Kindergarten Teacher

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We Should Be Doing More Than Teaching Digital Citizenship

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The quote above is one of my favorites about digital citizenship. My classroom is a global classroom but I don’t “teach” digital citizenship. My students are actually digital citizens and we learn about the digital world by being a part of it. I feel most of the issues kids have online with bullying, racism and inappropriate posting come from a lack of experience in the digital world. My goal as a Kindergarten teacher is to begin to build the understanding that interactions online are interactions with real people and that posting something usually means it is online forever. My hope is that by being part of the digital world in a controlled environment while they are young, they will have the knowledge and skills to be good digital citizens when are on their own.

If you think about it the digital world is a very abstract concept, especially for young kids. I try very hard to bridge that abstract world by providing concrete connections with other classes around the world. We tweet, Skype and use google docs to build relationships with digital tools. This year I plan to have someone in our school be our first Skype contact and then have that person visit the room after the call. I want them to have a clear understanding we are chatting with real people.

How do you plan to give your class experiences being digital citizens this year? The options are endless and you can always start your first connection with a class in your own school or district.

Here is the map of connections my class made last year

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18 Responses to We Should Be Doing More Than Teaching Digital Citizenship

  1. I Skyped with a 3rd grade classroom last year. Even though I am only a few miles away, the teacher wanted the students to learn about Skype so we connected in that fashion. Later in the year, I happened to be on site visiting another teacher. The students saw me and flipped out. It was as if I was Taylor Swift. They screamed and pointed, “Look! Look! It’s Dr. Spencer. We Skyped with her!!” It was so cute, but it reinforces your point that younger students don’t always connect the virtual with the reality.

  2. K. Lirenman says:

    Matt, I too have a very digital class learning with others around the world through twitter, video conferencing, and blogging. We co create, we visit blogs, we leave comments, we learn with others. We even did projects with students in our own district that we had never met, and culminated those projects with F2F meetings. But, I DO teach digital citizenship explicitly. We talk about appropriate and inappropriate things to post on line, we talk about commenting, we talk about a lot of things with respect to digital citizenship. I’m going to take my students into the online world it’s really important for me to teach the safety and respect protocols. So I’m confused when you say “My classroom is a global classroom but I don’t teach digital citizenship.” Please explain.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Karen, my point is digital citizenship can’t be just a lesson we teach the kids. They need real interactions to truly learn. I don’t have set lessons that I teach, instead we discuss how to be digital citizens as we communicate with others. You are a wonderful example of what all teachers should be doing. Thanks for the comment and sorry if my point was confusing.

  3. K. Lirenman says:

    Thanks Matt, I figured that was what you were trying to say but I think it’s very misleading to say that you don’t teach digital citizenship because you do. You do it through being a digital citizen, modelling as you go. I agree that just teaching, and not doing – kinda like teaching a teenager how to drive a car but never actually letting them drive – is useless. But I do think we need to be careful with lines such as “I don’t teach digital citizenship” .

  4. Roxanne says:

    Matt, I am working really hard to implement technology in my classroom. I would love for my class to tweet with your class. I met you at the TCEA conference in Galveston. You introduced me to Twitter in the classroom. I could really use a mentor, I am the only one in my school to do this and so far I’m not being taken seriously. I know you are really busy but I am super excited to try this with my new Kinder students. Would you be able to connect with us at least for a bit in the beginning? I’m not sure how to go about making connections.

  5. Nancy says:

    In my travels to schools, I’m pushing the concept of “creating a culture of positive norms,” based on Nancy Willard’s work at embracecivility.org. I agree that most digcit skills can and should be taught within the context of whatever is going on in your classroom, but the fact is there are a LOT of teachers who are not Cyber Savvy themselves. So when I introduce them to Common Sense Media and other lesson-based sites in a small group, they learn are learning the information for themselves, in many cases for the first time. I figure that having at least some conversation, however artificial at first, about staying safe online or creating a positive digital footprint, is preferable to having a completely absentee playground attendant. I find that many teachers and principals welcome materials that will at least help them start a conversation about that big digital elephant in the room. Thanks for this post! It has helped me somewhat redefine my DC campaign goals. And I AM on a crusade!!

    • Matt Gomez says:

      You are right Nancy, teachers that are not global citizens themselves need support and lessons to help guide them. My hope is that they then see the importance of taking it to the next step and doing more than lessons. I am excited to hear about your progress this year!

