Teachers wish for their students to be good citizens. This is true in the classroom, in the community, and on social media. The foundation of our democracy is active participation in government by its citizens. It is key to our future that students understand what it means to be a good citizen and how to interact appropriately within the community and government. There are many good resources available to teach students citizenship.
But raising students to be responsible digital citizens is a whole different beast. Most teachers feel it is crucial for 21st century success for students. It is a noble goal and certainly sounds like a good idea, but how should educators go about really making this happen?
- How can we model good digital citizenship?
Modeling is one of the strategies teachers use when it comes to behaviors such as citizenship. Digital citizenship specifically is a hard thing to model for kids—their digital world is much different than the adult digital world. Many of the modes of communication that students use outside of school are unknown to adults, which makes it almost impossible for teachers to model good digital citizenship on these platforms.
- What do we teach when it comes to digital citizenship?
This quandary comes up for teachers who lack curriculum resources. Teaching digital citizenship is all well and good, but where do I start if I am a teacher, and what do I cover? How to I stay current on what students need to know?
- Options for modeling in the classroom
To help answer the concern about modeling, teachers can implement two different strategies. First, use classroom email to model professionalism. Second, use classroom-safe social media as a platform for supporting the students as they learn by doing.
Many teachers are able to use email as a mode of communication with students—this is a great opportunity for students and teachers to interact in a professional and respectful way. Teachers can begin to teach students about how their words come across online, how to handle conflict professionally, and how to communicate effectively.
Second, there are numerous classroom-friendly social media options that are closed to anyone outside of the classroom. Students can interact in these platforms safely and with the support and guidance of the teacher. By doing something with this structure, the teacher can help the students to learn from mistakes and failures that aren’t online for all to see.
- Options for curriculum in the classroom
Teachers need help when it comes to what to teach students about digital citizenship. Some resources and curriculum materials are better than others. Here are a few that I have found to be worth considering:
Common Sense Media
One of the best resources available comes from Common Sense Media, a non-profit that was founded to assist parents and teachers with helping students to navigate the digital world. Here are some great aspects of this site worth exploring:
• An online community of teachers to collaborate with about these topics.
• Grade-level specific curriculum (Nearpod lessons, PDFs, etc.) that teachers can pull from and use for free.
• Professional learning support.
• Engaging videos and games for students to learn from.
Teachers that I work with really find the site and the materials useful and engaging—there is a scope and sequence available for teachers to align with other grade levels. This is definitely a site worth checking out while looking for materials.
This site is a bit more academic than the previous site mentioned, but still very useful. On the resources page, there are numerous links to useful training tips for teachers and online tools to help teach students. Again, there is a kind of scope and sequence that is provided that can help align with other grade levels. The nice part about this section is that the author links the digital citizenship behaviors to broader social skills that are probably being taught in the classroom already.
It's clear that there are good curricular resources available and easy-to-use tools for teachers to model good online communication and interaction. Digital citizenship is such a broad topic that it can be hard to know where to start. My recommendation would be working with students on their online presence, their online privacy, and how to communicate respectfully in an online world. Students are often very naive about where their information goes and who is able to see it—they also don’t think much about the future implications of what they say or post online. Supporting students in these areas are a good place to start.
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