Digital Citizenship’s Underlying Theme

BRAND: Embrace the Positive

TWEET: Become a curator of your digital life. Edit. Overshadow the junk. But when you do something worth sharing – magnify it!

(Adapted from Becoming Minimalists )

For some, the Internet appears to be a world full of dangers, threats, and negativity that can make many want to run away in fear. For others, the Internet appears to be just the opposite, a joyful world of sharing, socializing, and getting noticed. The concept of digital citizenship brings balance to these two opposing views.

Yes, there are dangers on the web but if we are aware of them, take necessary precautions, and focus on the positive, the negatives can be outweighed. And yes, it is a delightful world of sharing and connecting but we must be aware of what and how we share, think of the audience, and share with kindness and filters. It comes down to educating ourselves, and others, how to embrace the positive.

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” —Tom Wilson

Throughout my study of Digital Citizenship one recurring theme kept popping out at me: EMBRACE THE POSITIVE. Character Education? Be aware of your potential audience, and put your best foot forward for all to see, rather than participate in fear of who is viewing your online activity. Digital Footprint? Emphasize the good and move on from the bad. Overshadow your mistakes with positive behaviors, actions, and accomplishments. Cyberbullying? Focus on kindness and responsibility to stop the bully, and to help the target. Teach the masses to use positive peer influence to deal with bullying behavior. Media Literacy? Keep a discerning eye when consuming media, identify what techniques have a positive effect on you and use those to create your own effective message. Even Digital Citizenship Tools are designed to be used with positive practice and education. The Digitial Driver’s License and Digital Passport Programs give students scenarios to practice appropriate responses, and teachers opportunities to facilitate discussions about the grey areas of the web. Mike Ribble’s REPS emphasize practice, testing, progression, and repetition at age appropriate levels on navigating our digital world. Commonsense Media offers endless resources for parents, teachers, and kids, where they rate, educate and advocate trustworthy information so kids and families can thrive in a world of media and technology, positively.

Educate and focus on the positive. When raising toddlers, it is suggested to tell the child what they can do instead of what they can’t. Giving them options of acceptable behaviors leads to less tantrums and head butting. Education classes promote using positives to create rules because ‘Please walk’ will be better received than ‘No running’. Life philosophies preach you get back what you put out in the universe, so put forth positive thoughts. Even Willie Nelson is quoted as saying “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones you’ll start having positive results.” From toddler hood to adolescence up through adulthood the message is the same: Embrace and focus on the positive. This quote from Becoming Minimalists Facebook page fits the embodiment of digital citizenship perfectly.

“Become a curator of life. Edit. Leave out the junk. But when you find some thing worth keeping – treasure it!”

The Internet, with all it’s potential and imperils, requires us to curate, shape, and guide it in a responsible, educated, and positive manner.

PRESENTATION:  Digital Citizenship Prezi

Week 10 Media Literacy

“We want them to be effective media users so that they can tell their story and understand the true nature of the stories that others are telling them.”
– Jason Ohler, Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

Gone are the days of having a fraction of the population bombard you with messages for your consumption. Now everyone is capable of sharing their own message with the world. The number of media messages we are consuming has increased exponentially and so must our ability to understand, analyze, and evaluate the purpose and accuracy of each message. And we are no longer just consumers. Now we are able to be a part of the creating and sharing of our own messages with the world. Not only do we need a stronger b.s. meter for what we consume but we also need to understand how to create effective media to get our own messages across.

“Media literacy includes the ability to access, understand, analyze, evaluate and create media messages on television, the internet, cell phones, and other communications technologies.” (Cable in the Classroom) Frank Gallagher’s five core concepts and key questions help to analyze, understand, and evaluate media messages:
1. All media messages are constructed. Ask yourself who created the message?
2. Media is constructed with a creative message using its own rules. What creative techniques were used to attract my attention?
3. Different people experience the same media message differently. How might different people experience the message differently?
4. Media messages have embedded values and points of view. What values, lifestyles, and points of view have been represented or omitted from the message?
5. Most messages are created to gain profit, power, and/or attention. Why was the message created and sent?

