Creating Digital Citizenship Lessons with Common Sense Media and Padlet

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Students today are surrounded by technology. It is a large part of their life outside of school, and is also becoming more and more prevalent in the classroom. Along with the myriad list of rules and procedures teachers need to cover in the classroom, digital citizenship is now being added to that list. It is essential to educate students to be positive and productive members in an online community.

Digital citizenship can be defined as “the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use” (Ribble, 2017). This definition does seem rather broad and subjective, however, websites like Common Sense Media break this topic down further into smaller categories. If you are a teacher in North Carolina, digital citizenship is one of the four focus areas in the North Carolina Digital Learning Competencies. It is important to note that when reading through this section of the standards, there is much more for teachers to do than just “teach” digital citizenship. Words such as engage, model, demonstrate, and integrate are used as guides for what teachers should be doing with this topic (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, n.d.).

Technology, especially in the form of social media, plays a major role in the life of students. Research from Cyberbullying.org shows that 95% of teens are online and a majority of them access the internet on a mobile device (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018). Along with the potential for cyberbullying, there is also a strong potential for students to overshare or post something inappropriate that could have a lasting impact on their future. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) lists college admission, scholarships, sports, and employment as potential areas a negative digital footprint can affect (Fani, 2015). These four areas are what middle school and high school students are working towards for their future.

The development of critical thinking skills is a concept teachers address in their subject areas and is also important in digital citizenship, as well. “It appears that even young people, oft thought to be the tech savviest among us, are just as susceptible to believing falsehoods and information from questionable sources” (Perkins, 2016). With such a large number of teens accessing the internet, research shows this is also the place where they get their news. A survey posted on Common Sense Media shows that forty-seven percent of teens get their news from Facebook and only forty-four percent feel that they can tell real news from fake news online (Robb, 2017). The need for media literacy and critical thinking is essential in order to ensure that the news young people are reading is factual.

Resources like FOSI, Common Sense Media, and the North Carolina Digital Learning Competencies provide teachers resources to inform students of the dangers online, as well as, lessons with a positive point of view. It can be easy for those in education to constantly point out negative online behavior and the countless number of things that students shouldn’t do.  However, this will not create the type of digital citizens we need for the future. Teachers and administrators strive to provide students with a school that is physically safe and welcoming. This same atmosphere must be considered for them as they navigate the online world where so much of their time is spent.

Padlet and Digital Citizenship

Made with Padlet

The embedded Padlet above is an example of how you can use this platform to create lessons on any topic…in this case Digital Citizenship. All of the material posted in this Padlet came from the Common Sense Education site and their digital citizenship curriculum. Much of their curriculum on this subject has been upgraded recently and is much easier to use. For example, the lesson quizzes are now force copy Google Forms making it much easier to link to another site or platform. The curriculum on Common Sense is broken down into six categories.

This material in the Padlet above is from the 6th grade curriculum and it only features lessons for three of the six categories. In each of the categories above, I included an overview that is slightly reworded from the one find on the Common Sense site. I then included the video (if one is in the lesson), the slide lesson (already made by Common Sense), and the lesson quiz. I like to include videos with each of the lessons, so if there isn’t one in the specific lesson, you can always search the Common Sense website and find something on that topic.

I have created three Padlets for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teachers to use in their classrooms over the next few weeks. I have never used Padlet like this before and I am hoping it will be successful. I will add to this post later  to provide feedback from the students and teachers.

Resources

Discussion Posts and Lessons Learned

After returning from winter break in January, I decided to introduce my students to discussion posts on Canvas. One of my goals for this year has been to move away from the traditional weekly reading log and give students more alternatives to document their individual reading. My students have been using Canvas all year, but this feature was one I had yet to use with them.

I created two posts for them. One post was for a book of their choice that they read during the 3rd quarter. The other was a post about a novel study they did with their class book club. I set up the discussions in January at the start of the 3rd quarter and after about a month I started receiving notifications that things were being posted. Along with posting about their book, they also had to reply to at least two of their classmates regarding their posts. This is where the flaws in my plan and my lack of lessons and modeling caught up with me.

Digital Citizenship

Our school district has put a lot of effort into educating students about digital citizenship and being safe, responsible, and respectful online. The district has created courses for K-12 students to go through during the year and have also provided several opportunities for students and teachers to continue this discussion once the courses are completed. I went through these courses at the beginning of the year and would consistently address various digital citizenship issues afterwards, as well. When January came, I assumed the students would be able to handle posting and replying in an online setting.

Issues with Posts and Replies

The initial posts were fine with the exception of a few students who chose to just copy and paste a summary from a site such as Scholastic or Goodreads and pass it off as their own. This was a small problem and addressed on an individual basis.

What became a big problem was with the replies students were posting to each other. I did give them some guidelines as to what they should include in their response and also reminded them of how to act in an online setting. What I forgot to address was what they should not do, or include in their replies. Some students took it upon themselves to become the teacher and pick out every spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistake in posts by others, as well as, harshly critique the content of the post. This then lead to retaliation by the other student who in turn did the same and others also joined the replies to defend their classmates. I was amazed at how quickly this spread and got out of hand.

Lessons Learned

A year or two ago, I would have probably closed the discussion and stopped doing it entirely for the remainder of the year. I chose to go the other way and make it a learning experience for all of us. We quickly had a class meeting to discuss what had happened and how it made everybody feel. This was a great learning experience for all of us. The students realized how important it is to be aware of the differences between an online response and talking face to face. They have done peer editing with each other, but it was done as a spoken activity and not online. They were able to use facial expressions and tone of voice to get their meaning across without sounding too critical. This is something they can’t do online and they realized that even though they did not mean to sound so critical in their replies this is how it was perceived. I also learned their perspective on social media and how they think you should react to others online. I was surprised at how they felt they needed to fight back and retaliate if someone attacked their posts. The idea of ignoring the post, unfollowing, or blocking the person was not even considered.

Following our discussion, I taught and modeled how to reply in a respectful manner to other people’s posts and also used some images that colleagues created to teach this concept. I wanted to post this to share how we can use the various LMS platforms out there to give students an opportunity to communicate and interact online. We all make mistakes as we learn something new. For my students, taking part in online scholarly discussions was something new and something that will require some time and several opportunities for them to get it right.