Interview With Digital Citizenship Expert Shannon Miller

Q&A with Shannon Miller, Teacher Librarian and Digital Citizenship Expert

Shannon Miller PicAfter earning her degree in elementary education and art, Shannon Miller stayed home with her three children for thirteen years. When a district teacher librarian position opened up, she applied, got the job, and went back to school to get a master’s in library science. As a teacher librarian, she worked with students in kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as teachers, parents, and the school community. After several years on the job, Shannon began speaking and consulting about librarianship, technology, education and connecting classrooms online with social media. Today, she’s regarded as a thought leader on these topics. On top of her presenting and consulting work, she’s now an educational consultant for Mackin Educational Resources, the Director of School and Library Strategy for In This Together Media and the Executive Director of Library & Educational Services for Biblionasium.

Digital citizenship is a new topic at Flocab. This summer, we created the video “Think Before You Post” with our partner Common Sense Education, offering tips for students juggling multiple social media channels and deciding what to post on them. We know it can be tricky! To gear up for this year’s Digital Citizenship Week (October 19-25, 2014), we talked with Shannon to learn how she teaches students about our lives online, and why she’s so passionate about it.

Flocabulary: What is your definition of digital citizenship?
Shannon Miller: To be a digital citizen means that you are aware, responsible, and part of the world that we know, which is filled with technology, collaboration, and connecting to one another in a variety of ways. I often think about this though…should we keep calling it “digital citizenship” or just make it part of the definition of citizenship? Everyone is digital, it is everywhere, and it is part of almost everything we do. So why keep adding “digital” – it is just part of who we all are as citizens.

Flocabulary: That’s true! When did you begin teaching students about digital citizenship, and how have your lessons changed or evolved as technology has developed?
Shannon Miller: I began teaching students about digital citizenship a month into my job as a teacher librarian. When I first got hired, I was teaching 7th and 8th graders keyboarding. Before long, I was in the curriculum director’s office talking to her about changing the class to be one filled with exploring, creating, and collaborating through digital tools and resources. With this, I also knew that we had to make digital citizenship part of our curriculum within these classes. Then, it didn’t take long for me to see that this had to be infused into all grade levels within our district, as well. We wrote a new curriculum that would bring digital citizenship, technology, information literacy and a love of reading to all our students. You can find that curriculum here. From the start, I used this curriculum to guide the topics we covered, but used the technology and tools to bring creativity, exploration, and fun to the learning and teaching of these topics.

One age level that didn’t have a lot of resources was for our youngest learners. I went to my friends at Rosen Publishing and asked them if I could write a series of books that would help teachers and parents have conversations with young students about important topics. The series is called Internet Do’s and Don’ts and includes titles such as Be Nice Online, Don’t Share Your Address Online, and Don’t Share Your Plans Online. You can see them here.

Flocabulary: Since many students enjoy using social media and technology, the topic of digital citizenship has natural relevance to their interests. Tell us about one of your favorite digital citizenship lessons.
Shannon Miller: One of the best parts of using social media and technology with young people is being able to connect them to anyone throughout the world. We can connect them to other students and teachers, to experts, to authors and illustrators, to developers, to gamers – to anyone they want to connect, learn, and collaborate with. When our students entered kindergarten, we started using Skype to bring the world into the library. This brought an important conversation on being respectful and safe online while connecting with others. One of my favorite things were these first connections because of their excitement and fascination with Skype and the connection taking place. To connect the little ones to a class in Wisconsin or to the author of Little Critter, Mercer Mayer, is one of the best things ever and will create digital citizens who can communicate and collaborate with others through these connections and beyond.

Shannon McClintock Miller also blogs at The Library Voice, where she highlights her work within education, technology, social media, and digital citizenship.