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! 



Works Cited:

Bailey, G. & Ribble, M. (2005, April). Developing ethical direction. Learning & Leading With Technology, 32(7), 36-38. Retrieved from

Borovoy, A. (2012, Sept. 14). Five-minute film festival: Teaching digital citizenship. Retrieved from

CommonSense Media. (n.d.). Digital passport. Retrieved from

E-Rate Central, (n.d.). Internet safety policies and cipa: an e-rate primer for schools and libraries. Retrieved from website:

Hertz, M. (2012, June 4). How to teach internet safety to younger elementary students. Retrieved from

Hertz, M. (2011, October 12). Teaching digital citizenship in the elementary classroom. Retrieved from

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

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

Ribble, M. (2014). Digital citizenship: Using technology appropriately. Retrieved from



Media Literacy is a Super Power

Andrea Quijada, Executive Director of the Media Literacy Project, delivers an impassioned and convincing argument that students should be provided instruction on media literacy. Her TEDx Talk is entertaining and gives engaging examples of how media literacy positively affects students.

This week’s collection of resources is my favorite collection of curated media for the classroom. The collection includes various sources presented using different types of media, which allows for differentiation for students as well as differentiation for my peer teachers based on their technology comfort level. Andrea Quijada explains why people can gain a superpower if they know how to deconstruct and analyze media. Her Tedx Talk is actually my favorite source this week! In order to keep the following resources organized and well remembered, I will deviate from my usual format of “essay” and outline these sources in an annotated bibliography, which is more meaningful to me, and hopefully to my blog readers.

1. The Center for Media Literacy

CML provides sources intended for anyone involved in education. The amount of material housed in this site is almost overwhelming. Their resources are current, but for those looking for historical thinking on media literacy, CML has Media & Values magazine articles dated back to 1977. The most pertinent materials for me were housed in the section called “CML MediaLit Kit.” Here I found case studies, student-made examples, lesson plans, and helpful articles to use when presenting information to students. The materials on this site would be useful for students who are confident in their reading abilities. Much was not appropriate for students in younger grades, especially for those students who struggle with English.

2. Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship Web Video

Frank Gallagher, Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom, presents a background on the topic of media literacy and the importance of teaching students about media literacy. Gallagher offers a clear and concise view of the broad reaches and the broad definition of modern media. He gives an overview of what CIC offers which is guided by the idea that to be literate in media, you need to understand how to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. I found this video to be very effective from a teacher’s point of view. This video would be helpful in a professional development setting when a school is beginning a media literacy program and needs to provide a baseline of understanding of media literacy to all staff.

3. How to Recognize Bias in a Newspaper Article

Wikihow is a good source for “how to” articles. Of course, the reader needs to cross-reference materials to ensure credibility. This particular Wikihow article was edited by 35 users. It is a terrific step-by-step instruction that could be used by students to analyze an article. Although the site is intended to help students analyze newspapers, the instructions could easily be adapted for any article, whether it be presented in website or in other media format. I like that Wikihow distills instructions into short pieces of information coupled with pictures. This way of presenting information would work well with my middle-school-aged students who struggle with reading English.

4. Media Literacy 101: What is Media Literacy

Cable in the Classroom (CIC) provides an in-depth post on their website, which is a source which would couple perfectly with Frank Gallagher’s video, referenced above. The intended audience for this information would be “the presenter.” What I mean by this is that the information would be helpful for a teacher to gain more in-depth knowledge on the subject of media literacy before teaching a unit. Or this information would be helpful to a leader prior to presenting information to a school or district staff. This site would also be an excellent read as homework for teachers prior to a professional development session on media literacy. The CIC site has additional helpful resources beyond this article. They also provide links to other sources on media literacy and screen cable programs for appropriateness based on different audiences.

