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5 Creative Ways to Teach Digital Citizenship

5 Creative Ways to Teach Digital Citizenship

Classrooms are full of digital natives. Students have grown up with technology their whole lives. But even though using technology seems to be second nature to kids in classrooms today, that doesn’t mean they inherently know how to use it responsibly. That skill must be taught.

Digital citizenship is making its way into more and more lesson plans these days. It’s become one of ISTE’s standards for students, and six out of 10 educators are teaching some sort of digital citizenship skill every month, according to The Common Sense Census: Inside the 21st-Century Classroom.

But the digital world isn’t all that different from the physical world. There are rules for navigating this space — to keep order and to stay safe. Many of the common cautions students learn from an early age apply to the digital world as well.

As you work digital citizenship lessons into your curriculum, consider framing them in the context of their analog equivalents to make them relevant and relatable to students: knowing right from wrong, understanding consequences, never talking to strangers, always playing fair, and choosing your friends wisely.

  1. Know what’s right from wrong. One of the most basic lessons you can cover around digital citizenship is practicing proper “netiquette” online. Just like the rules of etiquette, the rules of netiquette give students a cultural framework of proper behavior for getting along with others online. Click here for information about each of the 10 core rules of netiquette. Base a lesson on each one.
  2. Understand the consequences. When planning digital citizenship lessons, devote time to discussing digital footprints. Students must understand that every decision they make online leaves a permanent digital footprint that could affect how they’re perceived — both online and in-person — down the road. As a fun activity, see how far students can track a peer’s digital footprint!
  3. Don’t talk to strangers. A password is the digital equivalent to locking your door. Create a lesson that revolves around teaching students how to build strong, secure passwords that will protect their personal information from strangers online. Challenge students to create the highest-strength password they possibly can, explaining how to employ two-step authentication and other best practices to ramp up security.
  4. Always play fair. Teach students that they must give credit where credit is due. You can’t simply copy and paste information or images found online — even when you offer citation. Cover copyright and plagiarism in a digital citizenship lesson. Go over the different levels of permission (legal copyright, fair use, creative commons, public domain) and then build a “pop quiz” asking students to determine whether different examples need to be cited. Direct students to safe sites for sharing images (Pixabay and Pexals are both good options) and stress this important rule of thumb: If you can’t find the copyright rules, don’t use the information or images at all!
  5. Choose your friends wisely. Teach students that when they see something, they should say something when it comes to cyberbullying. Work with students on recognizing cyberbullying and role play appropriate steps to take when they spot it. Vicki Davis breaks those steps down in her popular Cool Cat Teacher blog:
  • Stop what you’re doing. Don’t keep clicking.
  • Take a screenshot, save it and print a copy.
  • Block or unfriend the bully.
  • Tell an appropriate adult (teacher, network administrator, parent) about the situation, providing your screenshot or copy as proof of the bad behavior.
  • Share the incident with others, if appropriate, to promote internet safety.

NetRef can help you plan and teach digital citizenship to students this school year, too. Ask students to take our digital citizenship pledge, and post these 10 rules for classroom computer use to set clear expectations about how devices can be used.

Simply using NetRef also can promote digital citizenship. Our classroom management function allows teachers to whitelist or blocklist specific sites to focus learning and prevent distractions. Teachers also have the ability to check network connections and view web activity on individual student devices in real time. When they notice a student isn’t connected or is active on a site they shouldn’t be, they can get them back on task in a matter of clicks. Learn more about using NetRef for classroom management.

This blog post was inspired by our popular webinar with educator, coach and editor of the Ask a Tech Teacher blog, Jacqui Murray. Watch the full, on-demand version of her Building Digital Citizens webinar, here.