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How Digital Citizenship can be promoted through Non-formal Education

The Council of Europe recommends promoting and developing digital citizenship education in order to “ensure that every citizen has access to equitable and inclusive education and enjoys the right to education” (Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)10). The concept of digital citizenship is gaining more and more attention as technology becomes more prominent in day-to-day life, but how can we as educators promote it through non-formal education activities?  

Digital citizenship requires the knowledge to be a responsible person online; in a broad sense, this includes the ability to access technology, stay safe while using it, and avoid harming others. With access to the Internet comes associated risks for young people, including cyberbullying, data breaches, and anxiety/depression (OECD, 2019). For young people in non-formal education, it’s important that they are trained in the skills required to be a digital citizen; without this education, the associated risks become even more prominent.  

One way non-formal educators can promote digital citizenship is through the concept of blended learning; this is the enhancement of face-to-face learning with technology. This type of learning can help students acquire digital skills under the supervision of a teacher with the support of fellow students as well (FutureLearn, 2021). The structure of blended learning ensures that those struggling with the technology aspect of it can receive the help they require.  

Additionally, teachers can use the topics within digital citizenship to spark discussion among their students. For example, the topics of cyberbullying and depression/anxiety is something that many young people can relate to, and this emotional component can make for rich discussions and debates. Hearing other students’ perspectives can also help to open their minds to different points o view concerning the topics at hand.  

Lastly, digital citizenship can be promoted in non-formal learning environments through projects that encourage them to use their digital skills. For example, students can create a digital marketing campaign in small groups for an imagined company they have created. They can design a very basic website, company logo, and promotional materials to draw new customers in. Another idea is having students create a short film to bring awareness to an issue they are passionate about. This would require having the skills to research their chosen cause online, film the video, and edit as a final product.  

Overall, our biggest recommendation to educators wanting to promote digital citizenship in their classrooms is to explicitly discuss and create activities around it. Any sort of structured activity that asks them to apply their digital skills can help to develop them as such.   

Also, another way is for teachers to join initiatives that will give them the right tools and material. Such initiative is our ACDC – Active Citizens Digital Citizens project. During its implementation, we will develop non-formal education activities on different topics, including digital citizenship.  

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