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5 educator-tested tips for strengthening digital citizenship in your classroom

By Mary Jo Madda
August 22, 2017
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The Innovator Solutions section includes contributions from corporate sponsors and advertisers representing education organizations, businesses, policy-making bodies and other influencers dedicated to transforming education. This post was provided by EdSurge

Addressing digital citizenship — educating students on online behavior as well as helping them to be global contributors — has become increasingly necessary for classroom teachers, with edubloggers left and right offering their thoughts. But with all the opinions about best practices out there, how do you go about singling out the sagest advice?

At EdSurge, a news source focused on edtech and innovation, we let our readers decide what floats to the top of our “best practices” jar.

Since 2015, several K-12 teachers and administrators have offered recommendations related to digital citizenship instruction. Here are five tips from the posts that have resonated most with EdSurge readers.  

Tip #1: Make digital citizenship a core piece of your curriculum — not an elective.

In her post, “How You Can Become a Champion of Digital Citizenship in Your Classroom,” Nebraska second grade teacher and EdSurge columnist Kayla Delzer urges educators to do one simple thing: Stop putting digital citizenship off to the side.

“As teachers, it is our responsibility to lead by example when it comes to sound digital citizenship practices. As soon as children have devices in their hands, they should be educated about digital citizenship and their digital footprint,” she wrote. “Think about this: Even before babies are born, they have a digital shadow, because pictures and other media are shared about them via various social media outlets.”

Tip #2: Know what resources are available to you — and share them!

Several resources tend to come up in digital citizenship conversations — Common Sense Media’s curriculum, PBS Kids Webonauts Academy, BrainPOP’s collection of videos. But you don’t have to stop at those, say technology integration specialist Kerry Gallagher and digital learning specialist Julie Cremin from St. John's Prep in Massachusetts.

In “How to Take Digital Citizenship Schoolwide During the 2016-17 School Year,” Gallagher and Cremin share how they created their own website for St. John’s Prep educators. With four modules focused on defining and integrating digital citizenship, the website provides the material as a self-paced course, essentially a flipped PD approach for busy teachers with varied schedules.

Tip #3: Teach students how to create and produce content for a global audience

In “A Guide to Producing Student Digital Storytellers,” Los Angeles teacher Michael Hernandez explains how to teach students to become digital storytellers using video, audio, social media, blogging and other online tools. In addition to creating, he expects his students to contribute by engaging with the work of their classmates.

“Require [students] to comment on others’ work and develop etiquette for online posts and feedback,” he wrote. “Rather than being afraid of the internet, embrace it to teach digital citizenship.”

Tip #4: Model good digital citizenship when communicating with students, parents — and fellow educators.

In “5 Ways Teachers Can Encourage Deeper Learning With Personal Devices,” Jennifer Pierrat, an education consultant and former teacher, urged educators to practice what they preach.

“Personal devices offer us adults immediate connection to our colleagues, either through email, messenger services or texting. While this form of digital citizenship is a skill set we may not feel comfortable developing in our students, it is one that working adults depend upon for collaboration,” she writes. “We can fight it or leverage it.”

Tip #5: Demonstrate consistently how social media can be used for good.

In her article on fostering global citizenship through student use of social media, Vermont elementary teacher Sharon Davison ended her post with a vital reminder to all educators: “Celebration is part of our culture, not an ‘extra thing.’”

Davison advises teachers to encourage students to use social media for good — to showcase their thinking, take risks and share, and to become reflective about their learning. In turn, students will see that good replicated. “When others comment on our ideas, my students engage in conversation and feel great that someone outside of our classroom is noticing what we are doing and giving us compliments and comments.”

Mary Jo is the director of audience development at EdSurge. Previously, she was a middle school STEM teacher and administrator in Texas and California. Most recently, she was on the Forbes "30 Under 30" list for the education category.