5b. Facilitate legal & ethical use of technology


Substandard 5B is all about digital citizenship and how we can equip students to use technology ethically, legally, healthily, and safely. Digital citizenship can be kind of like a hot potato where no one is sure who is responsible for teaching it… parents? teachers? technology teachers? administrators? The answer should be all of the above. If we stop viewing digital citizenship as a siloed task and start to embed it across content areas (and life in general), it won’t seem like yet another ‘thing’ we have to teach.

Early in the Digital Education Leadership program, I came up with the following analogy to describe the role educators have in teaching digital literacy and citizenship: In part inspired by the concept of the internet as an informational highway, I picture digital literacy and citizenship as a highway. The cars (i.e.- students) need to know how to navigate in both directions (i.e.- the input and output of technology). They need a solid support structure to be able to travel in both directions successfully. The support structure in my analogy is an ethical framework. 

With the evidence for this substandard, I have reflected on the definition and need for digital citizenship and digital literacy. I describe a curriculum I have used to teach digital citizenship. Finally, I reference a post I wrote on teaching research in a way that is ethical and legal.

Evidence: Elements of Digital Citizenship

In the early courses of the Digital Education Leadership MEd program, we utilized Coggle in order to process the foundational information necessary to approaching the use of technology in education. In reflecting on my portfolio project, I revisited those early mind maps created in Coggle. The following mind map was made to reflect on the highlights of an article published by Mike Ribble and Teresa Miller. The article, “Educational Leadership in an Online World,” was particularly eye-opening in terms of considering the impact of technology on teenagers. It also gave a framework for which to consider digital citizenship: respect, educate, protect. Of these three umbrellas, Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship were born.

Evidence: Why Digital Literacy Matters

In the simplest of definitions, being digitally literate means you have the ability to live, work, vote, and thrive in an increasingly digital world. Some may think that digital natives (those born at a time in which technology use was ubiquitous) are innately equipped to deal with the influx of information, but that is not the case.

Students must be taught to be critical consumers since research shows they are woefully inadequate in this skill. A Stanford study published in 2016 analyzed over 7,000 student responses for their ability to judge credible information. In the study, 80% of middle school students could not identify sponsored content from a news article on a home page. 40% of high school students, when presented with a photo published anonymously on the photo-sharing site Imgur, found it to be a credible source simply because it was a picture. A third part of the study asked undergraduate students to evaluate a MoveOn.org tweet for its validity. More than half of the students did not click through the link provided in the tweet to get additional information about the claim before making a judgment. Less than a third of students considered the organization’s political background when evaluating the information.

Helping students detect misinformation is critical as the line between facts and propaganda continues to blur and an increasingly casual attitude is taken toward validity. All information online is presented as if it has equal value and validity. Clear responsibility for validity does not exist. It is up to each individual user to determine what is bogus and what is valid. The following quote from the Stanford study stood out to me “At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish” (Stanford History Education Group, 2016).  If educators are not willing to teach students to identify misinformation, we risk allowing politicians and corporations to rob our students of agency.

One strategy that educators should have in their tool-belt is the CRAAP test which is a framework students can use when assessing the validity of information. Credit for the strategy belongs to California State University, Chico. Below is a reproducible guide that I found helpful in my own classroom.

Evidence: Resource for Teaching Digital Citizenship

In 2018, I spent a month as a long-term substitute for an Academic Technology Director. Part of my job was to facilitate part of an ongoing deployment of digital citizenship lessons. Throughout the course of the school year, homeroom classes met regularly to learn critical aspects of digital citizenship using Common Sense Media curriculum. I was incredibly impressed with the rigor and grade-appropriateness of the resources. Materials are available (for free!) for teachers and coaches of students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Common Sense Media “tags” lessons with which topics are covered. The eight topics include: Self-Image & Identity, Relationships & Communication, Digital Footprint & Reputation, Cyber-bullying & Digital Drama, Information Literacy, Internet Safety, Privacy & Security, and Creative Credit & Copyright.

The best part of the Common Sense curriculum is that it requires little to no prep work. All lessons are aligned with standards, include objectives, and have assessments and activities. There are even letters for parents (in English and Spanish) so that they are aware of what is being taught and can reinforce the concepts at home. Common Sense Media truly could not make it any easier to teach digital citizenship.

Below are some screenshots of the Common Sense Media curriculum. They are being posted under Common Sense Media’s CC attribution (non-commercial use with credit given). Clicking on each image will take you to the correlating Common Sense Media page.

Common Sense Media Unit Overview for Grades K-2
Common Sense Media Lesson Overview "Going Places Safely" for Grades K-2
Common Sense Media Grades K-2, Unit 1, Lesson 1 Letter for Parents

Evidence: Big6 Research Method to Guide Ethical and Legal use of Digital Information

An essential part of being a digital citizen is the ability to find, analyze, credit, and incorporate information found online. One way to teach students about these critical skills is through the Big6 research method. For more information on the method, please use the link below to access my post. I have also included an infographic I made which details the research process using Big6.

Big6 Research Process