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Teaching Digital Citizenship in 2017

Teaching Digital Citizenship in 2017

Digital citizenship is often cited as the fastest changing subject in the K-12 curriculum. Thinking back 10 years to 2007, when I first began rolling out a digital citizenship program for my district, we were using iSafe, a curriculum that focused on keeping students safe from others. “Stranger danger” was a big concern, with much media coverage – and a bit of hype.

By 2008, we were concerned not only with keeping students safe from others, but also with keeping them safe from each other and from themselves. By now both the federal government and our state government had started issuing legal mandates, including the federal E-Rate/CIPA requirements. Through a district task force (which had morphed from the Internet Safety Task Force to the Digital Citizenship Task Force), we made a commitment that all students would be firmly grounded in what it means to be active, contributing (digital) citizens in all the communities to which they belong, within and beyond the school day. The Task Force agreed that out of multiple topics related to digital citizenship, we would focus on four themes: Taking a stand against cyberbullying, building a positive digital footprint, protecting privacy, and respecting intellectual property.

Elk Grove Unified's digital citizenship logo

We encouraged – and then required – that all schools teach digital citizenship, using whatever resources and teaching practices worked best for their school community and culture. For those who preferred having ready-to-go lessons at their fingertips, we recommended Common Sense Media’s k-12 curriculum. We even provided a suggested scope-and-sequence – which, to avoid an overload of content, did not include Common Sense Media’s media literacy lessons.

Times have changed.  In an age of “fake news,” media literacy should be embedded across the curriculum.

Fortunately, excellent FREE resources are available. In addition to Common Sense Media’s robust curriculum, Google, in partnership with iKeepSafe, Family Online Safety Institute, and ConnectSafely, has just released Be Internet Awesome, an interactive curriculum for grades 3-5, which includes Don’t Fall for Fake as one of five core topics.

Google's Interland Graphic

I had the good fortune to be invited to Google last Monday to join a team of Googlers and Google Certified Innovators to explore the Be Internet Awesome package and to participate in highly interactive panel and group discussions on the critical need to be teaching digital citizenship skills in the 2017-2018 school year and, as you can see from the video below, the importance of including parents in the conversations.

At the heart of the Be Internet Awesome curriculum is Interland, a “playful browser-based game that makes learning about digital safety interactive and fun.” Award-winning YA author John Green, has even joined the Google team and recorded messages for the Be Internet Awesome Challenge, a video series aimed at igniting conversations in the classroom and at home too on what it means to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online; in other words, how to “BeInternetAwesome.”

As we head into the 2017-2018 school year, I want to acknowledge my appreciation for Common Sense Media, the Google team, and other national organizations, including:

for scrambling to find much needed resources for teaching digital citizenship in a “post-truth” era.

 

Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

I work in the Technology Services Department for a large public school district. I love my job (technology integration specialist) and truly appreciate my department’s support of programs that promote digital literacy and the potential for students – and teachers – to advance from digital citizens to global citizens.

With this week’s start of the new school year, I’m getting lots of requests from teachers to setup Edublogs Pro classroom blogs, something I am happy to do … but not until we’ve had a conversation about their vision for their blogs. Because my department pays for our Edublog Campus accounts (worth every penny), I like to know how far up the SAMR ladder they – and their students – might travel via their classroom blog. If they simply want an online location to post homework and announcements, I suggest a free Google Site. If they need a little background on the SAMR model, I might send them a short video, such as John Spensor’s introduction, which makes the connection to the potential power of blogging:

Last week, in response to my blogging vision questions, a teacher sent me a link to the awesome Jeff Bradbury’s TeacherCast session: The Great EdTech Debate: Google Sites vs Google Classroom vs Blogger. I emailed back that Jeff was simply reviewing the suite of Google options; he was not commenting on the power and possibilities of  classroom blogging. (And I agree with Jeff that Blogger is not the best choice for a classroom blog.)