I intend to use these concepts and questions to educate my children in media literacy however, I must also fine tune these skills for myself especially when it comes to videos. I am a skeptic and discern with a weary eye any spam or images that come my way however, I am way too open to suggestion when it comes to ads, videos, and television shows (can you say reality tv junkie?). I have some brushing up to do and am excited to start with these key questions and for once I can anticipating the next political season armed with (Thanks Colin!)

Cable in the Classroom, Media Literacy 101: I. What is Media Literacy? Retrieved from

Gallagher, F. Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship video. Retrieved from

Week 9 Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying and bullying happen. So how do we stop it? It turns out ‘we’ have little to do with the answer. Adolescents are much more influenced by their peers than by adults, so let’s use that influence positively to deal with bullying behavior.

Nancy Willard suggests we shift from an adult-centric solution to bullying to positive peer invention. Bullying is not a learned behavior, it is survival of the fittest. Kids are socially motivated to get attention or power to survive socially. However, kindness can be learned.

Focusing on kindness and peer influence is the way to approach bullying. She suggests starting by having students take a survey to assess the school climate and by getting students talking about bullying issues. The next step is to create a student leadership team to make posters and slide shows using the local data and comments from the survey. These posters will address the issue of bullying and show students that not everyone is doing it and the majority does not support it.

Finally, students should discuss barriers that prevent them from reaching out to someone being bullied and come up with solutions, in their own words. Willard also suggested having the high schoolers present their results to the middle school, and middle schoolers present their results to the elementary school. Using this trickle down effect of peer influence shows that those above you will not tolerate bullying either. This design makes everyone responsible to stop bullying and puts the power in the hands of the majority, not the bully. Once the student body knows they have strength in the numbers against the bully, when an incident arises they can do three things: reach out and lend a hand to the target, tell the bully to stop, or report the incident to an adult. Willard suggests the best option is to reach out to the target and be kind, which can easily be done in private.

The second option is to stop the behavior which Willard recommends doing in private by asking questions, challenging excuses, and focusing on making things right. If a student tries to stop the behavior in public she strongly encourages using the power of three, having two other students by your side that feel the same way as you – strength and safety in numbers. I greatly appreciated how thorough her design is, from getting the message out to the student body, to actions students can take when they see bullying happen. She also approaches the topic from the side of the target, recognizing they need supporters and lists specific interventions by family and staff that can help them be less of a target in the future.

Peers are the most influential people in an adolescent’s life. So it only makes sense to use that strong influence to deal with bullying. By collecting survey data so the students see they have strength in numbers, and guiding them to brainstorm the words to use in situations, we are empowering them to be responsible and kind to one another.

Almansi, C. (February 14, 2011). Cyberbullying: An Interview with Nancy Willard. Educational Technology & Change. Retrieved from

Willard, N. Cyber Savvy Survey. Retrieved from

Willard, N. (March 9, 2013). Bullying Symposium 2013 Keynote Speaker Nancy Willard. Retrieved from

Week 8 Commonsense Media Resources

In the words of Tracie Weisz, “What DOESN’T Commonsense Media do?” and to that I add, WHY isn’t everyone use this incredible, FREE resource? Commonsense Media encompasses all aspects of a students’ digital life and approaches it from all sides of their real ones: educators, parents, and peers.

I began poking around the Educators section of the Commonsense Media and was thoroughly impressed by all it provided:
– Complete lesson plans with all the necessary materials to address every aspect of digital citizenship from grades k -12.
– Family support including “A free program to help parents and caregivers navigate and discuss the impact of digital media on kids’ social, emotional, and intellectual development.”
– Step by step instructions on how to successfully implement and manage 1-to-1 technology in schools.
– A search tool, Graphite, to keep teachers up to date on the best apps and sites for their content level. As well as filters to help align edtech with Common Core Standards
– Professional Development through online and in-person training, as well as webinars.
– An educators blog that creates a community for Commonsense Educators.
As an educator I was sold, and have already signed up for a Graphite account to keep up to date with apps and websites for my students. As well, I have steered a colleague and friend at my children’s elementary school toward this amazing resource. I then stumbled around the rest of the site, navigating it through the eyes of a parent. I was overwhelmed! It was thrilling to see recommended apps and movies by age, parent blogs, and pertinent articles such as How to Balance Screen Time and Texting While Parenting. In fact, I couldn’t get off the site. There was so much information to devour! They will definitely be my ‘go to’ for any technology queries and I will be spending countless hours catching up on all they have to offer.

