In the famous words of Spider-Man writer Stan Lee:
With great power comes great responsibility.
might have said it first. Or possibly Jesus.
The point is, if we're going to empower students to create and
share online, we've also got to teach them how to responsibly wield the power of
connectivity. When we don't, we end up with misattributed quotes like the one
above — or worse. Cyberbullying, plagiarism and a detrimental digital footprint
are just a few of the problems that can arise when kids treat the internet as an
Every school approaches digital citizenship a bit
differently. Many teach it as a separate unit, often as part of health or
character education classes. While any amount of digital
is better than none,
it's most effective when it's integrated into the curriculum across all grades
so the message gets reinforced again and again.
"You want to create a positive culture in your school, so the more
teachers who can address it across subjects and grade levels, the better," said
Kelly Mendoza of Common Sense Media, which offers a free K-12 digital literacy and citizenship
curriculum for educators, available
online or as iBooks. "It has to be ongoing. You have to keep doing it and
reminding your students."
Fortunately, in a classroom where students already use technology,
it's a simple matter to incorporate a digital citizenship component into any
lesson — all while meeting both the ISTE Standards and
the Common Core. For example, teachers have the opportunity to address digital
citizenship whenever students:
Create digital presentations
Anytime students create content to share online, teachers can
supplement the lesson with an age-appropriate discussion about copyright and
fair use. Mendoza suggests going beyond simply showing students how to properly
cite ideas and images.
"Flip the tables on them. When they're creating and sharing their
work with the world online, ask them: How do you want other people to use your
work? Would you want other people to make a profit off it, share it or alter it?
That's when it really hits home," she said.
Study historical figures or literary characters
Prompt students to think about how they present themselves online —
and what it means to leave a digital footprint — by creating fake social media
profiles for the characters they're studying in history or English
"If Lincoln had a Twitter feed, what would he tweet? Get students
to think about how these characters might present themselves online," Mendoza
said. "Reframe social media to look at how the characters might have exemplified
themselves in a digital world and how it might have impacted
Add another dimension to this activity by using characters that
have two very distinct sides to their personalities, such as Jekyll and
"It helps them think about how sometimes people present themselves
online in a whole different way than they really are in person and why we might
share things about ourselves that might not really be in line with who we are in
Research a project
If a project requires students to perform research online, help
them develop information literacy skills by introducing effective search
strategies and discussing how to determine whether a website is
Want to learn more strategies for weaving digital
citizenship into your curriculum? Take our self-paced Digital
Kelly Mendoza manages professional development for
Common Sense Media's education programs. Learn more from her webinar on "Empowering Our Students to Be Digital