Teaching Digital Citizenship: It’s Common Sense!

When we adopted a 1:1 laptop program in our middle school, we developed an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The document covered hardware ownership and school network use, as well as consequences for misuse. The AUP contained a lot of “whats” but not very many “hows,” in terms of digital citizenship. In addition to having a strong set of expectations in place, we wanted to make sure that education about digital citizenship was ongoing for teachers, students and parents. 

Common Sense K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum makes this possible. Common Sense’s interactive curriculum and ready-to-use lessons make integrating digital citizenship easy to do. Teachers are learning about digital citizenship and how to integrate language about digital citizenship into their academic curriculum. Students are learning about digital citizenship through materials that connect digital citizenship topics to real world situations that have relevancy for them. Furthermore, Common Sense’s curriculum is available on a number of platforms, making learning accessible for the full spectrum of technology access. Lessons can be taught with no technology, some independent technology, or through fully developed interactive online modules: Digital Passport (grades 3-5), Digital Compass (grades 6-8) and Digital Bytes (grades 9-12). Additionally, Common Sense has teamed up with Nearpod, to deliver content through this interactive learning platform. 

This year, I purchased the Nearpod Common Sense Digital Citizenship Grades 6-8 lesson bundle. My students love these interactive lessons and teachers feel comfortable learning from and teaching with them. Each lesson can be completed in school or assigned as homework, and student work is tracked throughout the module. After the lesson is completed, the teacher can view analytics that show each student’s progress towards the learning goals. This is an excellent collaborative effort (Nearpod + Common Sense). I highly recommend this tool, because it engages both teachers and students with learning about digital citizenship (Common Sense), while introducing them to a new interactive learning tool (Nearpod). And, because of teachers’ positive experiences teaching digital citizenship with these Nearpod lessons, many have decided to use Nearpod to create lessons for their academic subjects.


Nearpod Analytics: Session Report

The digital citizenship lesson “A Creator’s Rights” was nested among lessons for a project for which students might find themselves using images or text from online sources. I found evidence of my students digital citizenship learning embedded in their final projects. They demonstrated the ability to locate and then to cite the sources of borrowed material.


Student work demonstrating learning from Common Sense Digital Citizenship “A Creator’s Rights” lesson

Common Sense Media is a trusted source of information for our parents, so they immediately trust that their children are learning what they need to know from a quality source. Common Sense Education’s Connecting Families is a complete tool kit for creating a home-school partnership about digital citizenship. From advice about how to host a school digital citizenship event, to fully developed “Conversation Cases” and complete with follow-up resources in every imaginable medium. I decided to choose resources that fit the needs of my community (school + parents). At the start of our 1:1 program, and with each new 6th grade class, parents were/are concerned about screen time & distractions. We held a discussion about both topics, during which we outlined our expectations for when and how students would be using their laptops in school, expectations for how teachers might expect students to use their laptops at home (homework), and asked parents to voice their concerns. We followed up with the “Managing Screen Time” & “Distraction, Multitasking, and Time Management” Family Tip Sheets. Future plans include a series of parent information sessions about these topics and others, using the Conversation Cases format. Currently, after each student module, I email middle school parents to let them know what digital citizenship lesson their child has learned, with follow up tips and discussion points that they can use at home.

Our school culture around digital citizenship benefits from the common language we use as a result of using the Common Sense K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum and resources that are designed to scaffold learning across grade levels and subjects and to create a partnership with parents.

Building this digital citizenship learning environment has resulted in my application to be a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator. I have been impressed by quality of the certification process and materials, which features independent learning modules, but also incorporates participation in the Common Sense professional learning networks on EdWeb and Edmodo. Along with a reflection about how the educator’s learning has affected their teaching practice, the educator needs to submit artifacts from digital citizenship lessons. I like that Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educators must demonstrate growth by reapplying for certification each year. This ensures that our approach to teaching digital citizenship remains fresh and is based on current best practices. To put it simply: it’s just common sense!


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