By Rachelle Dené Poth
October has become the month where educators participate in events focused on digital citizenship. However, the focus on digital citizenship is not only relevant during October — it’s important throughout the entire year. With so much use of technology, especially during the past school year, we need to make sure that we are helping students to build digital citizenship skills in our classrooms.
With so many students interacting and having access to social media and digital tools, they need to develop the right skills to navigate these spaces and be prepared to deal with any challenges or barriers that may arise. According to Pew research, some students expressed feeling overwhelmed due to the pressure that can come from social media, while others experienced positive outcomes such as strengthening friendships and developing a greater understanding of diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
We need to create opportunities for students to become more digitally aware and literate, and to be responsible when using technology. There are many ways to do this, depending on our content area and grade level. We can model best practices for our students, bring in a specific digital citizenship curriculum to guide them through their learning, or use digital tools and resources available to have students explore and create.
Helping students learn to safely navigate what has become a highly digital world is something that we are all responsible for. Students need to be aware of the impact of their posts online, how to create and manage social accounts and protect their information, and how to properly access and use resources they obtain through technology.
5 resources to explore
In my experience, I started by joining one of the October events and limited our focus on digital citizenship to that one day. However, for the past few years, I’ve been starting each new school year with a focus on digital citizenship and continue working on it throughout the year. I believe that it’s important to start with a discussion about interactions and what some of the challenges might be when it comes to using technology and our interactions.
In my eighth-grade STEAM class, we discuss each of the nine elements following the outline and the resources provided in the book Digital Citizenship 9 Elements by Mike Ribble. We have used the following resources in our class and, as an added activity, students choose one of the nine elements and create sketch notes that we display in the hall for the school community to learn about digital citizenship.
Here are five resources for teaching about digital citizenship:
- 21 Things 4 Teachers provides teachers with 21 different topics aimed at helping students to develop the technology skills they need for the digital world. There are learning activities and assignments for students to complete at their own pace. It also offers professional development through ten-hour self-paced learning modules which connect curriculum with technology and best instructional strategies. Students can learn about online safety and specific technology topics through activities, videos, and quests.
- Common Sense Education provides digital citizenship lesson plans to help educators address relevant topics and help students learn how to create their digital lives. There are many lessons available for different grade levels and topics such as media balance and wellbeing, digital footprint and identity, and cyberbullying. Each lesson includes a plan, estimated time, materials needed, and key vocabulary terms, making it easy for educators to get started.
- Be Internet Awesome offers a free curriculum that provides everything teachers need for teaching online safety and digital citizenship in the classroom. It has additional resources such as activities, charts, guides, and Google slides. Students can go to “Interland” to play different games to learn more about internet safety and keeping information secure.
- Book Creator now has three books on digital citizenship, created in collaboration with Common Sense Education. Students can also create their own books to share what they are learning, collaborate with classmates and build their own digital citizenship skills during the process. Books can include audio, images, text, and video. Have your class create their own Digital Citizenship book to inform others!
- Brain Pop has a variety of lessons and topics for educators and students. In the digital citizenship module, there are 16 topics, and one of the free lessons is Digital Etiquette. Students can learn about each topic by playing games, making graphic organizers, learning about primary sources, making a movie, and there are more interactive and personalized options available. Brain Pop has free and premium accounts.
- Nearpod has many lessons available for educators to get started quickly, with some lessons focused on digital citizenship. There are short videos that can be used to promote discussion and full lessons that offer a mix of content and activities that boost student engagement and involvement in discussions with their classmates. Nearpod offers more than 380 interactive lessons focused on digital citizenship and literacy.
Beyond using some different apps and websites, I also recommend checking out some blogs and books. A few of the books that I have used in my own classroom include Digital Citizenship in Action by Dr. Kristen Mattson, Digital Citizenship in Schools by Mike Ribble, and Digcit Kids: Lessons Learned Side by Side to Empower Others from Around the World by Dr. Marialice Curran et all. These books offer a wealth of resources for educators who are getting started with teaching about digital citizenship, and they include activities for use in classrooms.
Follow the hashtag #digcit on Twitter!
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