Digital Citizenship should be thought of as a core skill for today’s K-12 students. The digital world in which they live is one filled with opportunities, but includes a number of dangers of which digital users need to be made aware. Many of the parents of today’s students are using technology without realizing the power of the tools they are using. Many of them have not been taught about safe and ethical use of the Internet, so they are not capable of teaching their children. That’s why it’s so important that we, as educators, understand our responsibility to these children. They live in a digital world, and need to know how to use it safely, and we are their best hope for becoming good digital citizens.
In my role as a K-5 technology educator, I spend the first quarter of every school year focusing on technology rules and digital safety, respect and responsibility. One of my go-to resources for this unit of instruction is Common Sense Media. I’ve been a registered user of this site for more than five years, and have taken advantage of the many resources offered, including posters, lessons, and parent information, much of which is available in both English and Spanish, which is a necessity in my district. A scope and sequence is provided for classes at grade levels K-12, including lesson plans for each unit. One of my favorites among the lessons is the “online neighborhood” instruction and video, both of which my 1st grade students enjoy. There are also online activities for older elementary students to play independently, including digital compass, or the teacher/classroom based digital passport. Teachers are able to create classes in Digital Passport, assigning specific activities and tracking student progress. My favorite activity in the application is one in which students create a video using music and images, crediting the artists every step of the way. In the end, the video credits the producer, the musicians, and the photographers. The experience inspires students to think differently about the credits at the end of a movie, understanding the importance of providing credit where it’s due. Another activity in this online classroom requires students to identify appropriate and inappropriate text messages.
Another website that is used for elementary aged students throughout my district is NetSmartz. Children enjoy getting to know Clicky and his friends, who are animated characters on the site. Clicky and his friends animated music videos about Internet safety, which are featured on a weekly basis, and there are accompanying activities that students can enjoy independently. I recently printed some posters about internet safety and technology use from this site, which I shared with classroom teachers, in an effort to keep our rules about technology use consistent throughout our school.
While digital citizenship should be a core skill in schools today, it needs to be taught by not just the technology instructor but by all educators. If the teachers in any school are consistent with their expectations regarding the use of technology and digital citizenship our students will be better able to recognize their ethical, responsible and safe use of digital tools.