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

A Digital Drivers License or A Digital Passport: Curated Programs to Teach Digital Citizenship

The digital passport by Commonsense Media will be tested out this week by my class of 6th graders. Hopefully some of my peers at my school will join me in this test as well.

In order to teach students about digital citizenship and its importance, teachers need materials. In our Google discussion this week, there was complete consensus that two of the tools offered on the Internet would be very useful in this instruction when accompanied by thoughtful discussion and support by teachers: The Digital Passport and The Digital Driver’s License.

I still maintain that, to have an extremely effective program, highly effective materials need to be supported by leadership with a vision that includes meaningful integration of technology. Individual teachers can use these tools in order to have meaningful discussions with students about digital citizenship. If students only hear about digital citizenship issues here and there (inconsistently), it will not have the same staying power as if a whole school (or district) adopted this philosophy and learning.

In addition to looking at the Digital Drivers License and Digital Passport programs, I sought out other materials that would be helpful in teaching students all the components of being a responsible digital citizen. Edutopia is a consistent provider of very helpful information on topics like educational technology. It posted a brilliant article called the Five-Minute Film Festival. This post features a video playlist of twelve videos that cover a broad range of topics under the umbrella of digital citizenship. The intended audience for these videos include a mix of student and teacher viewers. For those wanting more information or to explore the topic further, Edutopia has curated additional resources.

Cable in the Classroom is another site that has put together a comprehensive list of videos and activities in order to teach about digital citizenship. These sources are intended for students in grades 4 – 8. The idea behind this site goes beyond becoming a responsible citizen. I like that this site offers videos and lessons that really make students think. For example, there is a lesson on viewing media and how advertisements affect people. CIC has completely laid out lesson plans which support both common core standards and ISTE standards. After my students complete their digital passports, I will lead them through Cable in the Classroom’s lessons to both give another level of depth to the subjects for my students and also to test out the materials from a teacher’s perspective.

In researching tools to support teaching digital citizenship, what I have found is there is a mass of materials. This is a very important topic worthy of having a multitude of tools. It is really helpful to have sites curate a core selection of materials to help up teachers of specific grade level ranges. As an individual teacher, I will test out the materials that seem most suitable to my students and their skill level. I will continue to advocate for school-wide adoption of digital citizenship programs in order to best serve our whole student body.


Works Cited

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

Common Sense Educators. (Producer). Common sense media: Digital passport [Web Video]. Retrieved from

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

Digital drivers license. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Empower students to be inctrl in a digital age!. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Elements of Digital Citizenship

The focus of this week was centered around Dr. Mike Ribble’s book, Digital Citizenship in Schools. Dr. Ribble suggests that schools look at digital citizenship from the perspective of nine elements: digital access, commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette, law, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security.

My colleague, Andrea Stineff, did a terrific job illustrating the analogy of a driver’s license as compared to driver’s education. I enjoyed the picture she painted as a young child, too young to drive, begins the awareness of etiquette (communication) on the road and continues adding to their vehicle and road awareness to the point of expertise as a licensed driver. This is a clear cut example that can be used with a leadership team as they rally interest in digital citizenship in their staff, student body, and parent support.

Honestly, the nine elements presented in the text were not new to me. But, I found Dr. Ribble’s suggestions for assessing school and student levels of knowledge and responsibility, when it comes to digital citizenship to be reasonable and helpful in the sense that a school community could easily adopt these strategies in order to build a strong plan. If a school wants to meaningfully look at technology and digital citizenship, it is helpful to have tools at the ready to help make this change fluid.

The issue of school change does center around leadership support. Ribble suggests “The technology leader is the administrator, technology coordinator, or teacher who is responsible for leading the technology work done in the school, site, or district.” Dr. Ribble, I respectfully disagree. As a coordinator for a school who is a strong advocate for integration of technology (which includes digital citizenship) and who has attempted in many ways with many audiences to inspire change, the coordinator cannot make the change happen without leadership support. The IT Director for my district has also expressed frustration with the level of technology integration in our district due to lack of high level administrative support. So, again, I am advocating that leadership vision for a 21st century school which includes technology and support for staff is the key to ensuring change happen.

My sentiment is mirrored by the authors of Project 2061,

Although teachers are central to reform, they cannot be held solely responsible for achieving it. They need allies. Teachers alone cannot change the textbooks, install more sensible testing policies than are now in place, create administrative support systems, get the public to understand where reform is headed and why it takes time to get there, and raise the funds needed to pay for reform. Thus, school administrators and education policymakers need to support teachers.


Works Cited:

Chapter 14: Reforming education. (2013, Dec. 09). Retrieved from

O’Connell, J. (Producer). (2011, Apr. 30). Digital citizenship in schools: Dr. Mike Ribble [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital citizenship in schools. (2nd ed.). Eugene, OR: ISTE.

Curating a Digital Footprint

Scare tactics at work.

In a day and age when schools are still looking backward to see what footprints look like behind them, forward thinking educators are coaching students to curate their digital footprints and to imagine what footprints could look like.

For years, schools have watched over students to ensure they are safe. This protective stance is what still informs how we take care of students as education tries to evolve with technology. Many of our digital citizenship programs teach students about the evils of technology and how they can avoid these monsters. A YouTube video created by Romero Benjamin in 2011 is an excellent example of how we continue to teach our students about digital citizenship. Watch out for hackers and bullies! Especially watch out for what might be associated with you out on the Internet! And for god’s sake, don’t post anything that might hurt you in a job interview some day! Cyber bullying has reared its head as being the latest and greatest in bullying issues. Bullies can have long-lasting effects as they spread slanderous tales about you across any number of social media. As well-meaning educators, we tend to solve these problems by either ignoring social media by blocking student access at school or we confine our discussions to dealing with the direct problem at hand.

Proactive educators are seeing digital footprints as an opportunity. Certainly, we need to educate students about the perils of a negative footprint. But forward thinking teachers and school leaders are teaching students to curate their digital footprint. A blog written on the subject by W. O’Byrne, who is a professor of educational technologies, gave advice that can be distilled into one sentiment: “I would rather be proactive and create online content that people will be directed to when they search online for information about me.” In researching additional thinking on the subject, Jason Ohler’s youtube video on digital footprints held my favorite advice. Meaningfully post media on a regular basis to create the footprint you want. I teach 6th graders. I usually have them post media under an account set up by me. Why not teach students to set up accounts for themselves? The projects we do could be posted under their names. This would enable them to think about and maintain control of their digital footprints at a young age. I can imagine critics arguing about age limits and other obstacles. Whether we like it or not, students set up accounts prior to the allowed age.  If they are old enough to be on social media, they are old enough to curate their digital footprint. I envision a school with a forward thinking plan would have parent meetings to explain the school’s thinking. I am specifically thinking of the school I currently work at. Almost all of my students are on Facebook. None of them are yet 13. Projects they create could be posted on Facebook, with parent knowledge. It would be another way to include the community in virtual school activities. Brilliant!

Benjamin, R. (Producer). (2011, August. 11). Computer Ethics: Online Privacy [Web Video]. Retrieved from

O’Byrne, W. (2012, March 19). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

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

Ohler, J. (Producer). (2014, Feb. 03). MOOC spr2014 digital footprint [Web Video]. Retrieved from