Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Indiana Loves Digital Citizenship!

Jennifer Chance Cook currently serves as Technology Integration Specialist in Perry Township Schools. You can find her on Twitter @jenchancecook, on Google+ as Jennifer Chance Cook, and on Facebook as Ms. Chance Cook. Perry Township students are 1:1 on Chromebooks in grades 2-12. 

Jennifer is passionate about Digital Citizenship and Maker Education. At various times in the past she has been a classroom teacher, a museum educator, and a provider of extracurricular science programming. Her most recent former position was as a K-5 Media Specialist. Her most unusual position was definitely the one that required driving a (plastic) horse skeleton out to schools and other sites to conduct hands on anatomy explorations. A huge skull in your passenger seat earns you quite a few odd looks at drive through windows!

**Be sure to check out the Office of eLearning's Digital Citizenship page to learn more about digital citizenship, find resources to use in your classroom, and get information on Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship Certification Program. 

Digital Citizenship

The need for students to learn responsible citizenship has never been greater than it is today. In addition to face to face interaction, our kids are able to talk to people across the world in just a few keystrokes. In addition to traditional publishing methods, anyone and everyone can put their work and opinions out there on web pages, blogs, and social media. With those great opportunities come great responsibilities, and educators who fail to address digital citizenship in their classes are depriving students of desperately needed guidance and experiences.

There are many resources out there to help teachers engage their students in lessons and discussions about digital citizenship. There are games in the BreakoutEDU sandbox I have used to introduce or review the topic, and BrainPop has fantastic videos available to their subscribers, but the resource that I find most useful and come back to again and again is the Common Sense Education site.

Common Sense K-12 Curriculum

Common Sense has a full, K-12 curriculum for Digital Citizenship. Their eight topic strands not only cover the basic issues of online safety and responsible posting, but also branch out into related issues of media literacy and healthy self-image. Many of these topics are a natural fit for addressing subject area standards in Computer Science, English Language Arts, Health and Wellness, and Social Studies.

The Common Sense materials are are very practical and kid friendly. Although targeted at a particular age range, the activities are adaptable for a variety of ages. I have taught variations on the same core lesson about Creative Credit to 3rd graders in the library and 7th graders in a digital communications tools course. It was equally effective at getting both groups to think deeply about what is right and what is fair.

The curriculum authors have taken what could be a very dry, abstract subject and made it relevant to students’ lives. Copyright becomes a powerful concept to students when they think in terms of other people using THEIR work without permission, and stereotypes in the media are seen as a real and present challenge when students analyze the way that those messages are used by stores and advertisers to manipulate kids and parents.

Digital Interactives

In addition to the main scope and sequence of lessons, Common Sense has also produced a series of student games and interactives: Digital Passport for upper elementary, Digital Compass for middle school, and Digital Bytes for high school. Used alone, these tools give students a grounding in the basics of digital citizenship and online safety. Used in combination with class conversations and thoughtful teacher questioning, they can provoke deep thinking and reflection about our place in a digital world.

My personal experience has been with using Digital Passport with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade library classes, as well as designing lessons for our elementary computer aides to teach using the Digital Passport materials. Each segment of the Digital Passport (Communication, Privacy, Cyberbullying, Search, and Creative Credit) has a video and accompanying game for students to complete independently, as well as a module guide for teachers to use in guiding introductory activities and reflection, and in providing opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge.

Digital Passport never feels preachy or off in tone. The videos are brief and focused, featuring kids talking about how the issues have affected them. The games are engaging, and many students want to return to them on their own. For my students, Share Jumper has been the overwhelming favorite. One caveat: teachers do need to remind students to engage with the games thoughtfully and not just jam buttons!

The Digital Compass Interactive for middle school takes the form of a set of interlinked Choose Your Own Adventure style stories. While I have not personally used this with students, I have heard positive things from teachers who have, and I have played through it a bit on my own.

Each Digital Compass story reflects real world situations that middle school kids often encounter. The interactive storytelling format allows students to play through the scenarios and make a variety of choices in a safe environment. It encourages them to explore the different possible paths and see where the decisions are likely to lead.

While Digital Passport for elementary is a series of topical games, and Digital Compass for middle school is a set of interconnected stories, Digital Bytes for high school students is a more mature format to engage older teens. It takes the form of more traditional online learning modules, with longer video content, opportunities for written reflection built in, and collaborative projects. Like the interactives for younger students, though, Digital Bytes still offers students choices in their learning.

These tools, and the more formal classroom curriculum, are a wonderful resource for teachers who are committed to helping students learn to live healthy, responsible lives in today’s wide digital world. While there are certainly no one-size-fits-all solutions to digital citizenship education, Common Sense Education offers a rich menu to choose from when selecting quality experiences.

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