There has been a not so subtle shift in what is promoted as pedagogically worthy in NZ ICTPD cluster schools in the past 12 months – a shift from helping students adopt cyber-safe practice online to helping students become responsible cyber-citizens.
It seems that what you do when no one is watching becomes more significant when we live in a time where everyone is – watching that is.
Identifying the classroom practices that are suitable for learning about any kind of citizenship is a big and somewhat fraught territory for educators – there is that immediate tension between declarative and functioning knowledge – between teaching for active and passive citizenship
“While educators have always talked about active citizenship and critical thought, classroom practices have emphasized passive acquisition and character development. Teachers' philosophical assumptions that enable them to train future citizens to become passive spectators are discussed.” In Teaching for Passive Citizenship: A Critique of Philosophical Assumptions. Shermis and Barth Theory and Research in Social Education, v10 n4 p17-37 Win 1982
If our goal is for students to become successful active citizens in the digital domain – then as educators we are looking to;
- Increase capability of students to build knowledge and skills of their roles, rights and responsibilities, when participating and contributing as digital citizens.
- Increase capability of students to take actions as digital citizens to change their communities for the better.
How would we know if students had met these goals?
Perhaps as success criteria - evidence will show that:
Schools have implemented a programme of professional learning for successful digital citizenship based on feedback on the learning needs, interests and abilities of their students and the pedagogical content knowledge of their teachers to meet these needs.
- Schools are carefully and diagnostically assessing the declarative and functioning knowledge of their students as digital citizens to determine what they need to “learn next’.
- Schools are carefully and diagnostically assessing the pedagogical content knowledge of teachers to teach the declarative and functioning knowledge needed to meet the identified learning needs of their students around digital citizenship.
- Facilitators are providing the specific pedagogical content knowledge identified as being needed by teachers for them to move their student’s declarative and functioning knowledge of successful digital citizenship.
- Teachers are being observed when teaching students the declarative and functioning knowledge they need to “learn next” to become successful digital citizens and take part in feedback and feedforward conversations afterwards.
- Students are building knowledge and skills of their roles, rights and responsibilities, when participating and contributing as digital citizens.
- Students are taking actions as digital citizens to change their communities for the better.
- Schools are carefully and diagnostically assessing the impact of these declarative and functioning learning experiences on valued student learning outcomes and using these assessments to advise the future professional learning needs of teachers.
And if that doesn’t daunt you then the culture in which we are charged with creating active digital citizens might …
For what makes the “creating active digital citizens” initiative more complicated is that we are charged with doing this in contemporary democratic countries - countries where sociologists note an increasing public “apathy” “cynicism” and “mistrust” towards political systems and those holding political authority – we are living in an age of the politically disengaged citizen.
Frank Mort’s paper in The Making of the Consumer – (Competing Domains – Democratic subjects and consuming subjects in Britain and the United States since 1945) frightened me – for Mort explores how “political culture” is increasingly being subsumed by “consumer culture”
“Since the late 1980’s sample profiles of the British population have been monitored for their main leisure patterns. What came out top in survey after survey was a list of contemporary pleasures that were principally made available through market based forms of provision; personal shopping, eating out, DIY, and video watching. Right at the bottom of the list came politics; going to a political meeting ranked on par with a visit to the circus as one of the British public’s least likely things to do!” p225
“According to Bauman, politics is now seen only as a nuisance, a barrier to real life, which lies elsewhere, in the world of personal freedoms, the market, human relationships and so on” p226
Ironically at the same time that we have lost interest in the politics of democracy – it seems that citizens in a consumer culture expect to be consulted on most everything else in the content service industry
For example, we expect to be consulted on whether it is OK for “British computer-industry millionaire Clive Sinclair to marry a younger woman and on the proposed changes to the Starbucks logo (refer to that fabulous post about "Why wasn’t I consulted (WWIC)" in The Web is a Customer Service Medium by Paul Ford and to Logoland by Schumpeter in the Economist
“Why wasn't I consulted,” which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.” Paul Ford
Reading Mort makes me wonder if in preparing students to be active digital citizens we are preparing them for a role that has already been subsumed by consumer culture in a contemporary democracy like New Zealand in 2011. Perhaps we should instead encourage and prepare students to broaden the scope of their existing activity as Ford's digital consultants.
A clear first step is to teach ourselves and our students about “the Cycle” – the history of the information business – the open and closed ages of radio film and telephone – so masterfully explained by the glorious Tim Wu in his wonderful and wonderfilled book The Master Switch – The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.
[note to self: Add The Master Switch – The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. to “must read and discuss” booklist for teachers charged with implementing information communication technology in school this year]
“History shows a typical progression of information technologies: from somebody’s hobby to somebody’s industry; from jury-rigged contraption to slick production marvel; from a freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel – from open to closed system. It is a progression so common as to seem inevitable, though it would hardly have seemed so at the dawn of any of the past century’s transformative technologies, whether telephony, radio, television, or film. Wu 2010 P6
History also shows that whatever has been closed too long is ripe for ingenuity’s assault: in time a closed industry can be opened anew giving way to all sorts of technical possibilities and expressive uses for the medium before the effort to close the system likewise begins again. “ Wu 2010 p6
Then we might better understand that “choice, freedom and openness” is not a given in the information business.
And then by broadening the focus of what we want to be consulted about we might become more alert to asking “WWIC” when personal communication devices (we find it hard to live without) are increasingly presented to us as closed platform devices – designed to operate on only certain carriers, certain wires, or certain airwaves.
If we neglect to ask WWIC about products and policies that are designed to centralise control by others – we allow public and private power arrangements that compromise net neutrality – and our future digital communication may not be open and personal any more.
It is a big read book - Wu’s arguments take time to process – he ties together many different personalities, products and policies – but “The Master Switch” is also a great read - it is time well spent – Wu takes the understanding I had taken previously from Larry Cuban’s Oversold and Underused Computers in the Classroom and Carolyn Marvin’s When Old Technologies Were New – Thinking about Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century to new places and new spaces.
Reading Wu meant that for the first time I understood the vulnerabilities facing Google when its corporate design means “it owns no connections and no content”
“He who controls the wires or airwaves can potentially destroy Google for it is only via these means the Google reaches its customers. …..... Nor is this matter of infrastructure the firm’s only weakness. A concerted boycott among content owners – website operators or other sources – could achieve the same choking effect. Under long established protocols, any website can tell Google that it doesn’t want to be indexed. In theory Wikipedia, The New York Times, CNN , and dozens of others could begin telling Google , “Thanks , but no thanks.” Or conceivably strike an exclusive deal with one of Google’s rivals.” P284
But most of all if you take the time to read “The Master Switch” you will better appreciate that the whole Google versus Apple debate - all that is contested in the information communication empires of the 21st century - has happened many times before. And no outcome is certain.
WWIC also makes me want to re-imagine schools as customer service mediums hell bent on selling education.
Paul Ford suggests that to be successful as a customer service medium we should
Create a service experience around what you publish and sell. Whatever “customer service” means when it comes to books and authors, figure it out and do it. Do it in partnership with your readers. Turn your readers into members. Not visitors, not subscribers; you want members. And then don’t just consult them, but give them tools to consult amongst themselves. These things are cheap and easy now if you hire one or two smart people instead of a large consultancy. Define what the boundaries are in your community and punish transgressors without fear of losing a sale. Then, if your product is good, you’ll sell things. Paul Ford
So how should we change schools to make them a successful customer service?