It’s Elementary: Responsible, Ethical, and Shrewd Digital Citizens

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Project tweet announcing this blog post.

The Digital Citizenship link will allow you to download a PowerPoint presentation intended to convince elementary school leadership and staff to adopt digital citizenship curriculum in order to teach appropriate, responsible, and creative digital citizenship. You may also view this PowerPoint on my Google drive without having to download it by clicking here.


The Why, When, and How of Digital Citizenship for Elementary Students

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
― Margaret Mead

Mike Ribble explains that digital citizenship refers to the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use. He further breaks down the norms into nine categories: etiquette, access, law, communication, literacy, commerce, safety, health & welfare, and rights & responsibility. As technology becomes increasingly prevalent, Ribble advocates that educators take a central role in teaching students how to be good digital citizens. Jason Ohler offers a complementary idea. He urges educators to contemplate digital citizenship in schools. “Of specific importance is how to manage learning in the digital domain so that we can help students become lifelong learners who develop perceptions, perspectives, and habits of mind that will allow them to navigate the Digital Age creatively and critically” (Ohler, 2010, p. 6). Ohler goes on to state that schools must help students understand how, when, and why to use technology if we want to raise students to act creatively, responsibly and wisely. I couldn’t agree more. In order to accomplish this, schools need to use proven curriculum to help them instruct and guide their students.

Schools in the United States that accept e-rate funds are required to adopt and use digital citizenship curriculum that addresses 21st century skills needed to interact online appropriately. If a school is not mandated to educate students with digital citizenship curriculum, it is morally imperative that they do so. Ribble poses a strong argument for schools that are on the fence regarding whether or not to offer digital citizenship instruction to their students.

Digital citizenship needs to become a priority in school curriculum and staff development programs. Students need a way to find true north. Technology misuse and abuse is a societal problem that has reached an all-time high. Today’s students are tomorrow’s adults, and habits learned as a child follow us into adulthood. If school district curriculum and staff development programs do not begin to address digital citizenship, the problem will only get worse (Ribble, 2005).

With an understanding of the concept of digital citizenship and the agreement that we must teach students these concepts, the next questions become when and how.

Elementary age students are now engaging in social media and digital communication. Edutopia blogger, Mary Beth Hertz, writes regularly on the topic of digital citizenship. Hertz’s blog proposed digital citizenship be addressed with Kindergartners under the umbrella of “stranger danger” and Internet safety. Brilliant. As long as the material is developmentally appropriate for the elementary school students, no age is too young to address digital citizenship.

Agreeing that digital citizenship is a critical piece of 21st century education and agreeing that elementary school is an appropriate age to begin instruction and discussion on the topic, the next step is to determine which materials to use with students. For the purposes of this presentation, my focus is on material that would be appropriate for upper elementary school students. Amy Erin Borovoy curated a collection of videos for Edutopia that she titled “The Five-Minute Film Festival: Teaching Digital Citizenship.” The collection begins with background information and discussion starters. The video collection continues on to include topics such as online safety and privacy, curation of a digital footprint, and digital citizenship project ideas. These videos could be downloaded and shared with students without having to count on reliable Internet connections. For grades 3 – 5, Common Sense Media put together a phenomenal resource called “Digital Passport”. This web-based curriculum includes videos, discussion topics, and interactive games. The topics addressed in their curriculum include appropriate digital communication, cyberbullying, effective Internet searching, and proper citation. Along with the online material, teachers can print or download a workbook to help reinforce the learning objectives and keep students organized. There are also downloadable posters and certificates to keep students motivated and engaged. Best of all, there is a detailed educator guide and video materials to help even the most digitally timid teacher.

My personal motto is Making Digital Literacy an Educational Reality. Digital literacy begins with being a responsible and thinking digital citizen. Today’s students are tomorrow’s adults. Let’s invest in a brighter, shrewder future.

Let’s go work on our digital passports! 

 

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Works Cited:

Bailey, G. & Ribble, M. (2005, April). Developing ethical direction. Learning & Leading With Technology, 32(7), 36-38. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ697346.pdf

Borovoy, A. (2012, Sept. 14). Five-minute film festival: Teaching digital citizenship. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/film-festival-digital-citizenship

CommonSense Media. (n.d.). Digital passport. Retrieved from http://www.digitalpassport.org/educator/materials

E-Rate Central, (n.d.). Internet safety policies and cipa: an e-rate primer for schools and libraries. Retrieved from website: http://www.e-ratecentral.com/CIPA/cipa_policy_primer.pdf

Hertz, M. (2012, June 4). How to teach internet safety to younger elementary students. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/internet-safety-younger-elementary-mary-beth-hertz

