Friday, March 11, 2011

Practicing Digital Citizenship

Like many states, here in Illinois students are required to receive a certain number of hours each year dedicated to Internet Safety. While the idea is noble, the parameters are quite sketchy. I have heard about schools having “Internet Safety Day” or some such “special” occasion. It reminded me of the Andy Hardy movies and the obligatory “Let’s put on a show, kids!” As many of you probably believe, shouldn’t every day be internet safety day? Too often these “occasions” serve no purpose other than compliance; very little learning occurs.

One of my duties is to develop our Internet safety curriculum here at my school. We have designated sophomore health class to focus on preventing and protection from Cyberbullying. It would be part of their “personal safety” unit. Since this topic is so important, I didn’t dare trivialize this with a mere dissemination of information. Instead I would like to explain what we are doing:

First, I replaced “Cyberbullying” with “Digital Citizenship.” I mean, do we call a reading class illiteracy? Next, we had to devise a lesson that would be meaningful to students and help make a difference. For the past couple of years I have been advocating that teachers develop writing situations that have an authentic audience and purpose. Let’s face it, most “audiences” are teachers (who have to read it any way) and the purpose is to get the grade, right? What we decided to do was have our students look at an essential question and research some foundation questions. Here’s what we came up with:

  • What does it mean to be a Digital Citizen?
  • What is Cyberbullying?
  • How can I protect myself from Cyberbullies?
  • How can I become a model Digital Citizen? 
Using a variety of resources students would research these questions and create…something. But what? Before we decided on what, we had to decide on an essential element: audience. Wouldn’t it be great if our sophomore students could help younger kids understand how to safely navigate cyberspace? Imagine how a fifth grader would respond to tuteledge from someone a few years older…as compared to a teacher.

Through Twitter, I have fond nearly 20 elementary and middle school teachers who will participate in this endeavor. By using Edmodo, our students will write, Glog, and video messages to these grade school students. Then, the younger kids can respond or ask questions of their “cyber mentor.” The final step will be for the older kids to respond back to the younger ones dispaying Good Digital Citizenship.

Sure beats having an internet safety fair.

If you teach grades 5-7 and would like to participate, please fill out this form.

As the project continues, I will post how we are progressing. Needless to say, I am really looking forward to this.