Embarking on a Digital Citizenship Journey

 Illustration by Kate Moore

Illustration by Kate Moore

Every day we send students out to interact in the digital world without giving them the equipment or training they need to come home safe. Just as we prepare kids to safely cross the street, ride their bikes, or navigate a trail, teaching them to be safe, responsible digital citizens is an essential part of preparing them for life.

The last decade has seen a growing awareness of the need to adopt and teach digital citizenship curriculum. While we all agree on the value of these lessons, there are significant roadblocks to how (and when and where) educators can find well-designed, teachable content. Maybe you find a great curriculum, but it’s going to cost your school tens of thousands of dollars to use. Maybe you find a free set of lessons, but it’s unclear who authored it and you’re not sure if you feel safe using it with students. Maybe you’ve got great, free dig cit content but it’s stuck in a set of static PDFs and you’ll have to make teachers work to translate it into teachable activities. It turns out that it’s not easy to turn out a class of safe digital explorers.

Here are some easy steps you can take to become a digital safety leader:

Scout Quality Resources

What is a quality DigCit resource? We suggest two main criteria when selecting a digital citizenship curriculum: reliability and accessibility. Did trusted experts develop the curriculum? Has it been updated to reflect current issues your students are facing? As you search for a reliable resource, consider the amount of time you will need to dedicate to delivering the content to your students, as well as the effort needed to tailor the curriculum to their needs.

A great, free set of resources for schools and districts is Google’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum. Google enlisted help from the trusted digital safety experts at iKeepSafeConnect Safely, and the Family Online Safety Institute to ensure that Be Internet Awesome would give students and educators reliable, useful information. This effort was recognized by ISTE, who granted the curriculum their Seal of Alignment in Readiness. The lessons are geared for elementary and middle schoolers, but they can be modified to meet the needs of higher grade levels.

Get the full curriculum here including resources for teachers, 19 ready-to-teach Pear Deck lessons, certificates, and achievement badges right here. We’ve made it possible to copy the full curriculum to your Google Drive with a single click.

 
 

Start the Journey with a Single Step 

Start small (so you can) stick with it! It can be overwhelming to think about all the skills your students need to master to stay safe online. Don’t overthink it! Get kids started with bite-sized lessons that take up short windows of class time. By incorporating quick lessons about privacy, passwords, or being kind online during regular class time, you can begin to build a general awareness of the basics of internet safety.

Don’t Go It Alone

Help Parents Get Involved

Class time already maxed out? If your students have wifi and device access at home, consider sending lessons with them to explore with their parents. Getting parents involved in understanding the risks that kids can encounter online and equipping them to help students navigate that world can be a positive investment. Our VP of Marketing, Kate, uses the Be Internet Awesome lessons at home to spark conversation with her 3rd and 6th- grade boys on how to stay safe online.

As part of October’s National Cybersecurity Awareness and National Bullying Prevention Month, the Be Internet Awesome team just partnered with the National PTA to award grants worth $1,000 to local PTAs in every state to help them host BIA workshops. If your PTA is interested in applying for a grant or a BIA kit, send them to the National PTA site here!

Work Together as a Department

Lead a PD session with your colleagues to brainstorm ways to incorporate digital citizenship lessons with their curriculum. Working together as a department or small group can ease the burden of figuring out how to learn and teach something new. Small groups of educators can make an incredible impact on a school or district-wide level. Need a little help to get started with this? K-6 teachers can earn $100 for their next DonorsChoose.org classroom project — and another $50 for sharing the curriculum with a colleague. You can learn more about this program here.

Go Big with School and District-wide Support

Identifying a set of resources and making it available to your teachers, is just the beginning. Plan a PD day to introduce these resources and help them get comfortable with using them in class. There are phenomenal success stories from teachers and admins alike who have come together to launch digital learning days and weeks. Many have developed district-specific content including promotions and contents to recognize and reward classes who complete material. Each educational community is unique — joining forces to find a solution that best fits yours could be half the challenge!

Which brings us to…

Be Sure to Mark Your Success

Like leaving a flag planted on the mountain, or gathering the troupe for s’mores, you want to take a moment to celebrate your students’ progress towards digital citizenship and safety. Whether the change is large or small, the actions you take make a difference — to you, your students, your school community, and ultimately the world. Giving students the skills they need to stay safe and respect each other online is a substantial investment in a better future. Be sure to take a moment to celebrate how you’re working to ready your students for the future!

Get the full Be Internet Awesome curriculum for your class, department, school or district! Copy these free resources to your Google Drive or Team Drive with a single click.

 
 

Today’s post was written by Director of Marketing, Danielle Stebel.