Hertz, M. (2011, October 12). Teaching digital citizenship in the elementary classroom. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/internet-safety-younger-elementary-mary-beth-hertz

Media smarts: Canada’s centre for digital and media literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://mediasmarts.ca/

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Ribble, M. (2014). Digital citizenship: Using technology appropriately. Retrieved from http://digitalcitizenship.net/Home_Page.html

 

CommonSense Media

Digital Citizenship

Infographic courtesy of http://www.microsoft.com/security

Digital Citizenship must become a priority in public education. However, technology misuse/abuse is a societal problem as much as it is a school problem. If we are to become a civilized technological society in the 21st century, technology leaders must create a vision for intelligent technology behavior. Digital Citizenship must become the norm and not the exception in our society. (Bailey & Ribble, 2005)

At this point, I hope all educators would agree that technology is part of education. I understand that this statement is only a hope. Once this hope becomes a reality, there are a plethora of educated people that understand that visionary leadership is the fundamental key that will change the expectations of the inclusion of technology in our classrooms. Bailey and Ribble’s quote above from a 2005 article is one of countless examples which underscore the need for leadership support.

Once leadership begins to think of technology as a given, which is actually required by our state standards, then we can move on to an implementation plan. In this day and age, with the commonality of technology, and with the inclusion of technology spelled out in the Common Core and the new Alaska state standards, I find it neglectful on behalf our our students that leadership has not grasped the need for educational technology for every one of our students. What will convince them? What entity needs to take them by the scruff of their necks to force this issue? A class action lawsuit was filed in the state of California to require all schools to provide equal access to instructional materials. I wonder if it will take a class action lawsuit to bring educational technology to every Alaskan classroom.
CommonSense Media outlined the educational need in their 2009 white paper.

The Need for Digital Literacy and Citizenship. This dynamic new world requires new comprehension and communication skills, as well as new codes of conduct, to ensure that these powerful media and technologies are used responsibly and ethically. Much of the interaction in this digital world happens at a distance, which can diminish the rules of cause and effect, action and consequence. Additionally, much of digital life takes place under the cloak of anonymity, making it easier to participate in unethical and even illegal behaviors. (CommonSense Media, 2009)

 At the point that all accept the need for digital literacy and citizenship for each of our students, educators will need quality materials to help them consistently and accurately educate students. CommonSense Media is already a provider of such materials. Their materials are available for teachers via website links, downloadable iBooks, or mailed flash drives which are preloaded with all their material for teachers who do not have online access. Our Google discussion on the topic of CommonSense Media’s materials indicated a consensus that the materials where easy to use for both students and teachers who were at any level of comfort with technology.
The iBooks are intended for devices that can easily play iBooks, like iPads. The books are available for four different age groups that range from Kindergarten to 12th grade. I downloaded one book as a sample on my MacBook and found that most of the iBook functioned well, after the initial download. I was able to push the download to all my student computers in an overnight batch, in order to take advantage of the hours of the day when the broadband is least impacted. If students were allowed to bring their own devices at my school, the iBooks would function better on iDevices. All the functionality, as the iBooks intended, would be available on iDevices.
The online materials from CommonSense come in two forms. The Digital Passport, which is intended for grades 3 – 5, provides an excellent platform for students to think about digital citizenship scenarios and skills. During instruction, using the online passport, teachers should take the opportunity to have open discussions with students about the scenarios and how those scenarios may apply in our students’ real lives. The other materials that are available online for teachers are step-by-step lesson plans, videos, and toolkits. All are well-organized and relevant. For those teachers with highly unreliable Internet or no access to the Internet, CommonSense media offers their media through the mail for a nominal fee.
My overall assessment of CommonSense materials is that they are excellent, relevant, and easy to use. Unfortunately, technology is still a choice for most educators, so only those that opt in will benefit from these terrific and free resources. I will continue to use these resources with my students few students in order to make some impact. Hopefully, others will follow suit.

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Works Cited:

Bailey, G., & Ribble, M. (2005). Teaching digital citizenship: When will it become a priority for 21st century schools?. Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/uploads/TeachingDC10.pdf

Digital citizenship white paper. (2011). Retrieved from Microsoft website: http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9781980

Educating, empowering, and protecting america’s kids: A common sense media white paper. (2009). Retrieved from CommonSense Media website: http://www.itu.int/council/groups/wg-cop/second-meeting-june-2010/CommonSenseDigitalLiteracy-CitizenshipWhitePaper.pdf

Media and technology resources for educators. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators

San Francisco County Superior Court, (2009). Williams case: An explanation. Retrieved from California Department of Education website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/ce/wc/wmslawsuit.asp

What does digital citizenship mean to you? (2014). Retrieved from http://www.microsoft.com/security/resources/digital-citizenship.aspx