I am passionate about teaching children how to be responsible digital citizens, which why I chose to to become a Digital Citizenship Certified Educator through Common Sense Media. I have used Common Sense materials occasionally in the past, but since beginning this certification process, I now have a better understanding of this organization’s mission and the amazing resources available to help children and adults become effective users of technology. The digital citizenship lessons are very well organized, developmentally appropriate, and engaging for students. I now utilize the reviews and ratings daily when I am making decisions on instructional resources to use in the classroom. Common Sense also provides excellent resources for interacting with families around digital citizenship. The certification process has been incredibly enlightening and rewarding and I feel equipped to not only teach digital citizenship myself, but also to create a ripple effect by educating colleagues and the community.
Some may argue that kindergarten is too young to start teaching digital citizenship, but the reality is, children are exposed to a variety of devices as infants. In my opinion, the sooner we can teach kids how to use technology as a tool rather than a toy, the better. I had the pleasure of stepping into a first grade classroom to teach a variety of digital citizenship topics, including going places safely, online search strategies, and keeping information private. The students found the topics to be interesting and relevant, and they can’t wait to learn more! One of the activities the kids completed was to create a picture dictionary using an online alpha directory as a search strategy.
After a discussion about a real dictionary, including what it is used for and how the alphabet can help us, students were each assigned a letter of the alphabet and instructed to conduct an online search to find an animal beginning with their letter, print it, and add it to their dictionary page. I collected all of the students pages and created a dictionary that they now have access to in their classroom library. During our concluding discussion, I asked students to think of other ways we can search for things on the internet. After a few responses like numbers and colors, a student simply said, “words.” I praised that student for sharing their idea, which he was very proud of, and it was the perfect lead-in to a future lesson on using keyword searches. The scope and sequence of these lessons is so well done and it really creates a holistic picture of the strengths and dangers of the Internet.
In addition to teaching in the classroom, my school’s librarian, family engagement liaison, and I worked together to organize a weekend lunch event to discuss technology with families. We held the event in the common area of a local apartment complex and and invited all families in our service area to attend. We provided lunch and beverages, we set up a free book giveaway, we shared information about our district’s discounted laptop program, opportunities to get affordable internet access, and we had a discussion about young children and digital footprints using Common Sense Media’s Connecting Families resources. We thought this would be an appropriate topic to start with as we work with elementary students. I created a Google Slides presentation to aide in our conversation. Following the discussion, we invited the students to join us to explore a digital citizenship (there are many variations to this) kit. Our kit included:
- Toothbrush (You’d never share personal information online, much like you’d never share a toothbrush)
- Toothpaste (Whatever you put on the Internet is nearly impossible to take back, like toothpaste is difficult to put back in the tube once it’s out)
- Permanent marker (Everything you on the Internet is permanent)
- Lock (Keep passwords secure)
- Key (Remember your passwords!)
Parents and students walked away with valuable information and a mindset to start being more thoughtful about theirs and their children’s use of digital devices. We asked all attendees to fill out a quick survey to let us know how they are feeling about these topics and what else they’d like to learn. This information is extremely valuable as we move forward and plan future family engagement events.
This was only the beginning of our school’s journey as we navigate our ever-changing digital world. I can’t wait to continue educating others and changing the way we use technology! Thank you, Common Sense Media, for giving me the tools to do so!