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How to Teach Digital Citizenship to Your Students: Part I

By Matthew Lynch — January 09, 2017 3 min read
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Just as students have to learn how to be good citizens within their community, they need to know how to behave and be a positive part of the digital community. Digital citizenship is an important responsibility that everyone needs to understand as it encapsulates as many aspects of behavior and actions as physical interaction does. Depending on the age of the student, there are different areas that you can focus on. As the student’s age, you have to ensure that their understanding and ability to be a good digital citizen continues.

Starting with stranger danger and cyberbullying, your students will need to continue to learn about this aspect of technology throughout their educational career. In Part II of this piece, we will discuss three ways that you can teach digital citizenship to your students. Without further ado, here we go.

Seamless Incorporation into the Daily Lessons

The best way to ensure that children understand about digital citizenship is to build it into the daily lessons. By practicing it every day, it becomes second nature, regardless of what age the students are. Nor does it take much extra time or effort since you are already likely working with technology every day.

When your students make presentations, you can highlight copyright and intellectual rights. For younger students, you can highlight issues like plagiarism and citing their research. As the kid’s age, you can begin to ask them how they would like to have their work discussed and used by others. Have them think about how they would feel if someone else were to profit from their hard work, especially if it was done without their consent.

To teach about the importance of being careful online, you can have your student create online accounts for people you are studying in history or in literature. The pages they create will teach them to think about the people and characters from a new perspective, as well as showing them how to be respectful of others when chatting on those pages.

Find the Right Resources

This suggestion is probably the most challenging, but not for a lack of resources. With the rapid pace that technology changes, new tools and resources are constantly being posted. One of the most beneficial to educators is the forums and discussion boards where teachers, administrators, professors, and others in the industry chat about their experiences and share their ideas.

Keeping in mind that you want to be able to incorporate daily lessons on citizenship, the resources should help simplify the incorporation. Apps provide an excellent way of teaching students at any age range, although it can be difficult to find apps that will work in a school setting. A wealth of devices are also available, although they can be cost prohibitive. Things like Google Cardboard works to keep the cost to a minimum.

Ultimately, collaboration is the best way to find the best resources for your lessons. The more people in education that you chat with, the more ideas you will find to enhance your students’ understanding of digital citizenship.

Focus on Topics Based on Your Students’ Age Group

As you begin to find new and exciting ways of teaching digital citizenship, you may end up getting caught up in the possibilities and forget to consider the children’s age group. Each year of school will require a different approach and level of complexity. You have to keep the goals and expectations appropriate for the age you are educating.

In Kindergarten, the focus will be on issues like stranger danger and how to be safe when using the Internet. First and second graders will need to be reminded of safe practices, but you will also need to introduce topics like cyberbullying so they can learn how to treat others online, and how to react when someone is a bully. You will need forums and boards that you can monitor. As kids reach the age to be able to use Facebook (13 according to the Facebook Terms and Conditions), then you need to introduce concerns about social media and how to behave.

The older the students are, the more challenging it can be because technology frequently targets the older children. Your lessons will need to address the possible problems and resolutions to those problems when new technology and apps appear.

Well, that’s it for Part I. In Part II we will discuss two additional ways that you can teach digital citizenship to your students.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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