5. Creating Critical Thinkers Through Media Literacy: Andrea Quijada at TEDx

Andrea Quijada is very passionate about media literacy. Her work history has matched her passion as she has dedicated herself to media literacy for the last ten years.  For the past 20 years, she has maintained the role of community organizer. She presents nationally and internationally on behalf of the Media Literacy Project. When watching her TEDx Talk, I definitely got the idea that her added passion is advocating for young women and helping young women advocate for themselves. In her talk, she spoke of specific student examples and how media literacy positively impacted those students. She also shared powerful projects where students deconstructed media messages and provided their own “corrected” media message. Really interesting.

6. Teaching Digital Citizenship

Cable Impacts developed a resource site loaded with lesson plans intended for students in grades 4 – 8. The lesson plans use inquiry-based activities and collaborative opportunities. The lessons are organized by digital media topics: communication & collaboration, digital citizenship, privacy, media literacy, cyberbullying, ethics/copyright, and information literacy. The lessons are also tagged by type of standard to assist teachers in integrating these lessons into cross-curricular units. Good support materials are available for teachers to gain background knowledge. Additional support materials are available for students, for direct inclusion in lessons. There are also step-by-step lesson plans with helpful links to increase confidence in the novice teacher. All materials  are downloadable for any type of computer. This is especially helpful for those of us who may suffer from sluggish broadband.


Works Cited:

Center for media literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Gallagher, F. (Producer). (2014). Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship [Web Video]. Retrieved from

How to recognize bias in a newspaper article. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Media literacy 101: I. what is media literacy?. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Quijada, A. (Performer). (2013, Feb. 19). Creating critical thinkers through media literacy: Andrea Quijada at TEDx [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Teaching digital citizenship. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Cyberbullying is Bullying

“You being bully!”

An article on the “Kids Health” blog defines cyberbullying succinctly: “Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.” How do we address cyberbullying in schools today? Is it effective?

Before the discussion continues, we need to agree that cyberbullying is actually encompassed in the larger issue of bullying. The specific use of technology adds a facet to the larger issue, but the two go hand in glove.  As a matter of fact, bullying prevention programs often address cyberbullying as part of their curriculum. This begs the question “How is bullying being addressed in schools today?”

Schools all over the United States have adopted some form of an anti-bullying program. A recent study at University of Texas at Arlington, found that schools with anti-bullying programs were actually more likely to have bullying problems.

In another study, the U.S. Department of Education found that only 8% of anti-bullying programs used in American schools are actually research-based. One program, Olweus, was profiled by the U.S. Department of Education as an evidence-based proven program. It is a highly structured program that engages all players (administrators, parents, students, and community members). All players are coached in role-playing scenarios. They help proactively answer the what-to-do for all conceivable questions and situations.

After reading this study, I was left with the question of why I hadn’t heard about the Olweus program. It could be that the three districts I have worked in never had adopted a definitive anti-bullying program. To validate this, I checked all three district sites. The first district I worked in did adopt a program the year after I left. The other two clearly don’t address bullying anywhere on their public sites.

In Nancy Willard’s keynote presentation at the 2013 Bullying Symposium, she reported that during the three years Pennsylvania employed the Olweus program, they achieved no improvements regarding bullying. I am skeptical of this result. I wondered if Pennsylvania used the curriculum as it was intended, including all required communications and trainings. In my years as an educator, I found that schools and districts adopt many programs and then complained when they didn’t work in spite of their failure to fully implement.

Willard’s keynote was filled with excellent ideas to adopt in my classroom to create a community of students who can define bullying behavior and articulate what is acceptable and not. These strategies would easily work in a school-wide or district-wide setting. Further research on Willard’s suggested practices were found in articles and interviews with her.

Willard suggested beginning with a survey in order to collect data on student expectations regarding bullying. This could be altered to specifically address cyberbullying. The survey results would then inform the action needed for each school. The results should provide student quotes which can help norm a school. She strongly recommends including students in order to support positive peer intervention. She also uses this data to help students create positive social norms. More details can be read at Cyber Savvy.

