Last week I shared a few weekend reading suggestions, including the 2010 State of K-12 Cyberethics, Cybersafety and Cybersecurity Curriculum in the U.S. Survey. The results illustrate that across the nation, students aren’t receiving adequate instruction to use digital technology and navigate cyberspace in a safe, secure and responsible manner. Web filters, acceptable use policies, and student information sessions alone are simply not effective at addressing digital citizenship. To truly reach today’s learners, schools need to establish a comprehensive, spiraled program that engages students, teachers, and parents. Here are some points, and the model we recently developed, for your consideration.
A Comparison of Major Frameworks
There are numerous Digital Citizenship models readily available that span a variety of topics and ages. None should be considered “turn key” solutions, however, as each school must consider the specific needs of its population. The document below compares the major themes of five popular models: ISTE’s NETS for Students, Ribble and Bailey’s Digital Citizenship in Schools, the iKeepSafe Digital Citizenship C3 Matrix, Microsoft’s Digital Citizenship and Creative Content program, and Protecting Students in the 21st Century from SimpleK12.
Perhaps the most comprehensive view of Digital Citizenship comes from Gerald Bailey and Mike Ribble. In their book Digital Citizenship in Schools they identify nine citizenship themes that can be organized into three categories:
Student Learning and Academic Performance
1. Digital Access: full electronic participation in society
2. Digital Literacy: the process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology
3. Digital Communication: electronic exchange of information
School Environment and Student Behavior
4. Digital Security and Safety: electronic precautions to guarantee safety/physical well-being in a digital technology world
5. Digital Etiquette: electronic standards of conduct or procedure
6. Digital Rights and Responsibilities: those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world
Student Life Outside the School Environment
7. Digital Commerce: electronic buying and selling of goods
8. Digital Health and Wellness: physical and psychological well-being
9. Digital Law: rights and restrictions
These broad themes can serve as a guide or framework, but their implementation requires a more specific curriculum and set of resources. The Protecting Students in the 21st Century program from SimpleK12 addresses the major facets of a comprehensive digital citizenship program:
Our Middle School Framework
Our middle school program is based on eight themes/topics derived from the major frameworks we explored and are adapted to meet the needs of our school community:
- Acceptable Use Policy: policies and procedures governing use of school resources
- Ethics: ethical, courteous, and productive behavior while using digital media
- Cyber Safety: keeping users safe online
- Cyber Security: protecting one’s data and computer
- Cyber-bullying: being tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted
- Copyright and Fair Use: laws and guidelines for the proper use of content
- Electronic Communication: email, texting, chat rooms, and other forms of communication
- Social Networking and Online Reputation Management: projecting and protecting a proper online identity
Each of these themes is addressed at each grade level using a variety of strategies/resources as outlined in the matrix below:
MICDS Digital Citizenship Program
Many of the activities come from resources outside of the five major frameworks we explored. Our program draws from several curricular resources, including:
New materials are constantly emerging, and two that show great promise include Smokescreen and TextEd.ca. Smokescreen is “a cutting-edge game about life online that sends students on 13 missions to explore the fictional social network, White Smoke. TextEd.ca, set to fully launch in the fall of 2010, provides teachers and students the “411 on texting and relationships, including healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, how to deal with harassment, and how to cope with stress.” As our program expands and evolves, these and other resources may be needed to address the changing needs of our students; a digital citizenship program should never be static.
No program, no matter how thoughtfully crafted, will be successful without proper implementation, and it is vital to consider the venue for engagement. Some digital citizenship topics, such as copyright and fair use, can be addressed in the classroom as they fit with existing curriculum. Others, like cyber-bullying, may benefit from a more intimate environment such as advisory or homeroom. Grade level meetings can be effective settings for reviewing acceptable use policies. Regardless of the venue, those responsible for leading the activity must be well versed in the topic. Our teachers meet, review, and discuss each lesson well in advance, and the PS21 program has a teacher (and parent) education component that helps adults better understand the issues.
We have already utilized several elements of our program, and will implement the complete matrix over the course of the 2010-2011 academic year. It will take time to make digital citizenship integral to our school’s culture, but we’ve started down the path of teaching and modeling the proper use of technology. It’s a long and often difficult journey, but one we must take.