Ideas for Teaching Digital Citizenship in 2014
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as a co-moderator for the 2014 Digital Citizenship Twitter chats being held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month starting Wednesday, January 8th from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.EST. The first chat will focus on the positive aspects of using social media in schools and how we can help our students build their personal learning networks. If you work with high school students, one of the best strategies you can employ to teach responsible digital citizenship is to make your classroom activities as real-world as possible. By the time students reach high school, many have multiple social media accounts (which their parents may or may not know about), they have perfected the art of the filtered selfie, fully understand the concept of an online forum or community, and (unfortunately) could provide several examples of cyber bullying. But just because your teenaged students may be active users of the latest social media, think Snap Chat, Kik, Whisper, and Ask.fm, doesn’t mean they are responsible digital citizens. Teaching the concepts of digital citizenship shouldn’t be isolated to one week in October. Students need to realize that responsible digital citizenship is something that occurs 24/7, 365. As you start the New Year, consider adopting real-world digital citizenship lessons into your classroom. Below are several ideas to get started.
1. Help students establish positive e-reputations through creating digital resumes
If we turn the focus of using technology to help our students showcase themselves and their accomplishments, it’s amazing what it can do for their self-confidence. There are a variety of tools that can be used to help students highlight their academic, athletic, co-curricular, and community involvement. One of my favorites is Re.vu. Re.vu can be fully customized and if your students have created LinkedIn accounts, here are eight reasons why they should, it will automatically pull the information from LinkedIn creating a visual timeline of a student’s work experience. Re.vu allows students to provide details on job responsibilities, skill development, education, languages spoken, past times and interests, and vital statistics such as the number of years on the honor roll, on a sports team, involvement in a club, etc. Students can also add photos and link work examples. I had my students create Re.vu digital resumes and link them to the About Me pages of their blogs for my Digital Literacy course at Burlington High School. For younger students like Nick, it’s a great foundation which can be built upon as they gain experience and build their list of accomplishments. For seniors like Casey and Cecilia, having a digital resume contributes to their positive online presence and will impress a college admissions recruiter and/or future employer. Although not as “resume-ish” as Re.vu, similar tools you may want to consider include About.Me and Vizify. What’s nice about these tools is that students can use them to formulate their very own consistent online brand. In a sense, you are teaching them to market themselves. This will be an essential skill if they are to keep up in a world where more and more students are using technology to make a name for themselves; students like Ashley Elgin. After assigning your students to create their digital resumes, see the assignment I created here, you could follow-up with a lesson on how to go about creating a traditional resume, or it could be the first assignment in a larger scale career project. I can assure you that these are lessons your students will appreciate as they develop their e-reputations, go off to college or the workforce, and learn to compete with their peers in a digital world.
2. Teach students how to use Twitter for networking & self-directed learning
It’s no secret many of our students use Twitter as if it were texting; their Tweets are meant for a small group of friends. However, once students realize the world can see their Tweets, they start to think more carefully about what they Tweet, Retweet, and the hashtags they use. This fall, I showed my students that often times their Twitter account is the first item that appears in a Google search. My ultimate goal is not to have students create private Twitter accounts, rather it is to teach them how to use Twitter to connect with industry experts, share news and information, and establish themselves as young professionals. Again, one of the best ways to achieve this goal is by providing concrete examples. Sam Bresnahan, one of my former students, and one of the co-moderators of the January 8th #digcit chat, has a great Twitter feed and I often use it in my class as a model account. High school senior Paige Woodard, our second student moderator for the chat on the 8th, not only maintains her own highly appropriate Twitter account, but she also created @DailyMediaTips which serves to support Paige’s mission of social media education. My current student, Nick Merlino, manages the BHS Student Council Twitter account and does a great job providing BHS students with important news and updates. Why not spend some time showing your students these types of accounts so that they can see first-hand the difference between “personal” versus “professional” Twitter accounts? You can also help your students understand Twitter for networking through leading by example. I have my one and only Twitter account embedded into my classroom blog. This allows my students (and their parents) to see how I use Twitter to network and connect with colleagues. They see the way I use hashtags, the difference between a Retweet and a modified Tweet, and learn how professional relationships can be formed via Twitter. High school, especially junior and senior year, is the perfect time to expose students to the way in which many adults are using Twitter. The sooner they learn this, the sooner their Twitter accounts will become an impressive part of their online identity. Here are some specific examples of how you can make Twitter a part of your classroom routine:
1. Determine the career interests of your students and have them follow five new organizations and/or individuals each Friday (yes this was inspired from #FF) that are a part of their selected industries. Ask them to explain how these Twitter accounts will positively contribute to their online reputations and what they can learn from the experts behind these accounts. This can either be done through a class discussion, oral presentation, or you can have your students write blog posts about who they follow each week and what they are learning from Twitter.
