Digital Citizenship in our Brave New (Digital) World

In this brave new digital world we live in, I believe it is everyone’s job to both teach and learn about digital citizenship (parents, teachers, and students themselves).   It’s the when and where this teaching and learning is taking place that can be challenging, and I’m not sure it is being taken seriously.  Many educators aren’t even really aware or convinced themselves that digital citizenship is something worth teaching…or if they do, they have trouble finding the “time and space for it in the curriculum.”  (I myself looked at a lot of the links and resources for this course and initially determined they weren’t appropriate or applicable for my young students.) While some of the articles What Are Teens Doing Online? are definitely geared to high school teachers, parents or teens themselves, it doesn’t mean that digital citizenship instruction in the early years isn’t important….it just looks different.

It might begin by learning about the proper way to take care of the devices in the classroom, as suggested by this Common Sense Media Poster:

Common Sense Media's Device Care Poster

Common Sense Media’s Device Care Poster

We made a class book using My Story and took pictures showing the dos and don’ts when using the ipads, which we later shared on our blog.  

Wrong: Wrestling over the ipad. Photo Credit: Jocelyn  Sutherland

Wrong: Wrestling over the ipad.
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

Right: Sharing the ipad Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

Right: Sharing the ipad
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland







One aspect of “device care” I hadn’t anticipated in that first lesson but became an issue months later was one clever 5 year old student visiting the App Store and indiscriminately downloaded games,  filling up storage and cluttering the ipad home page.  I had to explain that we always ask before downloading anything and immediately changed the security settings.

Another thing I have noticed is Digital Literacy/Citizenship instruction often not as integrated as we might like–currently grade 3 at my current school completes a unit about Digital Citizenship.  Early Years collaborated with grade 3 on that unit by becoming blogging buddies.  We practiced and refined our digital citizenship skills by sharing our blogs and by partnering up and making productive and positive comments.  However, once the unit is over, it can be difficult for teachers to make the time to continue these good practices.


Practicing Digital Citizenship skills through commenting. Screen Shot of our class blog.

Practicing Digital Citizenship skills through commenting.
Screen Shot of our class blog.


Earlier this year, after being inspired by the Common Sense Media resources shared in a PD session, I worked with my tech coach to deliver an online safety lesson.  We used the lesson, Going Places Safely lesson. It likened the idea of visiting places online to visiting places in real life and making safe choices in both.  The students enjoyed the “Virtual Field Trips” to places like MoMA or the San Diego Zoo.  We extended the lesson by broadening the boundaries of our travels:  some of the students began exploring Google Earth.  We first  looked up our campus –to everyone’s delight–and then went all over the world.

Although there were a lot more  great lessons, I stopped here, at this point in time figuring my students were still too young to really need to go deeper.  I knew in class they mostly used a small range of apps, and didn’t typically go looking for things on the internet…Well, now I know they do manage to find their way…kids will click anything, and some apps can easily lead away to Youtube videos of thinly disguised ads aimed at young children, which then offer a whole slew of other suggested videos that turn our otherwise Creation App filled iPads into TV screens.  And just because at school my 4 year olds are not (typically) surfing the net, doesn’t mean it they aren’t doing this at home or elsewhere.  This brings us back the question of whose job is it to teach digital citizenship?

I’d like to look at Common Sense Media’s My Creative Work lesson more closely with my students.  I currently encourage them to write/type their names on their artistic contributions, where possible, but we are not yet writing the date, but we do love stamping it!  

An oldie, but a goodie

An oldie, but a goodie

Recently, I have started asking the students to name their Artistic pieces, in particular the photographs we are taking as part of our Photography Exploration.  I will be honest and say I hadn’t really considered that the process of doing this is not simply a record keeping task, but a digital citizenship task–making it easier for others to reference your work.  This is something I will begin to work on with my students and remember to do myself when sharing and posting my own photos.  

I must remember to credit my own work, if only to make it easy for others to credit me later.

One area of digital citizenship we are addressing in my class is what sorts of things should we be posting to our blog? I currently have it set up that students do not need teacher approval, that what they choose to post goes directly to the blog.  I know many teachers would shudder at this, but with my small group of students, this is manageable, and after a few hiccups at the beginning of the year with students posting silly Puppet Pals videos of themselves mostly screaming, I haven’t had to delete many posts.  They seem to understand what is a quality post and (for an Early Years student) worthy of sharing.  

I deleted my own personal version of this picture.  Context goes a long way.

