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TOOLS FOR LEARNING: Teaching and Learning the Ways of Our Brave New Digital World

By Victor Rivero - Posted Feb 1, 2014
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What is digital citizenship? There’s always something to learn, especially when you’re looking up the word derivations.

Roughly speaking, the word “digital” has to do with fingers (digitus, digitalis), counting, typing, computers, and, ultimately, technology—if not for the 1’s and 0’s involved in creating it then for the fingers that actually interact with the keyboards and now screens.

A “citizen” is a person from (or strongly connected to) a city (civis, civitas, cite), place, or, more broadly, a community—an inhabitant, a member of, with all the attendant rights and responsibilities.

The word “digital” is a bit of a second-tier word. It’s not so common that everyone immediately understands it, but do a quick survey of any person within shouting distance, asking, “What does the word ‘digital’ mean?” and you’ll commonly hear,“It has to do with computers” as a flash answer.

So the phrase “digital citizenship” has to do with the rights and duties of a person using technology along with other people—because a person must consider that he lives with others on an interconnected Earth.

“Digital citizenship” is a relatively far-reaching phrase that encompasses a variety of well-known terms and concepts, including digital … access, commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette (“netiquette”), law, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security (refer to Teaching digital citizenship leads to the discussion of issues such as cyberbullying, online privacy, sexting, digital footprints, online image, reputation management, acceptable use policies, and much more.

Ideally, educators and students who are well-versed in digital citizenship would be skilled in their everyday technology usage, whether in a home or school setting (an increasingly blurred line). That being the case, there’s a place for digital citizenship education throughout our school experience, from elementary to post-secondary.

This leads to this month’s featured descriptive list of, you guessed it, some excellent resources that come to mind when we think of “digital citizenship” and “digital civics.” Read em, use em. It’s practically an educator’s digital civic duty!

Speak Up. Perhaps one of the best ways to be a “good” digital citizen is through communication. Since 2003, more than 3 million education stakeholders from 35,000-plus schools have participated in Speak Up. Their voices are heard by policymakers interested in leveraging technology to promote enhanced learning in our K–12 schools. Speak Up, a national online research project facilitated by Project Tomorrow, gives individuals the opportunity to share their viewpoints about key educational issues, particularly concerning 21st-century education and technology. Each year, findings
are summarized and shared with national and state policymakers. Participating schools and districts can access their data
online, free of charge in February 2014.

Call for a DC Curriculum. Nothing to do with Michelle Rhee, in this insightful article, the author calls for implementation of a Digital Citizenship curriculum. Although the comment section is a bit like a bed of hot coals underfoot, whatever your opinion, it’s worth it to have an informed approach
and a rapid run-through.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Amanda Lenhart presented nine major themes from the project’s five-report series on Teens and Online Privacy. In a talk delivered to the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference last November, Amanda examined youth’s social media diversification and sharing practices, privacy choices, and the ways that youth concepts of privacy differ from adult concepts.

Digital Citizenship website. The topic of digital citizenship is gaining momentum not only in the U.S., but around the world. Call it digital citizenship, digital wellness, or digital ethics—the issues are very similar: How should we act when we are online, and what should be taught to the next generation? With BYOD (bring your own device) growth and 1:1 initiatives in schools, there is a need to talk about the responsible use of technology. Many organizations and individuals are working on this topic. Go to the Resources Tab and look for their links.

BrainPOP resources. Take a digital etiquette quiz, download a free online digital safety poster, pick up some digital  citizenship lesson plans, or have a look at a half-dozen other interesting topics that align to this vital issue area.

Copyright Kids! Learn the basics of copyright from this informative site (geared toward older “kids” by the looks of its reading level). Some solid info and good resources here.

StopCyberbullying. Home of Don’t Stand By, Stand Up, StopCyberbullying was one of the first cyberbullying prevention programs in North America. Its specially trained young volunteers design and deliver community programs to help their peers address cyberbullying. Founder Parry Aftab calls them her “cyberarmy”; volunteers are empowered to tackle this important issue. These teens and tweens staff their own text messaging support line for other young people, build apps to promote kindness, and provide student peer support in their schools.

Digital Survival. A clever idea presented in an article by educator Craig Badura, there may be no better way to get your message across to a classroom than through the use of a Digital Citizenship Survival Kit. You’ve got to see it—and use it—to believe it.

iCivics. Sandra Day O’Connor’s legacy might be as an inspiring and barrier-breaking woman, but her civics education program will certainly have a greater effect on students yearning for useful content on their way up in the world. iCivics is a game, activity, and resource-filled website that the retired Supreme Court justice founded. It helps young people of all ages learn about basic civics. Games, lesson plans, and supporting resources for teachers in grades 3–12.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). In the general realm of civics, DPLA is an online collection of millions of photographs, maps, sounds, manuscripts, books, and more accessible anytime, anywhere, for anyone, providing primary source examples of our American Heritage for grades 6–12.

Digital Learning Day. Contrary to the name, this program isn’t limited to a single day of learning as its resources can be found year-round. Its Digital Civics Toolkit specifically addresses the issues and challenges involved with Digital Citizenship. Have a look at the Tools & Resources, as well as the Lessons provided.

That’s all for now. There is a growing body of digital citizenship resources to fill your digital civics curriculum; use your own internet-savvy to seek further great resources. Don’t be shy in contacting us so that we might add them to the list—and may you find some use in their help and some help in their use!


Contact Victor at



Family Contract for Digital Citizenship

Parents’ Pledge

1. I will get to know the services and websites my child uses. If I don’t know how to use them, I will take the time to learn how.

2. I will teach my children to understand that other people do not have the same access to technology. I will demonstrate to my child that all technology users  should be treated the same.

3. I will work with my child to understand the issues around online purchases. I will show my child which sites are safe and secure for buying goods online. I will also help to explain how to search and find the best deals online.

4. I promise to teach my child when and how to use digital communication methods. I understand that technology may not always be the best way to interact with others.

5. I will help everyone in our family to understand that our technology usage affects others. I will help my child to understand they need to act the way they want to be treated.

6. I will try to get to know my child’s “online friends” just as I try get to know his or her other friends. I will explain that to have rights online there are certain responsibilities as well.

7. I will teach my children that … some material that is available online … is protected and cannot be taken without permission. Children need to understand that this material is owned by others, and they have rights to be protected.

8. I will explain to my children when using technology they need to be at proper heights for their size to keep from causing physical harm. I will also make sure that my children have limits on the time they can use technology so as not to become addicted to the technology.

9. I will spend time to teach my child to protect their technology and data by having adequate virus, spyware, and adware software. I will also show that … having protection is important for all technology.

I agree to the above


Parent(s) sign here



I understand that my parent(s) has agreed to these rules and agree to help my parent(s) explore and use technology with me.


Child sign here


Adapted from © 2000–2004 SafeKids.Com


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