I appreciated that Willard has a background in law. I believe that schools need to align with the vocabulary and expectations that are set regarding bullying by the courts. It would be wise to teach students and staff what is legally acceptable and not acceptable. I think this would bring some “real life” to the talk, and not come off as “just talk.” Although she admits that her suggested strategies are not yet “evidence-based,” there is plenty of evidence to suggest it will work.


Works Cited:

Almansi, C. (2011, Feb. 14). Cyberbullying: An interview with nancy willard. Retrieved from

Antoniades, A. (2013, Dec. 17). Reality check: Do bullying prevention programs work? Takepart, Retrieved from

Crosse, S., Williams, B., Hagan, C., Harmon, M., Ristow, L., DiGaetano, R., … Derzon, J. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. (2011). Prevalence and implementation fidelity of research-based prevention programs in public schools: Final report. Retrieved from website:

New, M. (2012, Jan.). Cyberbullying. Retrieved from

Nsbsd: Parent resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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

WFYIProductions. (Producer). (2013, Mar. 09). Bullying Symposium 2013 Keynote Speaker Nancy Willard [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Willard, N. (2013). Cyber savvy. Retrieved from

CommonSense Media

Digital Citizenship

Infographic courtesy of

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.


Works Cited:

Bailey, G., & Ribble, M. (2005). Teaching digital citizenship: When will it become a priority for 21st century schools?. Retrieved from

Digital citizenship white paper. (2011). Retrieved from Microsoft website:

Educating, empowering, and protecting america’s kids: A common sense media white paper. (2009). Retrieved from CommonSense Media website:

Media and technology resources for educators. (2014). Retrieved from

San Francisco County Superior Court, (2009). Williams case: An explanation. Retrieved from California Department of Education website:

What does digital citizenship mean to you? (2014). Retrieved from

Importance of Education Mission Statements and Digital Citizenship

Terry Pickeral, Co-director of the National School Climate Council, answers, “why is a mission statement important?”

Adaptation or creation of focusing elements, like mission statements and mottos, will inform supporting elements like character education in order to develop digital citizenship awareness in education.

We’ve been seeing mission statements for years. These tired pieces of paper tucked away, dog-eared and yellowed can’t be important, right? This must be an idea from yesterday’s schools. In fact, leaders in industries around the world do rely on mission and vision statements. A current article on the business website, Sitepoint, underscores the need for a mission statement. Its purpose is to synthesize the reason for being, give focus to the institution, ease the decision-making process, and hold the institution accountable. With this in mind, it is clear that an educational institution that does not review their mission annual and publish it for all to see doesn’t understand the purpose of a mission statement and is not a serious and dynamic educational institution.

A 21st century mission statement, distilled by all stakeholders, can easily include digital citizenship as part of the core focus. In my opinion, digital citizenship must be included in 21st century education. To ignore the inclusion of technology is not only backward, but serves to eliminate a core element of education. It would be akin to leaving out Reading, Writing or Rithmetic. In our reading of Digital Community, Digital Citizen this week, and in our discussion board, the idea of adding the words “global” or “digital” to mission statements was discussed. I accept the point that current mission statements can easily be adapted to include digital citizenship. But I don’t endorse the practice of arbitrarily throwing in 21st century words to mission statements. Too many districts create and adjust mission statements in order to check-it-off-the-list as opposed to making a meaningful adaptation in order to change a philosophy, or a way of doing business.

Part of the problem of changing words in a mission statement “for show,” was addressed in the Two Camps video on YouTube.  One camp is the “old school” leaders who think what we have done in the past applies to current practices. Frankly, I don’t understand how this camp is still encouraged in this day and age. Their existence contributes to this backward way of thinking that in education, we should just leave well enough alone. I was speaking to a colleague this week who felt that the number one job of education is to teach language arts. The second priority, he felt was that students should graduate being technically literate. After that is the instruction of math skills. If we look at education through this lens, expectations for graduation and for high stakes testing look a lot different than what we are doing in education now. Why are we still looking at education the same way we did in the 1950s? Why are we still looking at the inclusion of technology as an add-on? Why are we still letting teachers opt in or out of using technology in their classrooms? I question the ethics of the decision that instruction of a key component of 21st century education is an option.

