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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
(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!