How to protect students’ safety on the internet

Education is key to promoting digital citizenship
By: , and | November 5, 2019

Summaya Knight is an instructional technology specialist at Kennesaw State University iTeach.

Today’s connected students can log on and instantly research to find information, interact with others, go on a virtual field trip without leaving the classroom, or simply chat with others around the globe.

The internet has opened up various options for educators and school systems to educate students in a different way.

The big question is: How are students kept safe while on the web? This is an area where school leaders see an incredible return on their investment of time upfront. Planning for and supporting students and teachers in becoming savvy digital learners and leaders can prevent so many moments of panic.

There are many ways to keep students safe while using technology both in school and at home. The first way is simply education. I always encourage educators at the beginning of the school year to view Common Sense Media’s modules based on grade levels, and they have just released new updated content.

Teachers can use Common Sense Media’s resources to explore digital citizenship lessons which include videos, games, and activities. These lessons can be integrated during health, social studies, or science, or extracurricular time. What I love about the modules is that they can be accessed via PDF, ebooks, or nearpod lessons. This makes it easy and engaging to redeliver important ideas to students.

Tools to model good digital citizenship

Students are much more likely to understand good digital citizenship when teachers model it regularly. Teaching good digital citizenship is a skill that will not only help the students while using technology but most importantly in their everyday life.

Another great website used to teach digital citizenship is Digizen. This is a scenario-based module that particularly focuses on global digital citizenship.

Students pick an avatar and make choices about different issues relating to being a global digital citizen in the world. Students are given scenarios and must pick the correct choice to move through the game. I particularly like this website because it is easy and user-friendly for students and allows them to think critically and make decisions.

Students are much more likely to understand good digital citizenship when teachers model it regularly.

I would definitely recommend the game for students in upper elementary and middle school due to the amount of reading in each game. Most of the text is spoken to the students which can be very helpful for students with different learning styles and needs. Most importantly the students are able to understand and learn real-world situations pertaining to digital citizenship while playing a game simulation.

Still another valuable resource for educators is PBS kids’ Webonauts Internet Academy. I learned of this resource from my daughter’s school media specialist. The media specialist recommended several apps and websites for elementary students to use at home while learning about digital citizenship at school.

Webonauts is a game in which the students learn about responsibility and making good choices while online. Students work through several game scenarios in which they are trained and then must make good choices and decisions to continue the modules.

This is a great platform for upper elementary students to practice being a good digital citizen. This will definitely have to be used in conjunction with direct instruction from the teacher because it is a game. It may be challenging for primary students to utilize this game experience because they must know how to read as the messages through each module.

Read: How K-12 districts work to improve data awareness

Creating a digital citizenship plan for a school is key for implementation. An example created for an elementary school can be found here. The teachers are aware of the lessons and tasks in each module to complete. It’s also great to inform parents and other staff members about Digital Citizenship during staff meetings, PTA events, or a simple video. Common Sense provides parent letters and training modules to inform both teachers and parents.

Summaya Knight is an instructional technology specialist at Kennesaw State University iTeach. She will be a featured speaker at DA’s FETC 2020.

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