A lot of the facts you teach your students will be long forgotten by the time they reach graduation, but the hope is that the practical lessons — the ones that can benefit them for years to come — are the ones that will stick. Digital citizenship is something that can equip students for a lifetime of safe, responsible Internet use. How can you mold your students into stand-up digital citizens? Use these resources to help you plan your lessons.
Ready-Made Lesson Plans to Launch Learning About Digital Citizenship
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Ready-made lesson plans about digital citizenship can serve as the perfect launchpad for discussing this topic in class. The following resources have what you need to help you organize your thoughts and present digital citizenship in an appealing way:
- In honor of Digital Citizenship week, Edutopia put together a list of the latest and best resources to help educators bring digital citizenship awareness to their classrooms. Digizen made the cut. It welcomes visitors with this appealing description of its main goal — the website “shares specific advice and resources on issues such as social networking and cyberbullying and how these relate to and affect their own and other people’s online experiences and behaviours.” The glossary section is particularly useful, as it defines computer-related terms that your students — and you — may not be familiar with. Some of the information here is specifically geared toward educators.
- The good folks at Google have joined up with iKeepSafe to develop a curriculum that highlights three vital areas of responsible online behavior: differentiating between truth and lies on the Web, using wise practices to manage online reputation, and being able to pick out harmful scams. Each part of the curriculum includes a lesson plan, handouts, and at least one video.
- Common Sense Media offers a resource for educators to teach students about digital literacy and citizenship that includes a bounty of other resources about digital citizenship. Short videos use personal accounts to illustrate the importance of digital citizenship. The website also showcases a printable curriculum and colorful posters that highlight important points.
- Cyberwise follows the mantra, “No grownup left behind!” Their website has a host of information geared toward educators and parents. For a small fee, you can take an online course to hone how you teach your students about digital citizenship. The blog is also worth a look; it provides regular updates and reminders about how kids and adults can stay safe in cyberspace.
- The Kings Canyon school district in California offers a list of digital citizenship lessons organized by grade level. The lessons include PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, and other materials.
- Brainpop serves up a selection of adaptable digital citizenship lessons that you can tweak to fit any classroom between kindergarten and 12th grade. The material addresses things like bullying, online safety, and research.
Engaging Games to Promote Digital Citizenship
Younger children are often so enamored with the Internet that they fail to pay attention when adults warn them about the dangers that lurk in cyberspace. To keep them engaged with the topic of digital citizenship, games are invaluable. The Global Digital Citizen Foundation put together a list of tools that teachers can use to reach a young audience, including the following games:
- Webonauts Internet Academy by PBS Kids helps students between eight and 10 years old to recognize the pitfalls of online activity. You can use the game to start a discussion about digital citizenship or to reinforce the points you make during classroom discussion.
- Younger elementary school students will love AT&T’s Safety Land. As they navigate around Safety Land, students answer questions about Internet safety and, if they answer the questions correctly, catch a cyber criminal and put him away.
- Digital Passport, another gem from Common Sense Media, helps children in the same age range as Webonauts Internet Academy. Digital Passport uses games and videos to encourage wise online behavior. Registered teachers can receive reports about how students perform on their way to gaining a “digital passport.”
Furthering the Discussion
Middle and high school students are at great risk when they enter cyberspace. The Crimes Against Children Research Center conducted a study that found that 77 percent of targets for online predators were older than age 14, and 22 percent of targets were between 10 and 13. Use the following resources to help facilitate in-depth discussions with these at-risk groups:
- Forbes recently featured an interview with Julie Ann Horvath, a developer who became a victim of cyberbullying. Her real-life experiences and her strong feelings about online conduct can get students thinking about how their actions impact others.
- Psychology Today discusses steps that parents can take to combat bad online behavior. The provided list of websites is useful because it highlights some sites that are popular with kids and teens, but not as well-known by adults. You can explore these websites and tie them into your classroom discussions.
- OnGuardOnline is a government website that promotes safe online behavior. The site addresses things like how to avoid scams and how to make sure a computer is secure. OnGuardOnline’s blog is regularly updated with hot news items that relate to online safety.
- Digitalcitizenship.net explores what it really means to be a digital citizen. The “Nine Elements” section breaks the subject down and touches on areas of digital citizenship that don’t always get a lot of attention, like digital commerce and digital health and wellness.
- Webroot takes the definition of a digital citizen a step further by discussing how it is becoming increasingly common for people to advocate their political views online. As the article says, “Protest signs have been traded in for Twitter accounts and hashtags. People log in instead of sit in.” It can get students to think about how they can use the Internet to bring about change.
- Staysafeonline.org, a site powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance, offers parents a guide on how to help their children stay safe. The site also has a “get involved” section that you can use to motivate students to take their digital citizenship to the next level, and help make the Internet safer for everyone.
Your students need to understand that they are not only citizens of their country but also citizens of cyberspace. These resources can help you explore this topic with them and urge them to make wise choices.