Written by Jenny Windom, Faria Education Group

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In this second part of our two-part series addressing digital citizenship, we’re going to delve into the “softer” side of digital citizenship. How can we teach students to consume online information in an appropriate and intentional manner, as well as communicate and represent themselves responsibly while online? If you’d like an intro to digital citizenship as well as media literacy, be sure to check out the first post.

Digital citizenship—a person’s ability to think critically about, safely navigate, and engage with technology—needs to be explicitly taught in classrooms. Social and media literacy are areas teachers already engage students in that also provide a foundation for digital citizenship skills.

(Digital) Social Literacy

Social literacy is a person’s ability to communicate productively and effectively with those around them. Personal and interpersonal skills are critical to student success. For example, we explicitly discuss and parse through traits with our students like collaboration, integrity, and leadership.

We should continue explicitly teaching these skills, but also work to add a digital layer whenever the opportunity arises. Explain to students that online citizenship is composed of additional elements than in-person interactions, even while the core behaviors are the same. For example, an added component to managing perception about yourself over digital media is negotiating a (permanent) digital footprint. Collaborating with others online also requires reflection about how the typed word can be interpreted in many ways.  This especially true as we use digital media more and more frequently to share messages and ideas.

Social literacy and digital citizenship in the classroom:

  • Provide learning opportunities for students that engage them in using technology. For example, plan a lesson around reading (and creating!) tweets about historical events.
  • Generate a classroom hashtag (e.g. #SmithPeriod3English or something more creative and personalized), and use the hashtag to foster discussion outside of the classroom. This becomes a great avenue to model to your students ways for engaging in conversation outside of the classroom.
  • Continue to push and expand the ways you use technology in your classroom: model the behaviors you want students to exhibit when interacting with (and on) technology.
  • Make citizenship and character education an intentional part of your classroom. Discuss and read about topics like leadership and kindness. Ask your students what those traits could look like in different situations (online or not).

Into a Brave New World

Students are consumers—and creators—of digital content. They’re used to being online and interacting with others more than many adults in their lives. Though they tend to use digital media more frequently, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the knowledge to be successful digital citizens. Just as we need to ensure we educate the whole student by including character education in our classrooms, we need to also ensure that students know how to navigate the online world safely and successfully through a targeted and intentional focus on digital citizenship. By highlighting social and media literacy in our classrooms, we can bring in technological elements and prepare students to participate in a digital world.

Additional Resources

  • Websites like Wired Safety and Net Smartz have great resources to get teachers, administrators, parents, and even students, thinking about the different components of online safety, particularly from the social perspective.
  • Common Sense Media is a resource for educators and parents. They provide tips, handouts, and ideas for lessons on digital literacy, particularly internet safety and citizenship.
  • Geared towards elementary school students, PBS provides an interactive experience for students going through different elements of web safety.
  • The National Film Board of Canada developed a fantastic resource for upper level students (8th-12th grade). It utilizes short videos, polls, articles, and interactive questions. Preview beforehand to be sure it’s appropriate for your students and classroom goals.
  • TED has a video addressing how to determine fact from fiction online (and with other media as well!)
  • Google created a website with lessons and activities geared towards younger students about staying safe on the web.

Do you have additional ideas to help critically engage students with digital media? Additional resources you’ve found helpful in the classroom that you’d like to share? Send a tweet @atlas_next or find us on Facebook!

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