Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Recently I have been doing some readings on “digital citizenship” (thanks to Catherine MCLoughlin)  which is now being dubbed as “citizen 2.0”. In simplest terms, “digital citizenship” is the ability to participate in society online. In much the same way as education has promoted democracy and economic growth, the internet has the potential to benefit Society as a whole, and facilitate the membership and participation of individuals within society. Digital citizenship represents capacity, belonging, and the potential for political and economic engagement in society in the information age. The affordances that are brought about with internet and recent web 2.0 technologies on a broader scale – sharing, collaborating, networking, customizing and personalization enable new forms of civic participation, which may either change or replicate existing social relations. The social communication technologies like web 2.0 offer new channels for contacting officials, discussing issues, and mobilizing, then the network externalities or the benefits of bringing people together online exceed the satisfaction gained by the individual participants – creating what economists call “positive externalities” or spill over benefits.

Westheimer and Kahne (2004) suggested three types of citizens: responsible , participatory and justice-oriented. They also stated that these three categorisation is not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it was important to make them distinct.

The personally responsible citizens acts responsibly in his/her community by, for example, picking up litter, giving blood, recycling, volunteering, paying taxes and staying out of debt.

A participatory citizen actively participate in the civic affairs and the social life of the community at local, state and national levels. Participatory citizens need to understand how government and community organizations work, and they need to understand how to plan and lead meetings.

The justice oriented citizen is one who pursues social justice,  does not simply respond to a problem, instead works to find a solution to the cause of it. They also understand how to value and incorporate diverse and even opposing views when addressing the roots of social problems (Richards 2010).

 The interesting question is: We talk about graduate skills and generic skills – but what about digital citizenship?

Some of the generic and graduate skills like information literacy, ethics, professionalism that we have embedded in our courses are training students not just to be personally responsible citizens, but also aiming at participatory citizens. We do not do much towards training future citizens to be the Justice oriented citizens. Our curriculum embraces the traits and tenants of a personally responsible citizen by teaching students of how to build a good character – be honest, responsible, integrity, and law-abiding by engaging in individual character education and community charitable acts. We ignore important influences like social movements and government policy on efforts to improve society.  We focus on obedience and loyalty but fail to question established structures and programmes using critical reflection and action (Richards 2010).

However university teaches these higher order skills like critical thinking and synthesizing and evaluation. So, higher education instructors – what type of citizens do you aim to develop in your next course?


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