Many districts across the United States are beginning to formulate ways to include Digital Literacy conversations and lessons into all grades. The key is to start with young students and then expand on concepts as they rise through higher grade levels . Fortunately, there are quite a few resources available for free to educators.
- Common Sense Media: Common Sense is the most well-known resource for educators. There are many great videos, scenario games and lesson ideas for K through 12th grade. Digital Compass is for grades 6-9. Digital Byte is geared for 7-12th can also be used as an after school program. Students can create multimedia projects to share with the community and weigh in on topics of interest. Digital Passport is the game section geared for grades 3-5. This can be a simple and engaging way to continue a conversation about one of the game topics and help solidify concepts.
- NSTeens: NS Teens is through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This site is geared for middle and high school students. They have great videos of scenarios, real teens talking, and games that from experience students been motivated to play while emphasizing digital literacy points. The use of comics as a device also draws students into the content. Some of the stories take a more serious approach, which middle school teachers may like for a particular class and prove to be a useful additional resource.
- EverFi: EverFi is a company that offers free use of their educational online programs to K12 educators and their students. Ignition is a free online Digital Literacy course of about 3-4 hours. It also discusses topics such as how to make good purchases and others that are not necessarily found in other curriculum. Students can work on completing the course over time, as it saves where they left off. I used this last year with students. The interface can be a bit confusing for students, but it also made them really think about how to engage with the computer! Best for 7th and 8th grade over 6th, but still usable with them.
- Google/iKeepSafe: iKeepSafe teamed up with Google to create material as well. They have 3 main categories and have a slightly different approach with some of the topics. You may find a particular lesson or video to give information that communicates well with your class.
The reason why it is important to address Digital Literacy is also because of the stories from students that come up from engaging in these conversations. You may be surprised at the number of students that have experienced some form of online harassment or inappropriate behavior by the time they have reached middle school.
One thing I have found is often students and parents do not know what to do when a situation online occurs outside of school. I have had students approach me after class who shared a situation they were currently involved in and are looking for further advice. I have had parents approach me, slightly teary and fearful because they don’t know how to stop the situation or help their child. As an educator, do you know what to say if you were approached by a parent or student?
Here are some suggested procedures. However, be sure to check in with your district to make sure they adhere to certain protocol.
- If it involves another student that is in the same school or district, speak with the principal or teacher. It does not matter if it occurs outside of school hours.
- Evidence is important. Always save and document any events that happen online. This can be screenshots/photos of text, images or emails that are being sent to the person.
- Block the person from whatever the platform the abuser is engaging the person on (text, social media or online program). Students or parents can email the company as well to report abusive behavior. Evidence will be needed for this. Many companies will ban someone they know who is harassing others quickly from their site.
- Parents may want to contact and speak with the parent of the person that is engaging in abusive behavior online. I do give additional information on how to potentially approach such a conversation. Parents frequently do not know that their child is engaging in such behavior online. It can be better for a principal to contact the parent.
- If speaking with someone’s parent is not an option, the local police are also equipped in the area of digital safety from a legal standpoint. This is also useful when it is a total stranger or someone older (over the age of 18). Everything leaves a digital footprint and can be tracked down with the right tools.
Of course, these apply to adults in similar situations as well. The better we are informed, the better we can help our students and community to grow up using the online world in a healthy, educated manner.