Sunday, 24 March 2013

Digital Citizenship

Let's face it, our students are the iGeneration! Preparing our students to be safe, responsible and respectful in the digital world that they live in is an extremely important job and someone's gotta do it!

This year, our IT strategic plan included most of the students in my school receiving an iPad! With our students using technology more and more, they are very much living in a digital world.

On Friday, 15 March I presented at the annual ECIS Tech Conference on our Digital Citizenship Programme in the Lower School with the mobile technology coordinator at my school. I was so excited to present to over 50 professionals from all over Europe! Below I will share with you what I spoke about in my presentation. Be sure to also check out the prezi that goes along with it.

As time has passed we have all seen the increased use in technology and the very strong need to work with our students on important things like how to stay safe while using all of this technology. As needs continue to arise I'm sure that like me, many of you have been working hard to develop a programme at your school to adress these needs. In developing our programme we wanted to make sure that we were being pro-active and not just reactive.

Our students have charged ahead into a digital world full of creative opportunities, ethical dilemmas and cyber-risks that were unimaginable just a few years ago. I believe that we will continue in this direction as things like iPads, phones and google glass get into the hands of younger and younger students. The topic of digital citizenship is certainly gaining momentum around the world. With the growth of bring your own device (BYOD) and 1:1 initiatives in schools, there is a need to talk about responsible use of technology. Every day, our students are tested with each post, search, chat, text message, download and update they make. We have always taught our students and our children manners at the dinner table, how to interact with others in public places and to treat others the way we want to be treated. Now we need to talk to our students about how to use good manners when leaving a comment and discuss with them what to do if someone is bothering them online or wants to meet them in person. These are the new social skills for our students.

At ACS Hillingdon we were all in agreement that these things needed to be integrated into our curriculum so we came up with an idea to develop a programme to support our students. It was so important for us to work as a team. At ACS Hillingdon that team was made up of our administrators, counsellors, librarians, IT department, teachers, parents and students. The time that we took to collaborate was vital in making this programme work.

We also came up with a school procedure called the Technology Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA). This agreement aligns with our school rule of respect. Our students are all very familiar with this document.

Another key component is working with our parents. Communication with parents is so important, always let them know what you are doing with students. Invite them in for parent information meetings and listen to their concerns so that you can help to address them or give advice. The internet is such an integral part of children's lives these days. Whether on a computer at school, a laptop at home, a game console or mobile phone, children are increasingly accessing technology whenever they can and wherever they are. As parents would protect their child in the real world, they will want to make sure that they are safe while using technology. Like learning to cross the road, online safety skills are skills for life. An important thing to remember is that what happens at home, at school and online all need to be addressed in a similar way.

Think about what technology was like just 5 years ago. In a short timespan it has changed so much! I have to admit it can be quite scary to think about what direction we are headed in and what technology will look like in 5 years. As technology constantly changes, you have to be willing to let your programme change with it. It is so important to be flexible and adaptable. Don't get your heart set on anything because your programme should not be set in stone.

When you think about everything related to digital citizenship it can be a bit overwhelming...

Take a look at this video, Be a Digital Citizen.

Ok, back to the development of our programme. So, with all of these other pieces in place I was then able to sit down with the other school counsellors at ACS. We thought of digital citizenship as an umbrella term that covers many important skills to be taught and topics to explore. Our first question was how can we make time for this in an already overcrowded curriculum? As the Pre-K to grade 5 school counsellor I am already going into classrooms every other week. During this time I run character education classes. Topics range from friendship to personal space came and from kindness to managing worries. I figured it would be easy enough for me to incorporate digital citizenship throughout the school year through my character ed classes. It is also important to note that this is NOT the only time that we talk about digital citizenship or cyber safety. As things come up we adress them. Something might come up with a classroom teacher, a specials teacher or in the hallway. All of our teachers integrate this into their day to day activities and as needed, especially for those important teaching moments.

So we had our team, AUA agreement, parent support... next, the counsellors developed a scope and sequence using the NETS performance indicators. Other schools have scope and sequences so do your research before you sit down to do this. We borrowed ideas and put them together in a way that worked for us. Once our research was done the counsellors worked together on a shared google doc. We came up with two strands for our scope and sequence; digital citizenship and cyber safety. Our scope and sequence is our map and it is our expectation that as students progress through our school they will move from basic to intermediate to proficient in these areas. Here is part of what it looks like, for the whole document check out my prezi.

Now with our plan I needed some activities. That's where common sense media comes into the picture. They are hands down my go to resource for digital citizenship. Common sense media shares a FREE digital literacy and citizenship curriculum to help educators empower their students and their school communities to be safe, responsible and savvy as they navigate this fast-paced digital world. Their activities are research based and come with videos, extensions, student assessments and follow up material to send home to parents. Not only that but common sense media is a great resource for parents too!

Their curriculum covers eight categories and the sequence consists of spiraling units, each containing five lessons that build on one another, reinforcing developmentally appropriate topics through age-appropriate activities. Incredible, I know! I will almost always start here and take bits and pieces to make activities work with my students. Here are some examples of some lessons I have done with my students so far this year...

In kindergarten at the beginning of the school year we learned about, going places safely. Students are comparing staying safe in the real world with staying safe in the online world. By the end of the lesson they see that the rules are the same whether you are on or offline. After going through this activity with my kindergarteners at the beginning of the school year, watch this video to see what they took from it.

In second grade we did the lesson, follow the digital trail. This was fun because my second graders were detectives. They were looking up information about Electra the elephant and Mizzle the mouse. They got to determine who had a bigger digital footprint by following their digital trail. Students understand the important message that once you put something online it is part of your digital footprint, which is permanent.

Next, in fourth garde we talked about staying safe online. Here is a video of my fourth graders so you can see what they learned from some of our activities.

I loved using this poster with my 3rd and 4th graders!

I know, there is a ton information. Sorry for the overload but I could talk forever about this. I will end this very long post with a quote, "Technology has a tremendous impact on our culture. Like learning how to read and write learning digital citizenship prepares students to fully participate in a digital world that is here to stay. Let's prepare our students with the best internet filter in the world... the one right between their ears." Cyberwise

What do you do to teach your students about digital citizenship? I am always looking for new ideas and resources. Be sure to comment below!!


  1. Lauren, an excellent post. I featured this post on my blog about digital citizenship. As I mentioned in my blog, I appreciated how you and your colleagues drew together elements that already existed in your school (character education, work with parents, etc.) to develop your digital citizenship programme.

    Hope you like what I wrote.

    Thanks again,

    Ed Brazee
    Orono, Maine

    1. Ed,
      Thank you so much for your comment! I really enjoyed your blog post and being one of the three perspectives that you highlighted on digital citizenship. I am always excited to learn more about what direction other schools are heading in. Thanks again for featuring my post!

  2. Hi there! I just stumbled upon your blog. Nice work! I have nominated you for a Liebster Award! Check out my blog to see what it is all about. I'm looking forward to following your blog.


  3. Emily,
    How exciting!!! Thank you so much for sharing the Liebster Award with me. I have been the worst blogger lately, but this is such motivation! I look forward to following your journey and thanks for your interest in mine!