Thursday, November 12, 2015

Do YOU Know Where Your Students Are Online? The Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship

You've got some downtime for some of your students since they finished their work early.  Rather than giving them a book to read or another activity to complete, you give them permission to "play" on a computer or another mobile device in your classroom.

Before you allow your students to use the technology, it would be a good idea to think about the following questions.

  • Do you know what website your students are using?  
  • Do you know what your students are doing online?  
  • Do you have a proper filter installed?  
  • Is social media allowed or blocked?  
  • Do your students have the ability to communicate with others online?
  • Do you have Google SafeSearch or another safe search engine enabled?  
  • Are there inappropriate ads on the websites that your students are using? 
  • Last but not least, is there someone in your school who can guide you in taking the proper steps to ensure that your students are using their devices appropriately?

If you answered "no" to one or more of the questions above, it would be a very good idea for you to learn about Digital Citizenship, why it's important, and how you can provide your students a safe and responsible use of technology.

So, what IS Digital Citizenship? Digital Citizenship is the understanding of human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and the advocating and practicing of safe, responsible and ethical use of digital information and technology. (ISTE, 2007)

As educators, teaching our students social skills is not enough anymore.  In the 21st century, we need to teach them how to embrace the online world responsibly too.  Our students are not only communicating and collaborating with others face to face, but they are doing so with others whom they encounter in the digital world.  Digital Citizenship reflects the world that our students live in and we want to be able to understand the lives that they lead.  In addition, teaching these skills to our students allows us to address things and to be proactive as opposed to reactive.   Students have so much more engagement now with the digital world, and as they are doing that, sometimes they don't make the right choices.  Students sometimes don't really know what they are doing or the effect of how they are communicating with others.  We want to make sure that our students know how to use technology wisely and safely.

So HOW, do we teach them Digital Citizenship?  We do this in the following three ways.
1) We DISCUSS the concepts and importance of Digital Citizenship with them.
2) We MODEL proper use of digital tools - even to our youngest learners.
3) We PROVIDE our students with the necessary tools and experience so they receive practice in performing good Digital Citizenship skills.

I have spent the past few years teaching Digital Citizenship to students in elementary grades.  When I first started, I absolutely had no idea where to begin.  I was fortunate to learn about Common Sense Media's Digital Passport Digital Citizenship curriculum.  The program includes many educator materials, resources, interactive games for students, and it's FREE.  This past year, Common Sense Media released a Digital Citizenship curriculum for students in middle school entitled Digital Compass.  I'd highly recommend you checking out these resources if you have not done so already.

The information below serves as a guide to teaching students about Digital Citizenship and its importance.  This was developed by Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach).  You can find the original document at  I have found this resource very useful in teaching students various Technology Skills.

      K-8 Technology Curriculum Scope: Digital Citizenship
  • Kindergarten: What information is safe/not safe to share online?
  • First Grade: What information is safe/not safe to share online? How do people use online tools safely to communicate?
  • Second Grade: How do people use technology communicate responsibly?
  • Third Grade: How do people use online information responsibly?
  • Fourth Grade: How do people use online information responsibly and respectfully?
  • Fifth Grade: How do people use technology responsibly?
  • Sixth Grade: How do people use technology responsibly for research and communication?
  • Seventh Grade: How do people use technology responsibly for research, communication and collaboration?
  • Eighth Grade: How do people use technology responsibly for research, communication and collaboration?

Here are some great resources for teaching Digital Citizenship:
Common Sense Media
What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship, by Vicki Davis
Edutopia lists many resources on its website too.

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