At the annual Innovation Africa conference, many African educational ministries speak about readying their learners for the 4th Industrial Revolution and developing 21st-century skills to advance their economies. Yet these skills are for some an undefined issue, which many education ministries are attempting to solve by providing digital content and devices to schools, in the hope that these skills will be acquired as a “side effect” of technology usage.
However, it may be time for educational authorities to take a more overt approach and, rather than merely encourage the learning of 21st-century skills, introduce new teaching topics that position learners more robustly for opportunity and success in the new economy.
1. Digital citizenship
“Digital citizenship” sounds like having a sort of passport to the digital world, but it’s actually something quite different. Think of it as the behaviour of following the laws, mores and protocols of social and public interaction with other members of society, except in the digital world. Let’s look at some definitions:
“The capacity to conduct oneself in a responsible and ethical manner within public digital environments (Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A., Mehdi, 2018).
“The practice of legal and ethical behaviour:
1. advocate and practise safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
2. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning and productivity
3. demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning
4. exhibit leadership for digital citizenship” (Isman and Canan Gungoren, 2014).
“Students understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behaviour” (International Society for Technology in Education).
Dr Mike Ribble an American technology director and published author worked on the concept of digital citizenship for over a decade, and defined nine key digital citizenship themes:
- Access: full electronic participation in society.
- Commerce: electronic buying and selling of goods.
- Communication: electronic exchange of information.
- Literacy: the process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.
- Etiquette: electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
- Law: electronic responsibility for actions and deeds.
- Rights & Responsibilities: those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
- Health & Wellness: physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
- Security (self-protection): electronic precautions to guarantee safety.
Teaching digital citizenship practices to learners is essential because, just as we wouldn’t send young people out into the wider world without equipping them with the knowledge to look after themselves I public, and to treat other peoples’ feelings and rights with respect, so we cannot send them into the digital world without doing the same.