In the spirit of digital citizenship

25th January 2013 at 00:00

Tom Barrett in his article "Education needs to plug into Web 2.0" (Resources, 18 January) highlights the importance of engaging contemporary learners using social media and other Web 2.0 tools. He outlines some "common-sense guidelines" with regards to e-safety to assist teachers who may be hesitant in using these technologies with their pupils. These guidelines are useful, as teachers require help in developing comprehensive digital citizenship programmes that are proactive and positive rather than simply focused on e-safety and acceptable use policies. Of course, these policies are essential but most are reactive and scaremongering, centred on minimising risk and harm. Educators (and, indeed, Ofsted) need to move beyond the focus on e-safety and help to develop pupils' digital conscience to enable them to become good digital citizens.

Many e-safety programmes are designed for secondary pupils who have already adopted their own rules for technology use. Many pupils use a variety of digital technologies before they begin school, highlighting the need for teachers to be ready to teach digital citizenship as soon as pupils come through the school doors for Reception.

Digital citizenship is a lifelong process that requires critical thinking and self-reflection on what it means to be a responsible member of a digital community. It is therefore vitally important that teachers are offered systematic and sustainable professional development in the area of digital citizenship as opposed to a half-hour session on e-safety once a year in a staff meeting. Teachers require the knowledge, understanding and skills to use technology in their classrooms in creative and purposeful ways while modelling to their pupils how to participate in online environments as discriminating, ethical, active and informed digital citizens.

Kate O'Neill, Education consultant, Northampton.

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