It feels good to be back at it again after a little welcome-back-to-school sabbatical. For me, the school year started last year when I was chosen to teach at a newly formed science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) elementary school in my district.
I'm too excited about what we are doing in my school and in my own classroom to take a break anymore. I launched this year with some work with digital citizenship and my big question for my students has been: what does it mean to be a digital citizen? Sounds simple ... but the answer to that question has been a little bit elusive.
I have to admit that it still makes me squirm when I hear my students discuss their Facebook pages ... mind you, they're in elementary school. I've decided that I can't help them navigate the internet safely though if I plug my ears and sing at the top of my lungs every time they mention their favorite social networking destination. Instead, I've also learned that I am the worst scripted program follower ... ever. In developing my lesson plans, I tend to wander from one resource to the next, playing off of the diversity and shades of netiquette that each provides. Rather than confuse my students, I've found that the resulting conversations are more dynamic and nuanced, giving kids a better picture of the challenges that they face every day when they plug in.
Some of my favorites? Why, I thought you'd never ask. :-)
Netsmartz: An oldie, but a goodie. Developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Netsmartz includes a free curriculum, activity cards, and a growing collection of online videos and games to reinforce skills central to being a digital citizen. It took me a long time to come around on Netsmartz, but the interactive Router's Birthday Surprise has been an awesome way to introduce internet safety to my students. At the beginning of the year, the students quickly tire of another list of teacher-imposed rules, but the interactive RBS is a big hit with my students who have shown me time and time again that they learn my doing. Grades K-2
Professor Garfield's Infinite Learning Lab: Who doesn't love Garfield? These interactive videos from the Infinite Learning Lab feature everybody's favorite lasagna-crazed cat, Garfield and his friends. When Garfield dons Einstein's glasses, he turns into Professor Garfield and helps kids learn a wide variety of life skills, including: self-esteem, self-control, online safety, and how to deal with cyberbullying. The Virginia Department of Education even published four of the videos as free apps for your favorite idevice in iTunes. A full video with activities will easily consume a 45 minute class. Lessons to go with each one include questions to ask students throughout. I love Learning Lab's videos for my middle grades! Grades K-5
Digizen.org: This site reminds me that my colleagues across the Atlantic are doing amazing things when it comes to digital citizenship. Part of Childnet International's collection of fantastic sites, Digizen is a site for teachers, parents, and kids to explore. Every activity is coded with its intended audience. Build your own digizen avatar, explore the features of different social networking sites, or hop onto the Digizen Game and see how you rate as a digital citizen. Do you have the skills to deal with cyberbullying and the other challenges of being a member of the online community?
Think U Know: I just discovered this site and absolutely in love with all that it has to offer for kids grades K-10. The games are embedded full of great information on digital etiquette. Kids in grades 3-5 will jumping into the Cyber Cafe on the Thinkuknow site for ages 8-10. My only regret: I'm not a UK national and can't access the teaching materials, but the student sites are still top notch.
NSTeens: Netsmartz teen site. They claim it's great for kids ages 8-18, but I'm thinking more along the lines of 4th grade and up. The video clips have cartoons and Teens Talk Back clips on a variety of topics. The games are so much fun, although the learning aspect of these games is minimal ... who doesn't love Cyberbullying Zombies Attack ... a lesson on digital citizenship meets Plants vs. Zombies. Don't over think the games, but do check out what this site has to offer.
Kidsmart: Another great UK site that allows kids to explore a variety of topics, from social networking to online gaming. The skills school features video how-tos on skills such as changing privacy settings on Facebook.
Commonsense Media's Digital Citizenship Curriculum: Fantastic K-12 lesson plans on all things related to digital citizenship. I am eagerly awaiting their interactive Digital Passport which they announced earlier this year. Any time kids can learn through a video game, I'm all on board. I hope to see the Passport soon.
Microsoft's Digital Citizenship and Creative Content Curriculum: Intended for middle school and high school audiences, this FREE curriculum has some great resources, including pre- and post- assessments related to copyright and fair use. The accompanying student site, MyBytes, is a great tool for teaching students about the implications of Creative Commons licensing and issues copyright raises. Kids create their own cell phone ring tones -- which can be downloaded, and decide what license attributes to give their tone. They can even charge "points" for it and earn a little profit to use to buy other ring tones on the site.
Plenty of other great resources out there, but these are my favorites and I actively use all of these in my lab teaching digital citizenship to grades K-5.