A new passport for no borders, becoming a digital citizen

Now that we've had to adjust our lives to the pandemic, online has become the new normal. Digital Citizenship is a fundamental factor that prepares students for Universities such as Boston, where all learning activities are online.

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With all of life centering around technology due to the Covid19 pandemic, Nonhlanhla Dube of Boston City Campus discusses a new term, “Digital Citizenship”. This refers to an individual who has the skills and knowledge to make use of technology safely and effectively to communicate, interact and take part in online activity. Nonhlanhla explains that “the responsible use of technology is a crucial aspect for students today, as many Universities and schools allow for assignment submissions and examinations via online Learner Management Systems. The pandemic forced learners and employees to become Digital Citizens. Had students not been born into tech, this event would have proved catastrophic for schooling and universities”.  

“At Boston we always used technology, what we called a mixed mode methodology, for our students learning,” says Nonhlanhla. Technology allows students to take part in all of their curricular activities whether they are physically at Campus or not. From socialising on WhatsApp, participating in social media, and creating tiktok videos, to learning and shopping online, this all contributes to an individual’s ‘Digital Citizenship’. By the time learners start Primary School- they are able to fully operate a smart phone or tablet. Digital Citizenship is a fundamental factor that prepares students for Universities such as Boston, where all learning activities such as assessments, lectures , assistance and interaction with academic staff as well as examinations , are online. 

Nonhlanhla mentions six fundamental elements of Digital Citizenship :  . 

  1. Balance:  Like everything in life, balance is key. While academics require students to spend a certain amount on their Learning Management Systems, she advises that students should set a limit that includes school and some social media or Netflix.  Too much screen time can bring about sleep disorders as well as a number of other health concerns.
  2. Safety and Privacy: It is crucial for ALL ages to understand the dangers that come with online activity. It also poses many risks for students who aren’t aware of what is and is not appropriate to share online, and financial risks or worse for employed people. Avoid sites where unnecessary personal information is required and always have good quality anti-virus software installed. This is relevant for every digital citizen, as fraudsters become smarter by the second!
  3. Respect: Tone of voice is not detected over text, treat people online as you would if you were speaking to them face-to-face. Don’t use caps, don’t abuse exclamation marks, do use greetings. Respect your fellow students and lecturers when engaging with them, especially when communicating with your lecturers or any academic staff. 
  4. Connecting: Using one’s Digital Citizenship to engage and communicate with friends and family is a good way to stay connected. Having the opportunity to reach out to lecturers is an upside of Digital Citizenship so students don’t get left behind. 
  5. Learning: Students should leverage off their online activity to expand their knowledge and take part in lessons and tutorials. Digital Citizenship allows not only students but everyone else to be able to search any topic at any given time- this is something that wasn’t available 20 years ago and as a result, it puts students today in an advantageous position when it comes to research.
  6. Critical Thinking: Not everything you find online is of value- like a sieve, one needs to sift through the junk to find what is relevant to your search. Critical thinking allows students the ability to evaluate searches and to decide whether the information shown in search results is legitimate and appropriate. 

Nonhlanhla concludes that in efforts to prevent the misuse of technology as well as online learning platforms It is Important to teach students the norms of appropriate, responsible behaviour with regard to the use of digital technologies. Digital Citizenship needs to be constantly reinforced by parents, schools, Universities and working environments- this will allow all of us to understand the fundamentals of Digital Citizenship and navigate our way around the Internet and Online Learning Platforms safely.

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