Whose job is it?

Me: “You studied this in your computer class, right?”

Student: “Umm, what computer class?”

Me: “Right…”

It has been my assumption for a while that most of my students either have taken, are in the process of taking or will be taking a computer literacy course. My assumption is, unfortunately, incorrect. Most of my students, actually, have never taken a course dedicated solely to computer literacy. The course is usually offered in some variation as an elective class and unless a student expresses a keen desire to learn “Gaming 101”, chances are they haven’t taken the course. They, like many of the adults in their lives, assume  that “simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive,” they are somehow savvy to all of the vast and subtle rules of the digital highway.

Bill Fry Mire


This has left me in a conundrum. I’m trying to integrate technology into my English classes, but find that with all of the other requirements of the course, namely the English 10 Common Core Standards, I’m struggling to fit everything in. 

What’s an English Lit teacher to do? I want my students to use technology as a means to furthering their interaction with literature, but I feel like I need to add a few weeks to the school year in order to teach them the skills of digital citizenship. In her book, It’s Complicated: the Social Lives of Networked Teens, Danah Boyd draws emphasis to this very point:

Teens will not become critical contributors to this [Internet] ecosystem simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive. Whether in school or in informal settings, youth need opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to engage with temporary technology effectively and meaningfully. Becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age.”

So, whose job is it to teach our students how to be positive, contributing and critical citizens of the internet? Partly mine and partly that of the rest of the adults in their lives: parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, counselors. But are they getting this digital citizenship training in any other classes or areas of their lives? Honestly, I don’t think so.

I must confess – as the weeks of our blogging unit progress, I do feel a great weight on my shoulders that I think is disproportionate compared to teachers of other core subjects. I’m spending quite a bit of class time discussing various aspects of their online profiles, including videos about being careful about what they post online and those that encourage them to consider their legacy; engaging in lengthy Socratic Seminars on the merits of Snapchat vs. Instagram and the fact that Facebook is now considered by teens to be “dead to us”; and of course, the “Do’s & Don’ts” of blogging. 

Commonsense Media

All of this to say that I, as an educator, am feeling slightly overwhelmed with the weight of teaching students to navigate this nebulous and still-new-to-me digital highway. For my part, I am starting to take this monolothic job very seriously and am thankful that my school has recently opened a new position for a high school technology integrator. Hopefully, next year all students will be required to take a course similar to the one Reuben Loewey has designed. Or even better, more teachers will begin to integrate aspects of digital citizenship into their own courses. And as scary as it sounds, just as we are all teachers of writing, I think we have all now become teachers of computer literacy.  

3 Replies to “Whose job is it?”

  1. I too have wondered the extent to which students are truly tech savvy and digitally literate. I have heard parents and teachers say that they are amazed at how much their children and students are able to do with their devices. I have been more skeptical. Using an app, moving between apps, or making changes to the look and feel of the skin of a device does not mean a person understands, or is adequately able to evaluate, assess and apply the information he/she is flipping through.

  2. I agree, I agree! It is overwhelming to think that, without more time to spare, we, the teachers, are now looking at having to incorporate lessons on digital citizenship because as you say, you take this job seriously. Maybe there is too much of an assumption that just because kids are surrounded by technology that they know how to use it and/or understand what the repercussions are, both good and bad. I can tell you from an elementary student perspective, once it’s deleted it’s apparently gone forever and nobody knows…which is of course is not so true. A few trips to the principal for that belief. Since elementary is the foundation, if we put a greater emphasis on teaching digital citizenship then as they progress we can have a group of teens ready to continue to leave positive digital footprints all over the place right? Thanks Miriam for the greta post! Susan

  3. Warning: Generalisation ahead… The majority of our Digital Natives that we see in our classrooms everyday are good at typing with their thumbs, editing photos or playing online games. They are not adept users of technology. The role of educators has drastically changed in terms of the expectations of developing digitally saavy graduates.

    But, how can we truly address this if we are not able to keep up with the insanely fast paced progression of the tech world? Who is going to teach us? We have over 100 teachers at our school… only 20 are in COETAIL… and this is actually a decent ratio.

    I totally agree that we need to re-evaluate our approach to how we address the computer literacy of our students. This is a task that needs to be included in every classroom. We have a huge job to do as far as guiding them to manage a positive digital profile, but I would take this a step further to say that they should have some basic skills in how these machines actually work. By demystifying the magic of computers, perhaps we will empower students to realise that the digital machines that they can’t seem to live without don’t run on their own. There is somebody behind the creation of each and every web page or application that they visit.

    Thanks for an interesting read. Happy CoETaILing!

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