Growing Digital Citizens

April 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Digital Citizenship, Global Collaboration, Internet Safety, Links, Literacy, Planning, Resources, Web2.0 | Leave a comment
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During the last two weeks of school I’ve led digital safety lessons for all classes K-5 in the lab. This was a follow up to lessons at the beginning of the year and last winter for the 5th grade when they started blogging. I was reminded of the need for ongoing digital safety and citizenship lessons and daily teachable moments while in a Digital Citizenship workshop led by John Mikton at the recent ECIS IT conference. This is certainly an area that needs planned lessons (ideally embedded into a relevant project)- not just for our students, but our colleagues and parents. There are several free, online resources for support materials, curriculum lessons, informational letters, and other valuable materials and ideas that can take out a good deal of the footwork when planning. My favorites are listed below, but I also use delicious to bookmark sites, blog posts, and articles as I come across them- not to mention searching within delicious, edublogs or twitter.g5sample1

There are 3 groups to provide ongoing digital education- ourselves, our children and our parent community.

Ourselves: At a recent on-campus professional  development day, my savvy colleague Andrew held a workshop on privacy settings for Facebook. It was well attended and a perfect way to awaken awareness for protecting our digital footprint. I also believe that all educators need further training on the overall issues in this area, in order to seize those teachable moments in the classroom, and prepare for issues that may arise when exploring Web2.0 activities and tools with students.

Our children: The safety lesson for the kindergarten classes (age 6) centered around the CBBC Dongle Rabbit video was followed by a discussion of the messages in the video. With children this young, I focused on one main message: There are many interesting things and opportunities on the Internet, but always take an adult you trust when you explore cyberspace. I did have to take time to explain what “cyberspace” meant, but they very much enjoyed the video and discussion and afterwards drew a KidPix picture showing themselves and an adult viewing something on the web. This time around I’m looking to create some great captioned images from the students to enlarge for posters to display in the lab and around the building. I’m using a variety of topics for the grade levels, but found that the grade 4 students were as excited about creating a captioned image in KidPix as the kinderkids were. During these lessons I’m also mulling over possible lessons for the fall that will be more relevant and tied to their beginning year curriculum. Also, we don’t need to be in the lab or in front of a computer to explore these issues, for example we used role-play and skits during Mikton’s workshop.
With grade 5 we viewed and discussed this video. This was the third discussion in this area as we viewed and discussed this video when we began blogging last winter. I also recently participated in the Sounding Board with a group of about 20 students for the Net GenEd project. This was such a valuable hands-on experience for the students to learn about IT communication issues and how to present oneself online.


Parent community: Every school and organization can reach out more to their community and this is a way to raise parental awareness and build our school community as well. I attended some of these PTA evenings as a teacher and parent in the US and the meetings were usually led by a town Police-tech officer who presented horror stories followed by ways to lock down tech in your home. More effective and positive is holding evenings for parents that educate and inform parents of the wealth of opportunities that tech provides, while also sharing age-appropriate guidance and resources that allow safe use. I have seen evidence of this approach on Kim Cofino’s blog, Always Learning, describing the plan for their parent coffee mornings. When visiting a school’s blog I always look for ways the school reaches out to the community in this regard for positive ideas and approaches. Providing hands-on workshops for setting search parameters in Google or other search engines, etc will be appreciated by parents and a great way to build relationships within the parent community.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to have a school-wide plan for digital safety and citizenship. By this I mean an active curriculum of topics to introduce at certain grades and times of the year. Due to rapid growth in communication technology, this should be reviewed and revised at least once a year, or as needed. One great place to start is with the curriculum established by CyberSmart. Orientation for new staff, ongoing workshops or in-school newsletters and quarterly PTA meetings will be beneficial. Adopting a mascot figure for the school, such as the BBC’s Dongle rabbit, will also provide a focus for everyone and a common vocabulary that encourages awareness daily throughout the school.


Two of my grade 3 gardeners in New Hampshire

I suppose I’ve always viewed digital awareness as a separate, but related, subject. The more we see tech as something that provides tools and opportunities for many kinds of learners, the easier these topics will be to embed into a lesson or teachable moment. It’s like learning to garden and learning which tools are best for different tasks, how to care for the tools and use them safely, as well as the many other skills and concepts we need to grasp in order to sustain and enjoy an abundant garden.

CyberSmart free online K-12 curriculum
CBBC Dongle the Rabbit Be Smart video and rules
Netsmartz Videos and lessons for kids aged 6+
NetNanny Inexpensive, effective Internet Protection software
ISB Parent Technology Coffee Mornings
Beyond Digital Workshops from John Mikton- great resources


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