This morning, I came across Silvia Tolisano’s post Blogging Through the Lens of SAMR, I decided it was time to gather resources and rationale on moving a classroom blog from “substitution” (the “S” of SAMR) to “redefinition.” Silvia’s post, with its wonderful infographics, is a great starting point. I’m also including and highly recommending:

As a former classroom teacher, I witnessed many times the bump in literacy skills that happens when students know their work really matters, a change that generally requires an authentic audience. Blogging can provide a 24/7 microphone for students to join in virtual conversations with students and classrooms across the nation and world – and, in the process, cross the line from consumer of information to creator of information – and from digital citizen to global citizen.

I’m ending this post with two things: a blogger’s poem and an invitation.

#1) An if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie-style poem from Edublogger Ronnie Burt’s blog post A Rhyme? Why Not! Please note that “website” = “blog”:

If you give a student a website, at first, he isn’t going to be sure what to do.

He will start by wanting to decorate it and personalize it too.

He’ll no doubt choose some interesting colors and flashing widgets – making sure he has the most.

Once you go over expectations, you will assign the student to write his first post.

The student will ask, ‘is this for a grade?’, and he will probably groan.

But once he publishes to his new website, he’ll immediately want to pull out his phone.

He’ll post a link to twitter and facebook, out across the interwebs his post will be sent.

He’ll hit refresh in his browser, over and over, just hoping that a visitor has left a comment.

Before long he’ll see the comment notifications show up in his queue.

And an ongoing dialogue between his family, friends, and classmates will certainly continue.

So the next time he learns something new in your class, there won’t be much of a fight.

Before you even get the chance to finish, the student will ask if he can write another post on his website.

 

#2 ) An invitation to share classroom and student blogs I could showcase in my next post on blogging best practices. Please leave a comment with links!

Best wishes to everyone for the 2017-2018 school year.

PS Thank you Pixabay for cc licensed blogging image!

 

Teaching about Intellectual Property – #HyperDoc style

Teaching about Intellectual Property – #HyperDoc style

I love the many ways teachers in my district – and probably your district too – are guiding student-centered conversations  about building positive digital footprints, protecting online privacy, and confronting cyberbullying. A shout out to Common Sense Media, iKeepSafe, and Netsmartz for the wealth of free resources and lessons you provide to schools on these key digital citizenship topics.

There is a fourth digital citizenship topic that many teachers are increasingly recognizing the need to address: intellectual property. By 5th grade, most students have been warned about the consequences of plagiarism, a conversation that is typically repeated throughout their middle and high school days. While plagiarism is certainly an important topic, in a digital age, copyright,  fair use, and Creative Commons also need to be included in the conversations.  Given how easy it has become to download, copy, remix, and upload online content, students need to have an understanding of both their intellectual property rights and responsibilities.

Elk Grove USD’s 4 digital citizenship themes – BY NC SA

As a co-director of my district’s Digital Citizenship initiative and co-curator of the Digital ID project, I am always seeking teacher-friendly/student-friendly resources on intellectual property. I also facilitate district-wide and national workshops ( e.g., CUE and ISTE) to help teachers understand that copyright is different from plagiarism and that fair use and Creative Commons are also options for our students.

Digital ID Project’s 4 digital citizenship foci – BY NC SA

Based on questions from workshop participants, two years ago I created Can I Use That? A Guide for Teaching about Creative Commons. I always review the guide prior to a workshop to check if I need to update any information or add new resources.  This year, in preparation for the March CUE Conference, I’m adding a #HyperDocs* lesson that invites students to delve into copyright, flex their fair use muscles, and license their own creations via Creative Commons. So here it is: Can I Use That? Exploring Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons.

Hope you can join me and the fabulous Jane Lofton for our CUE Can I Use That? session (Saturday, 8:00)! If you have questions about the lesson or suggestions for updates to the Guide, please respond with a comment or contact me @GailDesler.

*#HperDocs is a term invented by @LHighfill.

