Saturday, July 20, 2013

Common Sense Media - outstanding Digital Citizenship lessons!

Common Sense Media logoI'm responsible for building the overall edtech strategy at my school, and digital literacy clearly continues to be an important area requiring significant attention. I teach 7th grade Social Studies, and so I have seen first hand the struggles some students have had, from using appropriate search terms through being able to critically analyze a website for validity. They still have issues understanding "ownership" of the information (e.g., written, photos, video) as well. "It's on the internet, therefore it must belong to me" is a common view, unfortunately. Students still tend to Google an item to search (without much thoughtful time spent on organizing potential search terms), and use the first or second item in the Google list. They don't seem to notice that the first couple items might be ADVERTISEMENTS, and wonder why the result does not seem to help them.

We found Common Sense Media, a website with a significant amount of resources on a wide variety of "Digital Citizenship" topics, and this fall will start the 3rd year of its use.It is steadily becoming part of the culture of our school.; I'm hopeful that this year the process will accelerate. Common Sense Media (CSM) includes a large amount of lessons associated with the analysis and evaluation of digital media, and so is an excellent tool for our teachers to use. There are age-based curriculum maps, and more lessons than any teacher really has time to complete. From the curriculum maps, a small team of teachers at my school developed, by grade, what was deemed the most important areas to be taught - the series of lessons that "must" be done by end of year. Since CSM covers much more than digital literacy, the curriculum is intended to last the full year. Depending upon the grade, there are anywhere from four to ten lessons to be taught.  Here is an example of one of the CSM 6-8 grade lessons on Identifying High-Quality Sites.

The teachers at the school conceptually buy in to the need for students to grow their digital literacy. For instance, our 5th grade teacher ran an "experiment" with the students at the start of the last year, asking them to do basic research on Sitting Bull. It was obvious, based upon the research done, and the results, that the students need significant coaching to develop their skills. All teachers understand the importance for students to 'get' the concepts of digital literacy. Now, we just need to be a little more rigorous in fitting the lessons in during the course of the year (aka, not waiting to do 'all' during the last 4 weeks of school...).

We also recognize this is an interdisciplinary issue, and so, for our middle school in particular, we have broken up the lessons by teacher/subject, so all get to work with the students on some aspect of Digital Citizenship. In one way or the other, MANY of the lessons do touch upon, or directly address, digital literacy. For instance, a  majority of the lessons in 4th and 5th grades are focused on media, how to evaluate it, understanding copyright and intellectual property ownership, and so on. Here's a link to our K-8 Curriculum, based upon CSM"s overall lessons and curriculum map.

In summary:
  1. Digital literacy is a cornerstone of the skills our students must master to be successful in our digital world. This is a life skill, not just an academic need.
  2. Our school recognized that need, and uses Common Sense Media as our primary resource for materials to train our students.
  3. We have a curriculum which has been used for 2 years, to help students understand all aspects of digital literacy and citizenship. 
  4. The teachers do understand the need for students to gain these skills, and this year, I anticipate an ongoing continuation of the curriculum to help students. All the teachers at the school have now been through the program once or twice, and so the confidence level should be high.
Here's a little GoAnimate video I created that speaks to some of the issues, and the approach two teachers took to address them. Enjoy!

Searching for Goodness by gtognetti on GoAnimate

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