Thursday, September 4, 2014

Digital Citizenship in the Elementary Classroom


Kids as young as age 2 are beginning to understand how computers work and how to find the activities that they like. It’s no wonder that those of us in the elementary classroom are finding that students are coming to us prepared to find Disney and Nickelodeon with no trouble. While this is a useful bit of knowledge to have, these same students have very little understanding of how vast the Internet truly is, and the implications of their actions online. It’s our job as educators to help them understand the “rules of the road” in order to help protect them.

As teachers, we are given the unique opportunity to provide students with dedicated instruction on how to stay safe online. The tricky part of teaching this topic is balancing teaching safety skills, while still making the content real for students. In elementary school this can be difficult. I encourage you to reach out to parents and let them know that you are going to explore the topic and offer them tips that they can use at home to support the new ideas.
A major component of teaching this information is finding strong tools to help you teach the content. One of the best tools that we have encountered recently was created by Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) called Digital Passport (digitalpassport.org). Digital Passport is a tool that provides a set of 5 lessons that teach students about internet safety, mobile technologies, cyberbullying, internet search skills, and copyright. The games that are associated with each section are incredibly entertaining and educational. Digital Passport also offers lesson plans for teachers, and the ability to track student progress throughout the sessions. I recommend this for grades 3-5.

For younger students, I have found that Router’s Birthday Surprise (www.netsmartzkids.org/RoutersBirthdaySurprise/Adventure) by NetSmartzKids (www.Netsmartzkids.org) works incredibly well at conveying internet safety tips. This site approaches the subject matter through an interactive cartoon featuring Router. Each section focuses on a different tip, and has a quick form of assessment at the end. The songs and the method of presentation make this site very popular with students in grades K-2.

If you are finding that you are lacking the time to work with these tools, we highly recommend the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (bit.ly/micsi) offered by the Attorney General. The Attorney General representatives will come to your school and put on free presentations to students and parents on how to stay safe online. The tools that they offer are extremely valuable and make a lasting impact on students and parents.

If you question the need for time to be spent on this topic, ask your elementary students how many of them have Facebook accounts. Every hand that goes up is an opportunity for you to change their
lives and keep them safe.

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