Common Sense Media + iKeepSafe = Awesome Parent Night

Common Sense Media + iKeepSafe = Awesome Parent Night

Last week I had the privilege of representing Common Sense Media at a Parent Night in a neighboring school district. The topic was supporting children in the responsible use of social media.  I was the first speaker and was allotted 15 minutes to introduce parents to the wealth of resources Common Sense Media offers parents, starting with an opening 30-second video:

…and then moving on to share a quick sampling of:

  • Video Reviews (for movies, TV,books, games, apps) – Rated for age, quality and learning, based on child development guidelines.
  • Parent Concerns Center – Advice and resources to help parents take control of children’s digital lives.
  • Parent Advice Videos – Ranges from “What Is Instagram?” to “How to Manage Preschoolers’ App Time
  • Connecting Families – Great ideas and guides to help parents plan social media events at their children’s schools. Love the guide for hosting a student-led panel!

I love it when a presenting opportunity also turns into a learning opportunity. In addition to Common Sense Media, the PTA had also invited a second speaker: Marsali Hancock, founder and CEO of iKeepSafe. I first heard Marsali speak three years ago at a wonderful Digital Citizenship Summit sponsored by Yahoo (wish Yahoo were still sponsoring this event, which was well worth the drive to Silicon Valley!). I was delighted for a second opportunity to listen to and learn from Marsali. She is an outstanding presenter. For instance, rather than follow my Common Sense Media slideshow with an iKeepSafe slideshow, she initiated a highly engaging conversation with the parents by asking parents to share their concerns about their children’s use of the Internet and social media. Parents first shared with their table neighbors, and then contributed to the whole group.

Within minutes, Marsali addressed all their questions. She pulled from recent research for a number of the questions – and stressed the need for balance, a key component of iKeepSafe’s Be a Pro program and website. She also stressed the need for parents to step away from “distracting parenting” in order to model balance of online time for their children.

Marsali’s last tip was one I had not thought of including in a digital citizenship program: the need to monitor our credit ratings. She cited the example of a young woman who graduated from high school and went on to college without needing to take out student loans. Upon graduating from college, she went on to and graduated from law school, again, with no loans. It was when she began applying for jobs that she discovered she had a huge problem: a terrible credit rating. How had this happened? Apparently children are four times more likely to have their identities stolen than adults. Such was the case with this young woman. For years, someone had been charging away, using various credit cards opened in her name.

I know the parents in attendance truly appreciated the resources, tips, and conversations shared at this 90-minute event. I left with a renewed appreciation of the commitment both Common Sense Media and iKeepSafe have made to providing parents and educators with dynamic FREE resources for helping our children/students become firmly grounded in what it means to be a positive, contributing (digital) citizen.

 

 

Keynote Speaker Models Digital Citizenship

Keynote Speaker Models Digital Citizenship

rushton1

On Saturday, technology visionary Rushton Hurley blended educational insights, humor and inspiration in his opening keynote for my district’s September Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms event. Rushton shared a number of thought-provoking tips during his Seeing Ourselves presentation:

  • How to avoid C.I.S. (Comparative Inadequacy Syndrome) by reminding yourself “The only person who you need to compare yourself to is the you who you were yesterday.”
  • When students are supported in creating content for an authentic audience, their question changes from “Is this good enough?” to “Is this good?”
  • We need to change our question to students from “What do you want to be?” to “What problem do you want to solve?”

Starting with his opening keynote slide, Rushton also subtly promoted and modeled respect for intellectual property by crediting the image to photographer.

rushton3

On the his second slide, Rushton made it clearer yet that he was respecting the Creative Commons licensing the photographer chose when sharing his work on Flickr.

rushton4

As a huge fan of Creative Commons, I loved that a nationally/internationally known presenter, from start to finish, promoted the importance of respecting intellectual property through proper attribution.

Following his keynote, Rushton facilitated The Magic of Digital Media for Powerful and Engaging Learning workshop. Once again, he started with modeling respect for intellectual property in his opening slide..

Unnamed image

…and on his second slide …

Rushton

…and then moved on share the power of images via simple teaching tips (EX: start class by projecting a photo and having students team up to generate three possible explanations for the photo – or asking them to explain how the photo connects to yesterday’s lesson).