Gregory, A. (2010, Nov. 13). Why you need to write a mission statement. Retrieved from

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

Ohler, J. (Producer). (2014, Jan. 8). Two Camps When It Comes to Digital Ethics [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Pickeral, T. (Producer). (2009, May 29). Why is a mission statement important? [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Learning in the Collective – #etlead

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Nerd Alert! Do you remember the ultimate collective? Here is a “twitter feed” from the Borg. (Courtesy of 

The traditional role of student and teacher has been changing. “…anyone who has particular knowledge of, or experience with, a given subject may take on the role of mentor at any time.” say Thomas and Seely, of A New Culture of Learning. They go on to describe how this happens continuously now because computers and Internet access allow anyone to view “an almost unimaginably diverse array of information and points of view.”

My husband and I have been active in the blogging community for years. We produce our own blog which showcases our life. We also read innumerable blogs on a variety of issues and converse with people via these blogs. Many of these blogs are quite controversial in the sense that there are often strong opinions and many heated and passionate conversations.

Authors Williams and Jacobs write about blogs and how the readership often depends on the “theatrics” of the bloggers and commenters. When the very nature of the exchange becomes entertainment, more people want to watch.

Significantly, rather than alienate a readership by exposing one’s personal traits and idiosyncrasies, this adds to the very popularity of a blog. As Jacobs explains, this is part and parcel of the theatre of interpersonal communication, played out to an undefined, virtually infinite public space. Indeed, this ‘exhibitionistic behaviour is encouraged, supported and even sought’ by the ‘cyber-voyeurs’ of this theatre; viz. ‘the readers of blogs, who post comments in reply to entries, often positively reinforcing the opinions of the blogger, but sometimes disagreeing on points of philosophy, politics or social comment, and occasionally ‘flaming’ the blogger for opinions expressed (Williams, 2004).

This theatric element of blogging also lends itself to a being more of a learning collective in the sense that more people participating makes the interaction richer, and in some cases more educational because of the diversity of opinions.

In the formal structure of my master’s program, I have participated in several MOOCs. These massively open online courses are a very current example of learning in the collective. People pop in and out of the MOOCs as their time and interest permit. Those who are taking the class for credit benefit from those who join, as the conversations certainly improve as the numbers of participants and the information they share increase.  The authors ask how one might harness the power of the collective. I think the movement towards MOOC education is one of the answers to their question.

I thought it was interesting that the authors of A New Culture… borrowed from Annette Lareau’s research which found that “…children who live in lower-income homes perform significantly less well in school as a direct result of poor educational attitudes and a lack of exposure to educational resources at home.” She goes on to illustrate that students from higher-income homes made significant gains because of their summer activities, namely reading. I think the point of the reference was to illustrate that people do cultivate information to become more educated in what they are interested in. They did not go on to address how or if the students in lower-income home cultivate information. This is the part of the story that seemed missing. Has anyone studied how/if concerted cultivation occurs in lower-income homes? Does the digital divide come into play here? I am really curious about this.

I contemplated how I learn in the collective and also how my students might learn in the collective. An interesting post by A. Littlejohn summarized other examples of learning collectives which are happening beyond the world of education. Crowdsourcing and digital networking in order to collect new ideas and improve on existing ideas happen frequently in large forward-thinking companies. Even though these type of activities are prevalent in business, they are now making their way into mainstream education.


Works Cited:

Herman, M. (2013, January 11). Are moocs the next phase in collective learning?. Retrieved from

Littlejohn, A. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Seely Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. CreateSpace.

Williams, J., & Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology20(2), 232-247. Retrieved from

The education collective. (2013). Retrieved from