When I push into classrooms in the lower grades, I repeatedly am asked the same question: “When do we take our iPads home?” For many students, the act of taking home that piece of technology symbolizes many things – maturity, fun, responsibility and, logistically, it means the start of homework.
But as with all things, with great iPad power comes great iPad responsibility. While many students interact with various devices long before the 2nd grade, this is the first time students are being asked to care for an academic device in this way. As their teachers, it is our responsibility to ensure that the experience students have while using that technology is safe, respectful and responsible, whether at Avenues or outside the school. Enter our digital citizenship curriculum, where we explicitly have been teaching Avenues students how to behave in the digital world. Given the fact that students in 2nd grade are being asked to participate in that digital world without the direct oversight of their teachers as they complete their homework, we needed to ensure our 2nd grade digital citizenship curriculum prepared students for that responsibility.
The 2nd grade curriculum focuses on four main topics:
The first topic students discussed was internet safety. Specifically, teachers explicitly taught students that they can stay safe online by only going to websites that they can trust. Students looked at a variety of websites and discussed whether they “liked” those websites or not, pointing out the characteristics of websites that are trustworthy and safe. This lesson begins students’ metacognition about the digital lives, encouraging them to form opinions about what they see online and acting accordingly. At the end, students review the “adult rule” from first grade, where if a website makes them feel uncomfortable, they are encouraged to reach out to a trusted adult.
During the second lesson, students began a years-long discussion around private information. Teachers drew parallels between the real world and the digital world, pointing out that in their daily lives there was plenty of information students didn’t readily share with others. The same applies to the internet. To think about what information might be private, it was defined as information that someone can use to know who you are. Furthermore, teachers explained that students need to be careful with whom they give that information to because we never know who can find that information online.
In lesson three, students were introduced to the notion of a digital footprint, which is the information about a person that exists online because of that person’s actions. While this topic is relatively abstract, students were introduced to two fictional characters who put a variety of information on an online social media platform. They used their knowledge from the week before to determine which character put more private information online, and they thought about whether that was a good idea or not.
For the final lesson, students engaged with the difficult subject of cyberbullying. Students begin communicating with their teachers using the educational app Showbie in 2nd grade, so we wanted to begin the discussion of how to speak kindly to others in the real or digital world. Students learned the three rules for online communication: 1) Would you say that to someone in person?; 2) Is it spelled correctly?; and 3) Are the capital letters correct? Students examined sample messages to determine whether they followed these rules.
In order to keep students engaged and excited about these vast and important topics, we created Digital Citizenship badges.
At the end of each lesson, students earned badges signifying their mastery of that particular lesson. The badges were collected on a digital citizenship certificate. While we knew these would add some excitement to our students’ experience, we were surprised by just how energized they got. Students could be heard in the halls excitedly sharing that they’d earn a new badge, and I even had a few parents stop to ask me what these “badges” were as their children had come home and shared it in their retelling of their day.
After completing all these lessons, each classroom held a mini “Digital Citizen Pledge Ceremony,” where students reviewed the expectations for being a Digital Citizen and then pledged to uphold those expectations by signing their certificate. Many students chose to place them in their cubby as a daily reminder.
As a final step in preparing our students for their new at-home responsibilities, we sent home an “Avenues Digital Device Pledge,” where students and their caretakers were asked to have a detailed discussion around expectations for using an Avenues device at home. The intention was bridging the school-home connection and establishing consistent routines in both. Once the agreement was signed and returned to school, that marked the moment we felt our second graders were finally ready for their great iPad responsibility.