I deleted my own personal version of this picture. Context goes a long way.

(There was one panic inducing moment when one of the students snapped a picture of me,  wearing a black cape and role playing the evil stepmom from a fairy tale and immediately posted it to the blog, despite my protests. When I looked at the picture, without any context, it was unflattering and looked though I were imitating a Muslim woman praying…It goes without saying I immediately deleted the post and we had a long class discussion about asking people’s permission before posting a picture of them.  Although, now that I think about it, I didn’t really address this with my students at the beginning of the year, and don’t typically ask their permission to post pictures of them, now, either. Not a simple discussion.) 

There are many aspects of Digital Citizenship to consider and figure out, and I anticipate a huge learning curve as I move to the role of Ed Tech Coach next year, while at the same time moving to digital portfolios as a school. There is no time like the present to just jump in!

6 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship in our Brave New (Digital) World

  1. Layla Block

    Thank you for this reflective blog Holly. I agree with you that finding the time to do anything that is not “prescribed in the curriculum” is challenging. There is so much to learn and teach. I would argue that schools need to integrate the teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship in all subjects and across the 3 divisions of the school. Learning how to effectively and safely use technology is crucial not only in 1:1 schools but in all schools since students are networked and connected everywhere and from a very young age today. I really like the ideas that your school adopts in teaching kids digital skills, such as the collaborative work in your grade 3 classes. The challenge is how to sustain that kind of work and the teaching of digital literacy so it is mot just one unit of study that is taught, done, move to the next.

    Privacy online is an intricate issue. Just like you said, we ask students not to post pictures or information about us without our consent, but do we always model that? Do we ask our students for their permission before we share anything about them? Do all school require parents to sign a media release consent form that pictures/ videos… can be posted online for educational purposes merely?

    Yes, I agree that there is so much to learn and understand. This course has been really challenging my ideas and pushing me to reconsider my practice. Good luck with your new job next year. I am sure that Coetail learning will help you tremendously in your endeavor.

    1. Holly Fraser Post author

      Hi Layla,

      Thanks for your comments. Digital Literacy needs to be more integrated–maybe a greater focus on the Literacy aspect–that technology is a language our kids need to be fluent in in order to navigate the world in the future…will help things.

      I’m guessing most schools require media release forms, but just because the parents are giving consent (with young ones, that’s the case),it doesn’t always mean the student does (or maybe for some things, but not for all.)

      Thanks for your well wishes!

  2. Paul Foley

    Hi Holly,

    Really enjoyed your post all though I am slightly dissapointed that we didn’t get to see the picture of you praying! I love that you have turned off the teacher approval for the blog posts. I have done the same this year and it has really changed the children’s attitude towards posting. SUre it presents some problems but bthe flow of conversation among my Year 6’s is much better without their teacher “hovering” over them approving everything.
    I think it is also important to explain to children about the power of a positive digital footprint and that instead of thinking about what you say on the internet being a negative trail that follows you, think of it as a trail that can guide people to the best aspects of your character/personality/work.

    Hope your COETAIL journey has started positively and enjoy Course 2 as it is a great one for reflection on your teaching!



    1. Holly Fraser Post author

      Thanks for the feedback Paul. I’m pretty sure I searched all copies–cloud/apple/camera roll and deleted…I was thorough. 🙂 Thanks for the link–I’m working hard to improve my own digital footprint and getting more comfortable sharing online, thanks to Coetail. My students were born ready!

  3. Pingback: Digital Citizenship Education Needs to Start Now | Amber's COETAIL experience

  4. Laura Evans

    Hey Holly,
    I can understand that it can be hard for teachers to find the time to teach about good digital citizenship but as you use blogging in you class, I also found that simply setting up a class blog was a great way to integrate this learning instead of finding time to explicitly ‘teach’ it to students. I, like you, also took the brave step of taking off teacher approval for posts and was apprehensive at first. We started out with establishing Essential Agreements in our Kidblog. My kids are 7-8 years old so it acted as a sort of public contract as their parents and the other students in the class could see that everyone had made a pledge to act kindly to each other:
    I found this set the tone for the rest of year in a really positive way. By posting reflections and encouraging discussion with my students it helped them develop their own sense of whats appropriate online and just getting that conversation started.
    If you havent already seen it I suggest giving this a read about The Compass Advantage, I thought it was really interesting in terms of the moral vocabulary we should be using with our students: you have time, check it out!:-)

Comments are closed.