Besides sharing Search Creative Commons (my favorite way to find CC licensed works), he shared several more options for finding Creative Commons licensed images.

  • PhotoPin – I like PhotoPin’s layout, with the Creative Commons photos below a line and fee-based photos above (what Rushton referred to a “business model”). What I really like is the option to filter for “Interestingness.”
  • Tackkr – Tackkrs helps you to create presentations in a webpage style rather than slides. Rushton explained there are 3 versions of Tackker, one of which is free and doesn’t require a login. I’ll have to play around a bit more with Tackkr. If the free version looks like an easy way for students to find Creative Commons licensed images, I’ll add it to my Can I Use That? A Guide to Creative Commons document.
  • Haiku Deck – Haiku  Deck helps you build beautiful presentations. You can sign up for the free version – and it comes with Creative Commons licensed images.

Just want to say one more time, how cool is that when your keynote speaker and workshop presenter seamlessly weaves digital citizenship into his sessions?!

 

“Oh no they didn’t!” – Modeling good digital citizenship

“Oh no they didn’t!” – Modeling good digital citizenship

I blog often about digital citizenship topics. Part of my day job (technology integration specialist for the Elk Grove Unified School District) involves supporting the teaching of digital citizenship across grade levels and subject areas. Beyond the school day, I co-curate the Digital ID Project.

Back to my day job. For the past 7 years, as the co-coordinator of our district-wide digital citizenship program, I’ve teamed with our very talented graphic designer and web specialist, Kathleen Watt, on all components of the program. We have written this post together.

If you visit our Digital Citizenship website, you will see a graphic, created by Kathleen, to show visitors at a glance the four areas of digital citizenship we focus on (cyberbullying, building positive digital footprints, respecting intellectual property, and protecting online privacy).

This post is in response to the need to teach – and model – respect for intellectual property. More specifically, it is our reaction to Digital Citizenship and Copyright Stations, a post we came upon this morning via the wonderful, timely DigCit Daily. We are always looking for new ideas for teaching about copyright, since our teachers often share that they are trying to build their comfort levels in teaching about intellectual property rights and responsibilities.

To see one of our digital citizenship images copied without crediting the source was disappointing – and ironic, considering the image is being used as part of another district’s digital citizenship program. A quick reverse image search on Google turned “disappointing” into “troubling.” We find it hard to believe that more than a few educators have taken the image without attributing it back to Elk Grove – all for the purpose of promoting their own digital citizenship programs. (Shout out to the Plumas Lake School for crediting the source!)

We’ve created the Oh no they didn’t! slideshow to show our reaction, reflection, and next steps in dealing with the apparently very real issue of educators perhaps teaching, but not modeling, respect for intellectual property.

Opportunities for students to practice digital & global citizenship

Opportunities for students to practice digital & global citizenship

As we head into the new school year, I wanted to promote several awesome opportunities for students to tackle current issues and make their voices heard … and build their digital footprints and ePortfolios in the process.

aikuma
Image from the Aikuma Project http://lp20.org/aikuma/pilot_project.html

Aikuma Project – For the past couple of years, I’ve co-facilitated an oral histories project for my school district to preserve the stories from a little known chapter in the Vietnam War: the Secret War in Laos. And that is how Robyn Perry, a recent graduate from Berkeley’s School of Information, found me. Robyn and Dr. Steven Bird are committed to preserving vanishing world languages. In Googling “Mien,” she came across the Time of Remembrance website. We’ve connected several times via Google Hangouts to talk about ways a K12 school district and two university researchers might support our mutual commitment to preserving the stories – and languages – of the Mien refugees, many of whom have resettled in the Sacramento area.

Part of Steve and Robyn’s work is the deployment of Aikuma, a free Android App for recording and translating spoken language. The app allows you to make your own recordings, share them, and translate recordings into other languages.

A special feature of Aikuma is its voice-driven translation mode. Hold the phone to your ear and listen, and interrupt to give a commentary or translation. The phone records what you say and lines it up with the original. Now the meaning is also preserved.”

