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