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The greatest software invented for human safety is the human brain. It's time that we start using those brains. We must mix head knowledge with action. In my classroom, I use two essential approaches in the digital citizenship curriculum that I teach: proactive knowledge and experiential knowledge.

Proactive Knowledge

I want my students to know the "9 Key Ps" of digital citizenship. I teach them about these aspects and how to use them. While I go into these Ps in detail in my book Reinventing Writing, here are the basics:

1. Passwords

Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites? Do they have a system like LastPass for remembering passwords, or a secure app where they store this information? (See 10 Important Password Tips Everyone Should Know.)

2. Privacy

Do students know how to protect their private information like address, email, and phone number? Private information can be used to identify you. (I recommend the Common Sense Media Curriculum on this.)

3. Personal Information

While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favorite food) can't be used to identify you, you need to choose who you will share it with.

4. Photographs

Are students aware that some private things may show up in photographs (license plates or street signs), and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture -- even if they aren't tagged? (See the Location-Based Safety Guide)

5. Property

Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Do they respect property rights of those who create intellectual property? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights. Sometimes they'll even cite "Google Images" as the source. We have to teach them that Google Images compiles content from a variety of sources. Students have to go to the source, see if they have permission to use the graphic, and then cite that source.

6. Permission

Do students know how to get permission for work they use, and do they know how to cite it?

7. Protection

Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work? (See Experiential Knowledge below for tips on this one.)

8. Professionalism

Do students understand the professionalism of academics versus decisions about how they will interact in their social lives? Do they know about netiquette and online grammar? Are they globally competent? Can they understand cultural taboos and recognize cultural disconnects when they happen, and do they have skills for working out problems?

9. Personal Brand

Have students decided about their voice and how they want to be perceived online? Do they realize they have a "digital tattoo" that is almost impossible to erase? Are they intentional about what they share?

Experiential Knowledge

During the year, I'll touch on each of these 9 Key Ps with lessons and class discussions, but just talking is not enough. Students need experience to become effective digital citizens. Here's how I give them that:

Truth or Fiction

To protect us from disease, we are inoculated with dead viruses and germs. To protect students from viruses and scams, I do the same thing. Using current scams and cons from Snopes, Truth or Fiction, the Threat Encyclopedia, or the Federal Trade Commission website, I'm always looking for things that sound crazy but are true, or sound true but are false or a scam. I'll give them to students as they enter class and ask them to be detectives. This opens up conversations of all kinds of scams and tips.

Turn Students into Teachers

Students will create tutorials or presentations exposing common scams and how to protect yourself. By dissecting cons and scams, students become more vigilant themselves. I encourage them to share how a person could detect that something was a scam or con.

Collaborative Learning Communities

For the most powerful learning experiences, students should participate in collaborative learning (like the experiences shared in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds). My students will collaborate with others on projects like Gamifi-ed or the AIC Conflict Simulation (both mentioned in a recent post on game-based learning).

Students need experience sharing and connecting online with others in a variety of environments. We have a classroom Ning where students blog together, and public blogs and a wiki for sharing our work with the world. You can talk about other countries, but when students connect, that is when they learn. You can talk about how students need to type in proper case and not use IM speak, but when their collaborative partner from Germany says they are struggling to understand what's being typed in your classroom, then your students understand.

Digital Citizenship or Just Citizens?

There are those like expert Anne Collier who think we should drop the word "digital" because we're really just teaching citizenship. These are the skills and knowledge that students need to navigate the world today.

We must teach these skills and guide students to experience situations where they apply knowledge. Citizenship is what we do to fulfill our role as a citizen. That role starts as soon as we click on the internet.

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Scott McLeod's picture
Scott McLeod
Director of Innovation, Prairie Lakes AEA

Vicki, you and I are both strong believers in student empowerment but I notice that there's not much about empowerment here. Can we add to your list some items like 'productivity' or 'power?' Some folks may see this as reinforcing the predominant paradigm of 'digital citizenship' as 'do what you should' and 'be good' not also 'do what you could' and 'be powerful?'

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA

Really? I guess to me student empowerment is a given and a must in such an environment where "Students need experience sharing and connecting online with others in a variety of environments." Sharing and connecting empowers because we aren't premoderating (censoring) comments but letting students have free conversations about the things that matter.

However, if you don't see empowerment then others will agree with you and see that too. So, as the author let me reiterate that digital citizens as regular citizens should be empowered to have a voice. As I teach I want to unleash student's energy and excitement by tapping into their passion and causes that matter.

So, yes, Scott- empowerment is vital and thank you for adding your voice to the conversation on this topic and clarifying something that is certainly central to this conversation--- the empowerment of students to be digital citizens.

In fact- if we take one important issue-- that of cyber bullying and bullying-- the only research proven thing that helps is empowering bystanders. We must not be bystanders but must be voices to speak for things that matter. And, Scott, thank you for being a voice that matters and speaking out for kids! They are worth it!!

ProfessorArnold's picture

I really like the 9 P's as a way to teach students Digital Citizenship. This strategy makes it easy to remember and present to students so they can understand it. I look forward to using these 9 P's to introduce citizenship to my 3rd graders next year.

Katie V's picture

I am totally on board with students needing to develop collaborative learning! Expressing their communication in diverse ways is highly important for their learning in this day and age. I find digital citizenship beneficial for both teacher and student in a means of developing rich content through both online and in the classroom!

DavidAyer's picture

Of course students would never find the Snopes article that gives you the taxonomy of thw whole arc of the scam - that would spoil it anyway - their job is is to retrace the case and report back to Kidworld

Madiha Abbas's picture

I also liked the 9 P's to teach students Digital Citizenship. Its seems a very nice and effective strategy. I will be using it in my lessons to create awareness in my students and to make the realize the importance of they play as an individual in the digital community.

Michael's picture

The article is an excellent introduction for what our students need to know about being a good digital citizen. the real question here is: When do we begin to teach this? We are living in an age where children as young as a year old are not only exposed to technology, but are using it regularly. Since the students who are arriving in our kindergarten classrooms are already immersed in a digital world, I think that citizenship training should begin the day students arrive in schools. As educators we talking about preparing children for their future, doesn't their future begin today?

Zandra's picture

This is an important article. Digital citizenship is vital. ISTE standards state under section 5 that students need to understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology while practicing legal and ethical behavior. As early as possible students need to practice safe, legal, and responsible use of technology and the information gained from it. ISTE standards also state that students need to "Exhibit a positive attitude toward using
technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning." An earlier blogger, Michael is absolutely correct, digital citizenship training should begin the moment students begin using technology in school.

Classkick's picture

Love that thought of dropping the "digital" to teach citizenship to all students! Absolutely need to focus on being strong contributors to society, protecting oneself while promoting ideas in safe, healthy discourse.

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