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Catholic Teacher blog: Digital citizenship – the opportunities

Tania James  |  25 July 2018

As responsible digital citzens, how do we 'do good?'. The second and final part of the Catholic Teacher blog on digital citizenship.

Canadian author and educator, George Corous talks about how we might be setting the bar too low for our kids. Digital citizenship is about more than just ‘being good online’ (read his article here).

He talks about how, with the power of the internet, social media and digital devices, kids have opportunities like we never had before. Imagine the difference you can make with the power of the internet. Do you want to be remembered as the person who filmed the school bus fight and posted it online? Or do you want to be someone like Julien Leitner – a 14-year-old who used a 100-second video to raise $2 million for charity? Shouldn’t we encourage students to use this social media power for good not evil? 

Digital citizenship and Catholic schools

What makes Catholic schools different from government schools? It’s the way we live out our Gospel values in our school communities. In the document, The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School (1988) it is mentioned that God put the world at the service of the human family and that it is up to us to live out the Gospel values of love, grace, justice, freedom, and peace.

As Gandhi said: ‘We need to be the change we want to see in the world’. We need to teach our students to live in the way Jesus taught and only through doing this, are we able to proclaim the Good News through witness and word. What this means is that the Gospel values should permeate everything we do in the school setting, the values should permeate every learning area. We need to explain to our students that, if you’re being a clown online, if you’re being nasty or you’re doing something that is deceitful, greedy or unjust then you aren’t living like Jesus. Ultimately, we are here to serve God. Speaking from a Western Australian Perspective, The Western Australian Bishops Mandate states:

‘Education should never be for self-centred purposes, such as to acquire personal power, material prosperity or success. Rather, it should be to help people develop into the integrated persons God intends, including as individuals who have learned to ‘serve and be responsible for others.’

Serve and be responsible for others

To me, service is key. In addition to Australian schools teaching the core subjects, we also weave the General Capabilities and Cross-Curriculum Priorities through the curriculum. As Australian Catholic educators, we also have another set of priorities to integrate across the subjects, the Gospel Values and Teachings of the Catholic Church.

When we provide students with access to digital resources in our schools, is it good enough to just teach them to ‘behave’ online? Or should we be aiming higher than that, as George Corous recommends, we should be looking at exploring the power of love, service, and humility via the power of the digital age. The Bishop’s Mandate also states:

‘Values are critical to evaluating real-life situations and working out how to respond to them. Students also need to understand values to interpret the real meaning of their life experiences.’

As educators, we need to think seriously about the power our digital natives have and to teach them, with love, kindness and support how to do great things to change the world. We need to teach them to proclaim the Good News just like Jesus did. Because after all, they have a miraculous power he never had – high-speed internet access.

Tania James is assistant principal and vice-president Catholic Assistant Principal’s Association, Western Australia (CAPA W.A.).; @taniajames. 

See Digital citizenship through a Catholic lens – the challenges for part one of this two-part series into digital citizenship.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash


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