Young children are taught to look both ways before crossing the street, and teens are given driving lessons before getting behind the wheel of a car. We love our children and want to keep them safe. In this time of emerging technology, this includes instruction on how to navigate an increasingly complex online world.
A portion of the Library/Technology curriculum in the Lower School is focused on the development of “digital citizenship.” According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), this term encompasses respect, education, and protection (safety) around devices and while online. In the Lower School here at Baldwin we teach students from PreK – Grade 5 how to interact with technology, as well as with other people while online. With a solid understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen, our girls are better equipped to manage the information and choices that they will encounter online.
For our youngest students in PreK and Kindergarten, this starts with learning how to care for technology and how to use iPads responsibly. They interact with apps and manipulate different types of media in a safe and controlled environment. As their horizons begin to expand, students in Grades 1-2 are taught strategies for navigating the Internet safely, including how to identify and access safe websites, what to do if something unexpected happens, and why we need to protect our private information. They also visit the Library webpage and are introduced to a social media aspect of the Library catalog. Here in a safe, private environment students learn that our Baldwin Core Values also apply online as well.
This focus continues in Grade 3, where the primary message is that being responsible is important online, just like at home or school. The term “cyberbully” is introduced and we discuss how we need not only to be kind to others, but also to speak up if we observe any negative behavior. In Grade 4, one area of concentration is how to take advantage of the many resources available online and includes copyright and ownership of digital content. Here students learn how to appropriately credit creators of images and other materials.
By the time they reach Grade 5, students are able to incorporate each of these previously taught skills and ideas and to think more deeply about their role as digital citizens. They create a “Digital Citizen’s Pledge” to display in the Lower School hallway, detailing appropriate behaviors online. We also discuss our digital footprints and the fact that once something goes online other people can see it and send it out. In preparation for their future studies, we review how to tell whether or not a website is authoritative and stage a mock trial to determine whether the information provided on a website is of sufficiently good quality.
As a community member of Baldwin, you might be asking yourself how you can find out more information about this topic. Two resources that I’ve found particularly helpful are:
- Common Sense Media , which offers digital advice as well as book and movie reviews, and
- ISTE, which provides information and strategies for learning more about technology and online tools.
In closing I would like to quote from the article “Essential Elements of Digital Citizenship”
Digital citizenship is a complex topic with many facets. We need to make sure we help students understand the issues that might occur online while also stressing the positive impact of technology. As many educators know, most students want to do the right thing — and will, if they know what that is. Let’s help them do great things with technology while avoiding the pitfalls.