I’m hoping to encourage Mien students in my district, to interview and record their parents, grandparents, and community elders and then contribute these primary resources, recorded in their native language, to the Aikuma project. There is a very good chance that in the process of interviewing Mien refugees, besides preserving history, culture, and a possibly vanishing language, students will also learn about the viewpoints of individuals whose stories might not otherwise appear in their textbooks.  Equally important, they will be practicing digital and global citizenship.

Refugee-girl
Image via KQED Do Now http://blogs.kqed.org/education/2015/09/11/

KQED Do Now: Would You Welcome Refugees to Your Community? – I’m a big-time fan of KQED’s stellar program for engaging students, via twitter, in shared conversations on both local and global topics. Given the current Syrian refugee crisis, I cannot think of a more timely way to empower students as digital and global citizens who are informed on the issues and challenges faced by refugees.

KQED provides the background resources and the structure for posting diverse opinions, thereby providing a virtual student toolkit for building active citizenship skills.

PSAcontest (1)Digital ID – How about a Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge to jump start conversations in the new school year on what it means to be a positive, contributing citizen in all the communities to which our students belong, both face-to-face and online? With a December 15 deadline, there is still plenty of time for students to create and submit (through you), a PSA (up to 90 seconds) on issues of challenging cyberbullying, building digital footprints, respecting intellectual property, and protecting online privacy & security.

 

 

 

Rethinking Digital Citizenship – It’s ongoing

Rethinking Digital Citizenship – It’s ongoing

One of the hats I wear as a district technology integration specialist is coordinating our digital citizenship program. I’m lucky to share the responsibility with a very talented and like-minded colleague. She and I have been on what seems like an ever-changing journey for about 10 years now, stemming back to the days of “MySpace hysteria,” when we called the topic Internet Safety.

As social media tools and venues grew, with our students making good and bad choices, we soon recognized the need to help keep students safe from others – but also to keep them safe from each other – and from themselves. My colleague and I chat on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis on what needs to be updated on our district digital citizenship website and how we can best support students, teachers and administrators as the digital citizenship lead learners at their school sites.

We’ve shared resources such as Tanya Avrinth’s Rebranding Digital Citizenship with Google Tools (see below), a wonderful example and reminder that it doesn’t make sense to teach digital citizenship in isolation when, in an age of Google + affordable devices (Chromebooks, smartphones, etc.), students now have opportunities within the core curriculum to roll up their sleeves and put their #DigCit skills into practice.

In Tanya’s words,”Digital Citizenship is no longer an add-on; it’s how we teach.”

We’ve also given some thought as to whether we should drop “digital” and simply refer to the topic as “citizenship,” in recognition that citizenship is citizenship. At this point, however, we know our site VPs and counselors, who typically have to deal with the drama and disruption of the school day brought on by misuse of cell phones, for instance, truly appreciate that we continue to refer to the topic as “digital citizenship.” When conferring with the offending student(s) and parent(s), it really helps when students have to start by acknowledging the fact that they’ve had X number of years of digital citizenship instruction and do understand the consequences of hitting the Submit button.

Our over-arching goal, even beyond the goal that every graduating senior Googles well, has always been to help students in moving from digital to global citizenship. Whether it’s Mrs. Petuya’s Kindergartners blogging with scientists in Antarctica about penguins or K-12 students posting on a VoiceThread about what it means to cross the line from bystander to upstander, we want students to have opportunties to become connected and contributing digital/global citizens.

So, even though the title of Keith Heggart’s Edutopia article, “Why I Hate ‘Digital Citizenship,” had me a little worried, when I actually read the article, I agreed with his stance that we need to go beyond simply teaching students responsible, respectful use of the Internet and start teaching “how to participate – safely, yes, but also meaningfully and thoughtfully – in civil society, in political, social and other spheres.”

But I don’t think I’ll be suggesting to my district that we adopt Keith’s suggestion of renaming our current programs [which cover 1) taking a stand against cyberbullying; 2) building a positive digital footprint; 3) respecting intellectual property; and 4) protecting online privacy] to Digital Responsibility. Instead, I’m thinking more like a SAMR model, where our site programs move from Beginning Digital Citizenship (the above 4 topics) to Advanced Digital Citizenship, where students take their #DigCit skills beyond the classroom, school site, and district and connect with a global audience. Advanced DigCit would most likely happen within the core curriculum and would also likely be project-based.