  6. Thanks, Matt, for finding that Honeycutt quote for me! I had actually favorited it months ago when I first saw it in a chat about digital citizenship and have been trying to find it and who said it. You made my morning! – @snidesky

  7. This isn’t a digital citizenship thing, this is a teaching philosophy. Do we teach skills and knowledge in a vacuum or do we believe in just in time learning? Learning without context is just a parlor trick, kind of cool but after a while I want to move on to the cake and ice cream.

  8. We need to do just more than model “good practices” with social media use & web 2.0 tools. We need to have critical discussions about our choices–what we’re doing, why where doing that on one service & not elsewhere (e.g. Twitter vs. FB), why we share some things but not others. It’s not enough to be observed–though indeed some learning occurs that way–we must share our critical thinking processes in regard to our use and consumption of social media, web 2.0, social networks and the like so that our students can develop the knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, ethical frameworks, and critical thinking structures necessary to navigate this world. Here is a piece I wrote about trying to do this with my own kids http://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/trying-to-raise-techno-responsible-kids-story-1/
    Here’s another piece I posted in my blog on this topic: http://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/digital-citizenship-tips-for-families-of-kids-in-digital-environments/

    Nancy Willard’s CyberSavvy sets our some great learning objectives that you can incorporate into your classroom practice–though you may have to adapt them to K-grade speak. Posting etiquette & establishing procedures when kids encounter nasty people or stuff (e.g. get a screen capture, don’t interact, get a teacher/parent) goes a way toward developing some citizenship skills.
    I’d also recommend reading Jason Ohler’s Digital Community, Digital Citizen–that covers safety, civility, etc. but even extends concepts of digital citizenship into an awareness of environmental impacts of technology, and a conscious consumerism mentality.

    I also think we need to establish a scope and sequence where young students observe adult use & post through adult moderated accounts, progressing to practice in fenced or closed systems moderated by responsible adults–where they can make errors & be corrected–before being cut loose on the open global systems. Here is my concept of what this might look like:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/p2tfovcg3vgdxdu/levels.fw.png

    We need to prepare kids to be good digital citizens and adults–explicitly and implicitly. Schools need to get with the program–and if they won’t. a grassroots teacher movement can encourage them to do so.

  9. Klara Redford says:

    When we let the students out at recess, we provide them with a few simple guidelines – stay in the schoolyard & when the bell rings – lineup with your class. Recess is a time of social norms and social etiquette that evolves naturally and instinctually as students of all ages learn to adapt to their social “world” at recess – a time that is so polar opposite to the time in the classroom (with exception to my Kindergarten colleagues and their Kindy friends). And they start this social experience called recess – really one without boundaries – at a very early age – 6 years old in my Board of Education – so why should we not be embracing this philosophy with digital citizenship. It is a social lesson as much as an “academic” one. And it’s by no means in a vacuum. “So, I hear that there was a problem at recess – let’s talk about it and come up with some solutions”…….and from my early experiences with technology and Kindergarten, involving parents as mentors in digital citizenship, just as they are mentors in reading, showing their children that they read too, is key to the whole social expense of the Internet. Just my two cents…oh and Matt thanks for the quote, awesome!

  10. Modeling and teaching digital citizenship go hand in hand. Modelling driving is different to teaching driving http://hectorsworld.netsafe.org.nz Is great resource that illustrates the required skills and behavior required by online citizens with lesson plans. It ties in with personal development outcomes/standards. This great for under 8’s but used up to 10/11yo. Also try CyberSmart.gov.au

  11. Great post, Matt!

    I found that my elementary students had an incredibly difficulty time understanding the concept of “virtual”. We spent a lot of time discussing this concept because “virtual” doesn’t mean “real” or “imaginary” or both. In the end, I had to teach them the idea of physical as an opposite to virtual.

    I love your idea of Skyping someone in your building first. I did a similar activity with my 2nd graders and used the telephone to call the head of school. We then went on a mission across campus literally tracing the phone wires. From there, we called my grandfather in Virginia on speaker phone. The kids were so excited to know that he had the same color telephone poles on his street as we did on the street outside the school. He also had grey wires running from his phone into the jack on the wall just like we did. By starting with physical connections, it made it easier for my students to start to grasp the concept of digital/virtual ones.

  12. Hi Matt,

    What a great idea! I love the idea that the students will meet the person after we Skype with them. I think that will be a powerful lesson.

    Elizabeth Goold

  13. Jillian Moore says:

    Hello,
    You are such great ideas. I’d love to have your class SKYPE with one of my Pre-K or Kinder classes…

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