Digital Citizenship in 4th Grade

Yumi Nakanishi, Technology Integrator

This article is part of a series on the importance of digital citizenship. Read the introduction here, as well as articles on digital citizenship in 1st2nd3rd and 5th grade.

Fourth grade is a big year for Avenues students, in the digital sphere. It’s the first year students start to use Google’s suite of tools, as well as their Avenues email account to communicate with teachers. It’s also the first year they transition to creating documents in Google docs for writing stories and research reports. What students and teachers love about Google Docs is the collaborative feature of having multiple students writing together on one document, as well as the ability to add comments. And the best part – it is cloud-based. But what is a cloud-based application? How does cloud computing work? What is cloud storage? Furthermore, what is the internet and how does the it work? These are all questions teachers posed to their students in September. Before students were allowed to use their iPads in school, it was important for them to learn about and understand their digital world first.

In the 4th grade digital citizenship curriculum, the four topics we addressed were the digital world, digital footprints, online relationships and private and personal information. Before watching any videos, students were asked to draw what they thought the internet looked like. Some students imagined the internet to be a scary place, others drew lines all over their paper, others had no idea at all. After watching a couple of videos students learned how data is transferred over a network of computers, how cables laid under the ocean make this data transfer possible, and lastly how cloud-storage is not information stored literally in clouds in the sky, but rather it is a series of warehouses filled with racks and racks of computers which store all the data.

The second lesson addressed digital footprint. Because we live in a world with access to digital devices, everyone has a digital footprint. As an activity, students Googled their name and were able to discover information either related to themselves or their families. The message to students was that their digital footprint is permanent, so they are encouraged to maintain one that is as positive as possible.

Digital footprint was followed by online relationships. What is cyberbullying? What is a bystander and what is an upstander? These concepts are first introduced in 3rd grade, but just like in the physical world where students are still trying to figure out the difference between when to report an incident to an adult versus when it is considered tattling, it is important to remind students to always be an upstander in the digital world.

digital citizenship

Lastly, we addressed private and personal information. In today’s digital world where many people, adults included, like to share moments from their daily life on social media, it’s important for 4th grade students to understand what is acceptable or not acceptable to share. Common Sense Media has a great traffic light metaphor to help guide young people. It consists of a red light for posts, including pictures, we never share; a yellow light for posts we need to ask permission before sharing; and a green light for posts that are okay to share. Even if students do not yet have social media accounts at this age, it’s never too early to learn what is or is not acceptable to post and share online.

digital citizenship

After students earned their digital citizenship badges for completing each lesson, there was a classroom ceremony followed by a pledge to be great Avenues digital citizens. Each student was called up to the front of the classroom and handed their iPad for the first time in the new school year. Students were excited to be able to finally start using their device as responsible digital citizens.


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