Digital Citizenship


No doubt, the issue of digital citizenship has reared it’s head within your class and school. In an age of digital bombardment, how do we equip students to make wise choices about viewing information and posting information? Schools I have been involved with have offered a range of ideas from contracts to filters. We best equip by informing, allowing choice, giving strategies and assisting in filtering. As part of our gifted and talented program, we have been following this process with students. Hopefully some of our strategies will assist you in working with your students.

Students needs to know what’s out there on the internet and the purpose behind aspects of the internet. They need to know where their stories fit within the internet. Recommended age restrictions should be adhered to, but this doesn’t prevent students from being fully informed before they decide to join up. Below are some popular topics we’ve discussed:

  • Rather than pretending Facebook doesn’t exist, discuss it with students. Talk about it’s features and purpose and explain why it is currently unavailable to children under 14 years of age. Or better yet, let the students come with reasons behind the decision.
  • Read up on Wikipedia. Many practitioners claim it to be inaccurate, however, much research shows that it is more accurate than Encyclopedia Brittanica. Talk to students about this.
  • Become a Twit. Get yourself hooked-in to a network. Discuss with students the benefits of Twitter and why it’s censored for younger people.
  • Allow students to blog/glog/wordle. Show how to utilise these for different tasks. This gives them a safe voice in the WWW with the opportunity to showcase their personality.
  • Give students an e-portfolio. Mahara have an excellent platform for schools that allow students to blog, upload work and comment on each other’s work.

Inevitably, inappropriate content will pop up despite the best filters. Sometimes the sites that we prescribe for student use have pop-ups or even examples that are not appropriate for students. Recently, we prescribed a task on Wordle for our students for homework. A particular student clicked on some of the example Wordles and suddenly we had a drama on or hands. Sadly, in clean up mode, our school’s executive then had Wordle blocked. I’m not sure this was the best result. So, when filters aren’t enough, how do we help students to filter themselves.

  1. Encourage students to search specifically when on Google and include the keyword ‘for kids’ or ‘education’ in the search. Then read descriptions of websites carefully to ensure they get on the right site.
  2. Stress to students the importance of not clicking on pop-ups and side windows.
  3. Create a list of appropriate/safe sites in correlation with your students and allow students to update
  4. Run workshops for parents to help them to feel informed and to encourage them to ensure all digital devices are used under direct adult supervision in the home
  5. Empower students to feel confident to shut-down sites/images that they find inappropriate and report
  6. Thoroughly scour through every site you prescribe to students

Whether we like it or not, students are already using sites such as; Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Some students are doing this without the permission or knowledge of their parents. Even if students are not on these sites, they soon will be and should know how to protect themselves. Students, parents and teachers should have a strong knowledge of privacy settings and how to change them. Recently, I ran a workshop to show stdents the privacy settings that are available, how to change them and what settings are recommended for them.

Due to the influx of communication tools available, students are communicating with each other with a much higher frequency than ever before. Even adults have difficulty controlling what they say on Social Media and through text-messaging and end up in trouble. Students need to be aware of the permanency of everything they put on the internet. Lately, I’ve been using the analogy that putting information on the internet is like skywriting except that it never goes away; anyone can see it and access it at anytime. Students should be encouraged to filter everything they put on the internet and ensure they don’t write anything when angry or upset. Students must also be informed about cyber-bullying and its affects. Wired Safety have some excellent resources available on Youtube that are helpful.

Lastly, students need to feel accountable for their behaviour on the internet. Students should be encouraged to create a Code of Conduct that includes consequences for misbehaviour. They may even allocate themselves accountability buddies. They also need to know that the adults in their world care enough to supervise their activities on the internet. They may feel a little smothered at first but they’ll also feel safe. We must trust our students to do the right thing when we have equipped them with helpful information and strategies.

It’s a bit of a mine-field out there but don’t give up!

Essentially, everyone is talking about social media… well, if everyone is not, our students certainly are. In order to prepare students


What do do about Internet censorship?

This week, we had an interesting… speed hump… maybe more like, road block… in regards to the way we use the internet with our students. Basically, the outcome is a freeze on all internet use that is not approved by Executives until a Usage Charter has been formalised. How did this come about, you ask?

Many parents in our community have been scared and are scared of the internet. They don’t know what Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, My Space or Reddit are. For many of them, all they know is what has been reported on A Current Affair. In a nutshell, they believe that the use of the internet will ruin their child’s life and it must be hidden from them at all costs.

What if we did things differently?

Picture for me, if you will, the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Note some interesting things –

  1. The King rids the world of spinning wheels
  2. On the day of her birthday, Sleeping Beauty is left alone
  3. Naturally SB is curious and goes exploring (alone)
  4. SB finds a spinning wheel and, not knowing what it is, pricks her finger

Now exchange ‘spinning wheel’ with ‘internet’. Imagine if instead of ridding the land of spinning wheels, the king and queen had educated SB in the usage of spinning wheels  and in fact, SB may have even become proficient in the use spinning wheels. Imagine that instead of pretending there was no spell, the king and queen trusted and respected SB enough to tell her the danger. Imagine that on the day of the curse, the King had not left her alone but protected her.

Would she have been so curious? Would she have been so careless? It’s doubtful.

Part of my pedagogy is informing students about the internet, privacy, security and even cyber-bullying. I want them to know what’s out there and what the purposes are of various platforms. I want them to know how to ensure their privacy settings are high and I want them to know the permanency of submitting to the internet. I want students to ensure they have adults in their internet world.

We can’t stop children from exploring the internet but we can educate them. It is our duty to educate them.