If you have ideas  to share or lessons learned about rethinking, rebranding, and/or renaming school and district digital citizenship programs, please share by leaving a comment.

Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge – Please share with your students

Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge – Please share with your students

If your students have some thoughts to share on digital citizenship issues, please tell them about the 2015 Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge. This year marks the 4th year the Digital ID Project has sponsored the event. Students are invited to submit a Public Service Announcement (up to 90 seconds, excuding the credits) on any of the following topics:

  • cyberbullying
  • digital footprints
  • intellectual property (copyright, fair use, and/or creative commons)
  • online privacy

In addition to a beautiful certificate awarded to all students listed in the PSA credits, a $25 iTunes card will be awarded to the lead student for each winning entry. Three entries per grade-level division (Elementary, Middle, and High School) will be selected.

Entries must be submitted (online) by midnight, May 6, 2015. For more information, visit the PSA Challenge page and download the 2015 PSA Challenge flyer.

 

Teaching Kindness

Teaching Kindness

It’s become quite clear that modern education must encompass more than just academics, and that matters of the heart must be taken seriously and nurtured as a matter of priority. Lisa Currie

The Challenge: Can kindness and empathy really be taught?

This morning I re-read Lisa Currie’s October post for Edutopia: Why Teaching Kindness in Schools Is Essential to Reducing Bullying. In the past couple of months, the impact of school-wide bullying in the Sacramento region has been disturbingly newsworthy: the tragic suicide of an 8th grader in one district; a bullying lawsuit in an adjoining district; a number of student suspensions for racist activities at another; and an embarrassing parent confrontation during a regional cyberbullying public event for another.  This recent stream of bad press highlights the need for districts to teach – and expect – kindness and civility (AKA good citizenship) – face-to-face and online.

In my current position as a technology integration specialist for a large public school district, I am a regular visitor in K-12 classrooms. Many school sites display banners and/or posters around the campus reflective of the sites’ character education programs. Many have added cyberbullying to their character ed programs or are offering it as a stand-alone part of their digital citizenship curriculum (all sites are required to have some type of #digcit program in place). I am proud of the way many of our students, particularly at the secondary level, have stepped up to the challenge of confronting bullying. At one site, for instance, through their Unbullyable project, I know students have had a positive impact on their own campus as well as on their feeder elementary and middle schools.

 

I am grateful I have not yet opened the SacBee to find one my district’s schools featured on the front page for hurtful or hateful acts. And I applaud the efforts of K-12 teachers across the district to support their students in standing up and speaking out against bullying/cyberbullying. Yet a number of times, at several high school campuses, as I make my way through throngs of students exiting at the end of the school day, I hear them yelling out to classmates with rude, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., comments. As tempting as it is to keep walking (it’s just kids being kids, no? … I’m not actually a faculty member here, right?, etc.), when I stop and face the offending student (who probably had not realized there was an adult in their midst), he or she basically always has the same reply: “Oh … Sorry… I was just kidding.” It takes my standing there a while longer before they will generally say once again that they are sorry. It think/hope the difference is that the first “Sorry” is because I heard them; the second “Sorry,” the one that matters, is for having said the unkind slur in the first place.

 

Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood, and society.” Maurice Elias, Rutgers University

Stepping Up to the Challenge

But really, can kindness be taught? Can school districts serve as hubs for promoting these essential, timeless life skills? As evidenced in the Unbullyable project, I think so. Part of my job involves checking that all sites are teaching digital citizenship. In the first quarter of the school year, each site submits how it plans to meet e-Rate requirements. So teaching a few lessons during an advisory period, for instance, from Common Sense Media’s wonderful offerings, meets the requirements and often generates thought-provoking, possibly behavior-changing conversations. But some sites go above and beyond the minimum requirements by supporting a variety of student-led initiatives. These sites recognize that, with bullying/cyberbullying, the most impactful campaigns are student-initiated and student-led. At several of these same sites, teachers are weaving discussions of current bullying issues (local, national, or global) into their literature and social studies units. Although I’ve not set up any type of formalized student surveys, I’d be willing to bet that at these sites bullying incidents are becoming less frequent and, hopefully, less devastating.

