Since the education sector shifted to the virtual realm a year and a half ago, children who would otherwise have never had so much time online have become expert technicians. They operate their learning platforms smoothly and have become well versed with the internet and how to traverse technology. Our young learners have become speedy typists, perennial Googlers and expert con artists when it comes to quoting glitches as the reason for their lack of attendance or response in class.
While we do our best to engross the children in engaging activities during school hours, they now have access to the internet after hours as well which makes it imperative to give them insight into digital citizenship.
As teachers, we adhere to an explicit rule that that instructs us to create global citizens of tomorrow. This involves ensuring that the next generation is principled, caring, balanced and open-minded, among many other virtues. While we did our best to sort out tiffs in the hallways and separate fistfights in the physical boundaries of school, what of the digital world? Unlike before, we haven’t an inkling of what our learners are up to in their spare time online. This is a realm that possesses an allure for young children that is hard to resist. Since we cannot step into their virtual lives, we ought to ensure that we provide them with the tools to be conscientious digital citizens.
To familiarize my third graders with digital citizenship, I conducted a few activities with them which not only introduced the students to the concept but exhibited the depth and need for it. Below are a few activities that worked superbly in my classroom and may benefit yours as well!
In this activity, the students were given fifteen minutes to consider a topic amongst themselves with no interference or assistance from the teacher. They had to promptly organize themselves to be heard and give opportunities to all to communicate their views. Some students took on leadership roles, while others contributed ideas through the chatbox to avoid multiple people talking at once. After the initial pitfalls, they were able to work together to facilitate a meaningful discussion amongst each other.
While the discussion took place, I began to create a spider- web of the inputs from the children, noting down the contributions from all, or lack thereof. Once the students wound up their independent discussion, I shared the spider web on the screen and asked the students to reflect on their class participation. The culmination of this activity lay in the fact that the children were shocked to see that their responses were being recorded without their knowledge. They realized that while online, their actions and words were visible to unknown quantities and recordings could be made without their permission. They pledged to make wise decisions online and follow the necessary etiquette to put their best foot forward while online.
Circle of Viewpoints
My third graders were engrossed in debating changing language over time, and so we also took the opportunity to delve into language and its relationship with digital citizenship. We reflected on the usage of language on a cyber platform with regards to cyber-bullying. We noticed the evolution of language online and the appropriateness of words being used while gaming, chatting and so on while keeping in mind the emotional wellbeing of the children.
We spoke about the strategy ‘STOP’ when being faced with language that is hurtful online-
S– Step away
T– Tell a trusted adult
O– Okay sites first
P– Pause and think online
We then went on to use the ‘Circle of viewpoints’ VTR to analyze cyber-bullying, both from the perspective of the bullied child as well as the bully. Students came up with insightful questions from both perspectives and tried to understand the emotions of both parties. The students introspected on their own stories of being bullied or bullying someone and were able to identify the harsh effect that language has on everyone’s psyche when used inappropriately.
Rings of responsibility
The students reviewed their daily online activities and determined how it could affect them, their families, and their future if not handled responsibly. For example, the students brainstormed on how posting private information online could enable strangers to hack into financial accounts. This situation would not only lead to the child suffering from guilt but would have huge repercussions on the family as well as their future. The facilitator took notes on a shared screen while the students spoke so that other students could identify with their peers and experiences. After an engaging discussion, students penned down their reflections and takeaways on a Padlet link.
Digital citizenship needs to be integrated into the core of our curriculum to be effective in our student’s lives. These were mere forays into developing a deeper understanding in the children on how to be responsible members of the virtual space, and consistent reinforcement is the need of the hour.