I really love the iCitizen project. What an amazingly authentic problem-based learning experience! The students were connecting via social media (a medium with which they are comfortable) but in a way that allowed them to really connect with a real-world social problem. These college learners talked about humanizing the experiences with the other learners with whom they connected. I really think that our learners sometimes forget that other people are on the other side of their digital interactions. Reading this article reinforces the point that Lynn Mitchell makes in the 2016 article “Beyond Digital Citizenship.” Mitchell discusses the importance of modifying curriculum in middle school to include social media experiences because of impacts of social and political awareness that can come from carefully moderated experiences within the technologies and social media apps our learners are involved. This article also focused strongly on the need to help our learners develop and foster empathy.
The college students were able to develop their own definitions for iCitizens. I thought it very significant that they identified a difference in being an active citizen as compared to being a resident. These young people used social media, a tool with which they were comfortable, to connect with other young people to work on a problem that was meaningful to them. The students talked about the relationships that iCitizens have with others… those close to them and those that are on the other end of the internet connection. They described the responsibility that comes with that level of global connection. And the student spoke about the connections with others in their community, in other communities, and across the globe.
Overall, this project really reiterated the importance of project-based learning. The students made real world connections in an environment with which they were familiar. They were able to truly take ownership of what they were doing, which helped them make significant learning connections. They identified needs and attributes beyond what the instructor anticipated, with the need to help other learners develop empathy.
Curran, M. (2012). iCitizen: Are you a socially responsible digital citizen. Paper presented at the International Society for Technology Education Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX. Retrieved from (PDF: icitizen_paper_M_Curran.pdf )
Mitchell, L. (2016). Beyond digital citizenship. Middle School Review, V1, Iss3. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1154813