Tips and Resources for Teaching Kindness

So how do we teach kindness to our students? I believe in the power of stories to transform hearts and actions. Thankfully, there is a wealth of powerful literature, starting with picture books, that teachers can use to ignite ongoing conversations on what kindness looks like. Common Sense Media’s Books that Teach Empathy list is a great K-12 resource and includes some of my favorites, such as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.

There are also a growing number of websites that offer action-based lessons, such as the National Council of Teachers of English’s  Read, Write, Think site. Their Living the Dream: 100 Acts of Kindness lesson/challenge would be a wonderful literature extension for primary grades to use in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s,legacy and upcoming birthday. For middle and high school, I recommend visiting Facing History and Ourselves and checking out their Bullying and Ostracism Collections for resources to help students “think critically about the dynamics and impact of bullying in schools and communities.”

It is from stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, recent or from the past, and the ensuing conversations, that students often come to understand the role of the bystander in allowing bad things to happen, from bullying on the playground to unthinkable, unspeakable acts of government sanctioned brutality. Students need examples of what it means to cross the line from bystander to upstander. They need opportunities for grade-level and cross-generation conversations on how the courage of a single person to stand up and speak out against bullying and social injustice can change the school climate or even the history of the world. One of my favorite upstander’s tools is the Upstanders, not Bystanders VoiceThread. I co-curate this VoiceThread with my Digital ID partner/National Writing Project colleague Natalie Bernasconi. In the two years since we started the Upstanders, not Bystanders project, we’ve come to value how all voices and stories matter, from our kindergarten contributors to our Rwandan genocide survivor. Teaching kindness and civility needs to start in the primary grades and continue through adulthood.

One tip I have for readers is to document the work of your school sites. In the Sacramento bullying samples I mentioned above, I believe three of the four districts are currently in the process of developing district-wide digital citizenship plans. The fourth district has curriculum and procedures in place, but refers to the program as digital literacy rather than digital citizenship. Although the broader title makes sense, in the likely need to CYA, I think it’s wise to intentionally single out how each site specifically implements the teaching of citizenship/digital citizenship. A simple procedure my district has put in place, in addition to each site submitting an implementation plan at the start of the year, is requiring each principal to sign a statement at the end of the year verifying that digital citizenship has been taught at his/her site.

As my district heads into the third year of requiring school sites to document their digital citizenship plans, one shift I’ve noticed is also one I strongly recommend: Rather than plug in your plan at the close of the school year (post testing), as some of our secondary sites initially did, start the year teaching kindness and civility. Whether it’s through a shared article, a story, an assembly, etc., if the activity is followed with classroom discussion, I am pretty sure you will find, as a number of our teachers have, that student buy-in will be greater as will instances of students actually putting their citizenship skills into practice. Once standards for online/offline behavior have been articulated across the site, students are more likely to speak up for others and to think twice before they hit the submit button.

Additional Resources

In addition to the resources listed above, another outstanding resource is the Cyberbullying Research Center. I love their Cyberbullying Quiz – What the Research Shows, and all the resources linked under their Related Posts section. This exceptional resource, and many more, are listed on the Stepping Up page of the Digital ID project – along with the invitation for your students to submit a PSA in the upcoming 2015 Digital ID PSA Challenge.

Edutopia! Lisa Currie’s article is part of the dynamic Bullying Prevention collection of resources on teaching kindness, empathy, and digital citizenship.

On my New Year’s Resolution List is the intent to update this post during the school year with samples of digital citizenship surveys for students, along with data on the results and impact of teaching kindness and civility. I welcome your input.

Best wishes to all school sites for a year of newsworthy positive accomplishments!

 

 

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