I have become a huge fan of Commonsense Media as both an educator and a parent. I will shout it’s praises from the rooftops for all fellow educators to hear and will spend my evenings (once the kids are asleep 😉 ) absorbing as much as of the site as I can.

Bazelon, E. (February 11, 2014). Teacher’s Guide Now Available to Accompany the Books, Sticks and Stones. Commonsense Media. Retrieved from

Commonsense Media. Retrieved from

iSAFE. The Leader in e-Safety Education Solutions. Retrieved from

Week 6 Digital Citizenship Tools

The Digital Passport Program and Digital Driver’s License are great tools to use with students to discuss digital citizenship. The DPP is developed for Grades 3 -5 and the DDL for High School. Navigating both programs, with repetition and teacher facilitated discussions, through the years will assist and assess student readiness for navigating the web. But will it develop the necessary skills for using the internet?

Both programs provide possible scenarios, through videos, games, or print, for students to choose what would be appropriate actions in a number of scenarios. Just by using the programs on their own, students would be made aware of potential harmful situations on the web. If teachers supplement the programs with discussions of the grey areas in technology use, where a crime does not look like a crime in the real world, student learning would be extended to what is and isn’t appropriate behavior and why. However, I feel this can and should be taken one step further in to role playing. We should provide students real online situations requiring real decisions but in a safe, controlled setting. We can spew information and describe scenarios all we want but the real test is students’ actions when they are solo on the internet. Controlled experiences in those situations would help them develop the skills and strategies to respond appropriately. I envision a program that could be used within district and school boundaries to provide those experiences. It would send suspect spam messages, strike up inappropriate chats, offer illegal downloads, send harmful messages about anonymous persons, all while students are going on about their regular day. Naturally, none of it would be harmful, but the students wouldn’t know that and it would give them the opportunity to practice making the right decision in those situations. The teacher would be aware of any program activity and could use it as a teachable moment as it occurs if the student brings it to her attention, or as a class discussion after the fact. With a real driver’s license, we give students information, test them on their understanding, and then also give them multiple opportunities to practice driving before approving their license. The DPP and DDL programs provide the information and testing, but the real life experience of navigating the internet as a student driver is still a missing piece to these digital citizenship tools.

The Digital Passport Program and Digital Driver’s License are good springboards into learning about Digital Citizenship. Students can work their way through them starting in Elementary School and continue up through High School. Repetition of the topics within each program is required and supplemental discussions are necessary. The final missing piece is the chance for students to put their learning into action. I plan to start my own children on the age appropriate DPP immediately, and discuss the grey areas with them. For now, the real life experience will happen with me being the Driver’s Ed teacher in the seat next to them while they navigate the web, putting on the brakes when necessary but letting them fine tune their strategies and decision making on their own.

Afshar, V. (February 11, 2013). Huff Post TECH. Digital Citizenship: Businesses Can Learn From K-12 Educators. Retrieved from

Common Sense Media. Digital Passport. Retrieved from

Digital Driver’s License. Retrieved from

Macomb, Ingham, Shiawassee. 21things for the 21st Century Educator. Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from—digital-citizenship.html Stranger Danger Role Playing Scenarios. Retrieved from

Reynolds, K. (March 1, 2014). Teachers Using Technology. Retrieved from as posted to Edmodo, Digital Citizenship.

Week 5 Elements of Digital Citizenship

How can I improve my approach to Digital Citizenship with my kids? I want my children to be knowledgeable about the internet and not hide from it in fear nor navigate it blindly. But having said that, it’s embarrassing how little I have actually worked with them on this. Fortunately, they are in a very technologically progressive school district and have learned some safety aspects of navigating the web. It is up to me to fill in the blanks, using Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship as a guide.

