I live my life very aware I’m an American living in a foreign culture. I have spent much of my life living in countries different than my own and trying to figure out how they work. Some aspects of living in Japan are no different than anywhere else (don’t hit, don’t steal, etc.). But Japan has been a fascinating experience, because its cultural norms are so specifically Japanese. The history of Japan, the fact that so many people live in a small space, and prior isolation of Japan shape its modern culture. Sometimes, I’ve learned the rules of Japan by observing (taking off shoes before entering a house, the tone to use when writing an email). Sometimes I’ve learned the rules of Japan by direct instruction (do not close the door in taxis and do not talk on phone on the train). Sometimes I’ve learned the rules of Japan by mistake (too many to mention).
The experience of living in a new culture reminds me of how we teach digital citizenship at YIS middle school. Kim Cofino did an excellent job of breaking down our digital citizenship week and it was amazing to see how everyone in the school took time thinking about how our kids live their lives online. And digital citizenship is something that we try to integrate into our curriculum and our teaching. In reality my students are learning the culture of the internet by recognizing universal truths of society, by observing, by direct instruction and by making mistakes.
As part of digital citizenship week, students were asked to explain what digital citizenship means to them. I love their answers and I turned it into a little video to show at our middle school assembly at the end of digital citizenship week.
We want our students to make connections between online space and offline space (be nice to others, we are a community, don’t steal). But the internet has it’s own rules and language. Our kids are starting to understand it, but it is not a smooth path all the time. We teach the digital citizenship because it’s a new space and culture for them to experience. Our students will make mistakes, but as a new citizens of this digital world, they are getting it.