This scenario has been found to occur in high-stakes testing in US public schools. There are documented cases of teachers keeping some students at home on test days, along with other measures, to get the best results possible.

I would suggest that over-emphasizing tested subjects or tested standards within a subject, at the expense of softer and less measurable elements of learning is another way that the data and our education system are being corrupted.

Reading through this, I was compelled to find some data on international comparisons of student achievement, finding this American Institutes for Research study (Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators for Comparing States and Nations [pdf]), reported in a November 15, 2007 Times Story (Study compares American students with other countries’).  NY Times said,

The study equated standardized test scores of eighth-grade students in each of the 50 states with those of their peers in 45 countries. Experts said it was the first such effort to link standardized test scores, state by state, with scores from other nations. (( Dillon. Sam. “Study Compares American Students with other Countries’,” The New York Times 15 Nov 2007. Web.16 Aug 2009. <http://xrl.in/2xdi>. ))

Here is the graph that shows my own state, North Carolina, with other nations, putting us fairly near the top in Math, bested by Singapore, Hong Kong, south Korea, Taipei, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, Hungary, and Estonia.  We fair less well in Science, closer to the middle of the list.

Click the image to expand

So, I’m left with two questions.

Is this why we do what we do? Or is this why we do what we do?
Supposed to convey happy successful people
Flickr Photo by Mariëlle


Does a
on this..
lead to
Supposed to convey happy successful people
Flickr Photo by Mariëlle

What do you think?

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