My sequential brain soaked up the break down of the elements into stepping stones of learning. We build on prior knowledge as is age appropriate and repeat, repeat, repeat. Just as we continuously discuss with our children appropriate actions, safety concerns, and responsibilities of being a good citizen in real life, so should we when discussing citizenship in the digital world. This will not be a one time lesson, but continuous lessons evolving as they age and repeated until they become second nature. The lessons will provide kids with opportunities to learn digital citizenship skills and just as importantly, opportunities to show their understanding and learning of the skills. Ribble likened the acquiring of Digital Citizenship skills to Driver’s Education stating kids “have to know the rules of the road”, be it the internet highway or real city streets, before we turn them loose. The acquisition for either set of rules begins at a young age with basic, age appropriate lessons that continuously build on one another. For Driver’s Ed even kindergartens can grasp stop signs and seat belt safety, and upper elementary kids understand the basics of operating a car, rules and infractions, and the need for laws. All of this is learned before they even get behind the wheel! In high school they have their first opportunity to drive a car but not without supervision, and practice and testing to ensure their understanding. Finally, they are set free to navigate the roads on their own, learning from experience as they go and still being kept in check by societal and traffic laws. And so this is how I will approach digital citizenship with my children. They will start with learning digital etiquette, understanding the different digital communication options, and digital rights & responsibilities all within a protected environment. We will continue up the ladder of learning with the awareness of everyone who has access to the internet therefore restricting their own, developing searching and processing skills, and identifying larger safety and security issues. Then moving on to crimes & laws, buying & selling online, and physical & psychological well-being of sitting in front of a screen for endless amounts of time. As I look at this plan I realize they have been exposed to some of these elements already just by being around parents who are connected to the digital world and aware of the bad that goes with the good. They have heard about physical & psychological issues of endless gaming, have started to dabble in email and texting with their teachers and parents, have done some searching but not so much processing, and have some idea of who is out there. But none of it is second nature. And so we will continue on, using Ribble’s REPs, practicing in safe environments, and exploring with supervision until they have proven themselves ready to go it alone.

It is time. My kids are at the prime age to begin learning the elements of digital citizenship. And now I have a starting point and road map laid out before me. The question then becomes how do I put it into action with Minecraft, Netflix, and Clash of Clans demanding all their screen time? Sigh.

Northshore School District. 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. 2011. Digital Citizenship in Schools. Eugene, OR: ISTE.

Week 4 Digital Footprints

Awareness. Everyone needs to be aware of their digital footprint and its potential audiences. Ideally we will leave well-rounded, truthful presentations of who we are. To help our students in this endeavor, we need to actively engage them in the conversations and activities that could help them generate an honest, positive digital footprint.

Through our weekly discussion I found my opinion flip flopping, depending on whether I was thinking of teens or young kids. Tracie put this into words for me, we obviously we do not expect the same from students of all ages. I felt pretty confident, when thinking of young adults, that they should think of their digital footprint in terms of marketing themselves. They should show off their best, to downplay their mistakes, and provide a well rounded view of themselves that shows them in their best light. But as Jonathan mentions, they also should be truthful. The term marketing can mean many ugly things, when I use that term I think of it as showing the world who you are, truthfully, like on a paper resume highlighting your best stuff. For students leaving high school for college or the workforce, their digital life is part of their resume. So let’s help them manage it in a way to make it a true representation of themselves. Yes, they’ve made mistakes (what teenager hasn’t?), but we can teach them how to emphasize the good and move on from the bad. This works as a pretty good life philosophy in general, be it in real life or digital life.
On the other hand, the thought of my young children fine tuning their ‘resume’ at their tender young age is ludicrous. However, I can help them to save and manage their school work, activities, and accomplishments and discuss with them which ones they would like the world to see, and which are a true representation of themselves. We can then share them later when it is age appropriate.

Now to put these words into action. For myself, I have always tended to err on the side of privacy, so I need to make an effort to be more ‘visible’ online instead of trying to hide. I need to make a deliberate effort to share a true representation of who I am and beef up my Google resume! If I think of it this way, it is definitely less intimidating. I also will work with my kids to create an ePortfolio for them to share at a later time. They are at the perfect age to take this step. And with one video on YouTube already getting views in the double digits, they are into the idea of ‘being seen’, talk about a teachable moment!

