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Add student voice to digital citizenship with PBL

If off-the-charts student engagement, increased problem-solving skills and deep learning are the hallmarks of project-based learning, perhaps it’s time we applied the approach to another hot education topic: digital citizenship.

When you think about it, there’s no better way to drive home the importance of digital citizenship than to add student voice, says Marialice Curran, associate professor in the School of Education at University of St. Joseph in Connecticut.

“It’s PBL with a side of Genius Hour,” Curran describes her recommended approach. “If you want solutions on how to treat people, it has to come from students. Let them lead the way, and digital citizenship becomes a verb.”

Curran suggests educators first carve out some time to cover the nine elements of digital citizenship: access, commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette, law, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security. Next, have students select one of the nine elements to explore together while allowing them to exercise both voice and choice.

Connect with others

For those just starting out with digital citizenship lessons, Curran suggests starting with digital etiquette and developing a PBL project that helps students humanize the person next to them as well as the person across the screen.
The project might include blogging, for instance, at first to connect with classmates, then with another class in the same school and eventually a classroom far away.

“It’s like a pebble, and we want that ripple effect to be really positive,” Curran explains. “It’s allowing students to have the time to understand it, make meaning of it and then produce something that will produce positive school culture. And hopefully it will go global and influence other students.”

Get some great project ideas

Curran says she’s seen PBL with a digital citizenship focus work wonders to reduce cyberbullying, for instance, or to define what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century. And she’s got a lot more ideas and research to back up her theory, many of which will be covered Wednesday in the ISTE-hosted webinar “Student Voice in Digital Citizenship: A Project-Based Learning Approach.”
Curran promises plenty of valuable takeaways, including:

  • An understanding of why digital citizenship is everybody’s responsibility to teach and how to embed digital citizenship into any subject area.
  • Examples of successful PBL projects related to digital citizenship.
  • An understanding of how the ISTE Standards apply to PBL and how student voice can lead the way.
  • Ways to get students to create a positive climate in your school or district.
  • Examples of how students become empowered when PBL is paired with digital citizenship.  
  • Tips for getting all stakeholders — students, parents, administrators and educators — to discuss and understand digital citizenship.
  • Dozens of lesson plans and resources for educators who are just beginning to address digital citizenship as well as for those who are more experienced but would like to add to their toolbox.

ISTE members can sign up for the free webinar “Student Voice in Digital Citizenship: A Project-Based Learning Approach” today. Not an ISTE member? Join us!

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