Digital Citizenship is an important subject, if not, the most important subject in digital education. Teaching students to be responsible, ethical, and safe online users is the first task in digital education for all students in our district. After an interview with the school district’s manager for Libraries and Instructional Technology, I also learned that her goal is for all families in our district to have affordable wi-fi access in their homes to support their children’s education with online research and reading, as well as collaborating with classmates and teachers.
Our staff-developed School Improvement Plan (SIP) includes digital citizenship education for our students but also includes outreach to our families ensuring they have reliable access to wi-fi and the digital tools necessary to support their children’s education.
We needed to set our SIP in motion. Recently, the district hired a Family Engagement Specialist (FES) for each school. My colleague, Renee Burgess, and I are the building’s Technology Teacher Leaders (TTL) and we met with the Family Engagement Specialist to discuss coordinating a community event where we could bring together students and families to begin a dialogue together on the topic of digital citizenship. At the same time we could share what services we are familiar with to help families with reliable access to technology.
Together, we planned a Digital Citizenship Family Engagement event. The Family Engagement Specialist visited with all the managers of the apartment complexes that our school draws from to find a central area for an event. We felt an off-school site location on the weekend would encourage attendance as well as offer a comfortable environment for families to get together over lunch which we also provided. Michelle advertised the event by posting fliers in all the common areas of the apartment complexes, posting on the school’s PTO Facebook page, and in the school’s weekly newsletter.Renee and I reviewed Common Sense Media’s Connecting Families Program to guide our discussion. The Connecting Families Program is designed to support and empower families in raising kids who think critically, participate responsibly, and behave ethically in their online lives (Common Sense Media, 2016). The program features Conversation Cases with relevant topics including real-life examples, question prompts, and materials for facilitators and participants. Because we are an elementary school, we selected as the first topic of discussion, “Young Children and Digital Footprints.”
We reached out to the Instructional Technology Department who sent us over the Digital Citizen Survival kits they give out at the schools who are piloting the 1:1 program. These kits are taught to students in 1:1 schools who take them home and teach their parents about Digital Citizenship. We wanted attendees to leave with something useful that they could also teach others.
Lessons from a Digital Citizenship Survival Kit
Lock- Keep passwords and personal information locked tight and safe; do not tell anyone.
Toothbrush- Don’t share personal information, as you would not share a toothbrush.
Permanent marker- Everything you write on-line is permanent and cannot be taken back.
Toothpaste tube- Once it’s out, you can’t get toothpaste back in the tube. Just like information-once it’s out, you can’t take it back. Think about what you put out.
Key-Remember your passwords!
Our conversation focused around 3 areas of Digital Citizenship: Ensuring families have quality access to technology, encouraging digital safety & security, and providing education through digital literacy.
Access: Families took home school district grant applications for free refurbished district computers that are being surplussed and given to families without access to computers. We also supplied families with resources for reduced fees for area internet cable service providers. A note on this–all families were surprised at how low the prices were and planned to follow up.
Safety & Security: Renee used a self-created Google Slides presentation to guide the discussion on how families maintain privacy online for their children. Each family’s values are different and the discussion on how we view online privacy and then pass it along to our children was worthwhile. It was a respectful honest conversation.
Digital Literacy: We showed families how to navigate the district websites and online tools. We shared appropriate technology resources available for free through the district. Families learned new tools and the all-important passwords that will help them access keyboarding, online reading, Google Classroom, and parent-teacher communication resources.
We followed up the discussion by asking participants to fill out a survey with information provided being valuable as we plan future family events. There are multiple areas of Digital Citizenship education and we hope follow-up events will touch on different topics. We look forward to using additional Common Sense Media topics for parent discussion.
The highlight (and liveliest part) of the event was bringing together the children with their parents. Students loved showing their parents and us how much they know about digital citizenship using the survival kit examples. They definitely taught the parents a few new ideas!
I feel fortunate to partner with caring educators and parents who understand the importance of learning more about the ever-changing digital world. I look forward to reaching out to all families in hopes to support and empower families in raising kids who think critically, participate responsibly, and behave ethically in their online lives.