“Andy” Video. Youth and Media – Digital Dossier. Retrieved from

Week 3 Character Education

The week started with ideas involving students in the discussion of defining limits and acceptances in their virtual lives. The importance of spotlighting the differences between real life crimes and virtual life crimes for them. The requirement for all citizens to enforce acceptable digital behavior. And as a constant reminder for students to remember who is their online audience:

WHO is Googling YOU????

Warm fuzzies. My brain was swirling with ideas for students and my children. All is hunky dory. Good digital citizens we will all be. Then I Googled myself for the fun of it. Surprisingly more information than last time I checked, which was years ago, but nothing to be ashamed of or that I was wishing didn’t exist. No biggie. Then I listened to the NPR Ted Radio Hour, The End of Privacy:

“This idea of what we think of privacy today, is going to be different.” Hasan Elahi

“You show me your Google history and I will find something embarrassing or incriminating from there in five minutes.” Mikko Hypponen

“There’s a difference between stuff people put online themselves than the stuff that they don’t realize is going into foreign computers.” Mikko Hypponen

HUH? My Google history? What have I searched for that I wished I hadn’t? People can do that? My water company knows when I shower? This is getting kind of creepy and WAY beyond what I was envisioning when discussing digital character with my kids. My blissful, innocent acceptance of the internet was burst. Of course I knew better, but never had I been exposed to one example after another after another describing the ‘dark’ side of our digital world. The possibilities, the realities, the NECESSITY for responsibility! Responsibility of one’s own actions online and the responsibility of everyone to participate in enforcing guidelines and standards for civil behavior in the digital world. Of course, that won’t prevent the spread and sharing of information that others are collecting on us but at least we are minimizing the damage that we are willing to contribute ourselves.

I’ve talked myself down from my ledge. I will still love and use the internet, warts and all. However, the importance of being a good citizen online and leaving the least shameful footprint is now at the very forefront of my being. For myself and all I encounter. No scare tactics, just reality. The question keeping me in check is now two:

WHO is Googling YOU????


who IS Googling you?

Elahi, H. (Jan 31, 2014). What Would You Do If The Feds Were Watching You? NPR TED Radio Hour. Retrieved from

Hypponen, M. (Jan 31, 2014). Why Should You Be Worried About NSA Surveillance? NPR TED Radio Hour. Retrieved from

TED Radio Hour (September 13, 2013). Predicting the Future. Retrieved from

Week 2 Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship. I had never really thought of it. Being that my children are still young, and I teach digital immigrants, I feel as though we are navigating all this new technology at the same pace (at least for the moment). My husband and I set the rules at home, teaching responsibility and safety online. Kinda flying by the seat of our pants and learning as we go. However, there has to be some base line or standard to adhere to when they are navigating the digital world on their own. Just as we instill values and model good citizenship in real life we must do so in their virtual lives. It makes sense then that the same standards should apply across the board in both lives. If the two lives are merging into one, why have two different sets of standards or rules?

The question then becomes who sets and enforces the rules to assist in the merging? The teachers/parents fumbling to keep up? Or the students/kids who have the technological experience? There is no doubt some sort of order or hierarchies have evolved online in various gaming worlds but do they fit what society considers good citizenship? As Caroline Knorr states “They may not be new to technology, but — because they’re kids — they can’t foresee how things could go wrong.” They’re still kids and therefore require modelling and guidance from people with experience as to which behaviors and actions are appropriate. A combination of teachers/parents real life knowledge with students/kids virtual life experiences may lead to realistic, achievable standards. Eventually there will be (and all ready are some) lessons from peers to be learned about digital citizenship. See below.

It was chilling to hear students describe their mistakes on the internet and share them with their peers. I can’t think of a better way to teach students the downsides of some actions, and have it hit home, than through peer teaching.

Technology is changing life as we know it at an exponential pace. However, the values of a good citizen remain the same: Help Out, Be Kind, Encourage Others, Use Good Judgement, Donate. These standards can and should be applied to our lives no matter what form digital or real. We are all in this together.


Knorr, C. (January 22, 2014). What Kids Can Learn from Shia, Kanye, Miley, and Justin Bieber. Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Perspectives on Social Media video. Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

wikiHow. How to Be a Good Citizen. Retrieved from