Why Digital Citizenship Matters

I am sure that you have a classroom management system to keep order within the class. You expect your students to act a certain way, treat others with respect, and overall, display good citizenship. You most likely put a lot of effort in during the first couple of days to establish this culture, and I am sure that you address issues that conflict with your expectations throughout the year. You, my friend, are teaching citizenship, a non-academic skill that we expect students to learn in school!

So why wouldn’t we want to do the same with our students’ digital behaviors? Do we just assume that the transition will be made seamlessly from the physical to the virtual? We would be doing our students a disservice by providing them digital learning communities without training them how to be a citizen of those communities.

If you agree that students should receive training, the question is who should do the training. Often times this defaults to the computer teacher. This would make sense because this is where computer skills are taught! But wait, aren’t students using devices in your classroom? Aren’t you providing them digital learning opportunities, where they can interact with others in an online collaborative space? Then you are an integral part of their digital citizenship. You, too, need to open up that discussion with them.

WHERE TO GO?

I have used and recommended Common Sense Media as a guide for digital citizenship lessons as well as a resource for parents to go to. Common Sense does an excellent job of curating content and ideas for each grade level, and they provide excellent resources and guidance for teachers to develop engaging lessons that spark discussion. Lessons are available as a PDF, iBooks, or Nearpod presentations.

There are also other interactive options and games for students to work through. Digital Passport has five different modules that focus on privacy, communication, upstander, search, and creative credit. Each lesson provides an icebreaker, a game where students practice and learn, and then a wrapping-up activity. Digital Passport is aimed at grades 3-5.

Digital Compass is geared towards grades 6-8. This interactive game is a choose-your-own-adventure story where students get to pick from 8 different scenarios. Each scenario deals with a relevant topic to students in this age range, preparing them for high school. Students play through and are able to see the consequences of their choices. Students can replay scenarios as many times as they want in order to see how different choices lead to different consequences. This is a great way for students to test out what poor decisions could do to someone before they actually make them for themselves.

Digital Bytes is a program that focuses on ages 13+. While the bytes are meant to be a collaborative project, students can work on them individually. This section of Common Sense allows students to actually respond to digital dilemmas and create media to help educate others.

NEXT STEPS

Use one of the games or go to Common Sense Media’s lesson page and begin teaching! It is never too late in the year to begin! Make this a part of your curriculum throughout the year. It is never a one and done type of thing because it is a part of every student’s lives. Also, share these resources with your colleagues and administration. Become a Common Sense educator yourself and advocate for your school to become a Common Sense School as well!

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