2. If your students are studying a particular unit in math, science, social studies, etc. assign them to conduct research on the topic using only Twitter. Once you show them how to navigate the Twitosphere, especially how to use hashtags, they will be surprised at how valuable a tool Twitter can be for their school work. I did this often with my marketing and business management students and it worked well. I created a social media marketing project where students were assigned to critically analyze the way competing companies used Twitter (and Facebook) to promote their products and develop customer relationships. As a result of this project, students learned that Twitter wasn’t just a tool to stay connected with their friends, it was a valid marketing communications tool being used by global corporations. Considering the prominence of Twitter in virtually all industries, teachers in most content areas could create similar projects which places Twitter in the forefront as a professional communications and research tool.
3. Reward students who are using Twitter appropriately. Admittedly, this might work better with middle school students, but consider using a tool like Edmodo and create a customized digital badge (I used “Terrific Tweeter”) for students who use Twitter appropriately.
4. Teach your students how to use Tweet Deck and have them participate in a live Twitter chat. Join us on Wednesday, January 8th (have I mentioned this yet?) and allow your students to experience a real-life Twitter chat centered around an issue that involves them directly. The whole mission of the 2014 digital citizenship chats is to get more student voice, so encourage your students to get involved in the conversation. We’d love to hear their perspective and ideas, not to mention they will have the opportunity to connect with some pretty amazing education thought leaders!
3. Have your students create a blog, website or digital portfolio to enhance their web presence
Developing a blog, website, or digital portfolio is perhaps the best way for your students to show the world they are responsible digital citizens, and frankly I think it should be a requirement for all K-12 students. Having your students create a blog not only shows off their writing skills and creativity, it can also serve as an outlet for them to share their passions and ideas with the world. For your class, a blog could serve as a central reflective piece. My Help Desk students are asked to reflect on the technology problems they solve each week and to think critically about the initiative, leadership, and collaboration skills they are developing throughout the course. There are many free blogging tools students can use including WordPress, Blogger, and Edublogs. A free website creation tool, no coding experience necessary, that my students had success with was Wix.com. There is also Flavors.me which combines a student’s social media updates, photos, and videos into a cohesive website. In terms of digital portfolios, there are also many tools to choose from. A tool like Blogger, Burlington’s preferred portfolio creation tool, can be used to highlight a student’s best work throughout their entire high school career; see the sample 9-12 grade portfolio template that I created. Other options include the portfolio feature of Adam Bellow’s Educlipper that students can use to archive their most meaningful work and assignments. Students can also use Evernote and Google Sites or Drive to create and share portfolios of their most impressive work.
So in 2014, take some time to help your students become responsible digital citizens. And remember, you don’t have to teach a course in digital literacy. You can simply integrate tools like Twitter, encourage your students to archive their best work through the creation of a blog, website, or portfolio, or help students add the skills they have developed in your course to their digital resumes. Once students realize they have control over their digital footprints, and are provided with concrete examples of how they can create a digital presence that is WOW (worthy of the world), they will likely develop a strong sense of pride and high level of confidence in themselves. You know that your students rule and that they have what it takes to be digital rock stars. What better way to start off a New Year than by helping them realize it too!