Posted by: Jill Spencer | March 12, 2013

Opportunities to Address Digital Citizenship Are Everywhere

When to teach digital citizenship?  The quick answer is: “Every time you have an opportunity!” The many facets of digital citizenship–social networking, email, intellectual property, publishing, etc.– lend themselves to integration across the curriculum.  Here are a couple of examples:

1. The research project: The traditional instruction related to writing research reports usually includes tips for finding resources, methods for taking notes, the proper format for bibliographies or work consulted pages, and discussions about plagiarism.  The digital world offers text, images, and audio for students to access as they research and create “products” to demonstrate their learning.  These choices open a whole catalog of possibilities for abusing intellectual property rights.  The Association for Middle Level Education’s Middle Level Insider posted an article I wrote on using the Internet responsibly–it may be helpful as you teach the research process :

2. Language Arts literature units: Characters from novels and short stories potentially would  have a lot to say on social networking sites like Facebook .  In Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Cassie Logan and Miz Lillian Jean get into a real knock-down altercation.  A quick activity might have students assuming roles of the two girls and other characters writing possible posts to Facebook based on the incident.  The girls really disliked each other, so one can imagine that some posts would be negative in nature. As the posts are shared in class (and not really posted), students might be asked to think about and discuss the ramifications for the girls if it were (1) really the 1930’s in rural Mississippi, (2) in the students’ own school in modern day,  and (3) in the future when a potential employer or school admissions officer or even the parent of a new boyfriend were reading these posts. These quick assignments provide opportunities to explore how social networking comments can escalate quickly with unforeseen consequences, that nothing posted ever really disappears, and what your posts say about you as well as about the person you are commenting on.

3. Social Studies: Think of all of the great questions related to the Constitution and the the Bill of Rights as seen through the lens of the digital world!

  1. How far does Freedom of Speech extend to electronic messages?
  2. Does the 4th amendment mean that my school-issued computer cannot be searched without a warrant?
  3. Does the Freedom of Assembly extend to things like Google Hangouts?

Finally, if you have never visited Common Sense Media’s site, it’s worth a visit!

They have resources for educators and parents.

Do not wait for your school to develop a formal digital citizenship curriculum–look for opportunities everyday to talk with your students about the rights and responsibilities of being a digital citizen of the world!


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