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#BeInternetSafe curriculum

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.



  1. What great resources you share here, Gail! Thank you for all you do. My mind is spinning thinking about how I can get my computer resource teacher to get on board with this and how I can use the materials with my kiddos in class. Being internet awesome is rooted in critical thinking and reading…which sounds a lot like ELA or success skills! 🙂

  2. I am teaching a College, Career and Citizenship Readiness class in junior high and would love to implement the digital citizenship into my curriculum. Thank you for this info.

    • Heather, I hope you will document how the year goes and share successes and challenges.

      One more resource I’d like to share with teachers is Common Sense Media new guide: Digital Citizenship & Social and Emotional Learning. The guide contains a set of digital dilemmas that students may face at some point in their lives. Each discussion question will get students’ thinking and talking about character. Resources within the guide include digital citizenship lesson plans and suggested digital tools for building strengths – like empathy and perseverance. Extension resources include digital citizenship lesson links that follow CSM’s scope and sequence for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

  3. I have looked over the lesson plans and will be using a few of them. I really love common sense media. Thank you again for the resources. My class is new and I don’t have any other teachers to bounce ideas off of. I would love to pick a brain of another teacher who is teaching the same class as me. If there are any of you out there, please let me know what works for your class. I am still in the creating process of my curriculum. But I would love to beg, borrow and steal from another 🙂

    • Heather,
      Can you share more about your College, Career and Citizenship Readiness curriculum. The fact that you are rolling this program out in middle school is exciting!

  4. The idea that sparked this class is that we want students to have an idea of where they’d like to go in terms of a career. They should be exposed to the pluses and minuses of jobs that they are interested in. If they find their niche, then they can tailor their high school courses towards a career that they will go into. I have speakers come in and talk about their careers and the kids love asking questions. They write on the class room blog and we talk about the speakers. It is all interesting. They do research on the careers. We talk about how to be good citizens and certain responsibilities we have.

    • Hi Heather,

      I would love to see your classroom blog! Having students take their ideas and take-aways to an authentic audience is a wonderful way to support civic engagement and global citizenship!

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