Digital Citizenship Starts with Face to Face Citizenship

I was recently having a conversation with a colleague about play based learning for kindergarten students. I am a big proponent of play based learning for our youngest students. My son had a wonderful experience in both Junior and Senior Kindergarten (KG1 and KG2) in Ontario, Canada where they follow a play based curriculum.  The program has been so successful they are planning on extending it to Grade 1. I think kids learn a lot through play and it is essential to their cognitive, social and emotional development.

#1C trying out new #knex kits!

A photo posted by @esaisrstem on

Photo Credit: soulmango via Compfight cc

There are many benefits of play for children. Of the benefits of play based learning the most important in my mind is social and emotional development. I feel that in some schools we have traded in developing these important areas for increased academic rigor. Not only are studies showing that increasing academics and reducing play in early years learning results in decreased academic performance but also weaknesses in social skills as well.


Reading Passport to Digital Citizenship by Mike Ribble made me think that some of his suggestions for guided practice was like play based learning for bigger kids. The internet is the field where many of the social games our kids take part in are played. We need them to be respectful, responsible; we need them to play nice. Just like in play based learning for Kindergarten kids Ribble suggests allowing them the chance to engage in guided activities where kids focus on “appropriate use of technology”. Just like our littles who are learning how to get along, how to trust and be trustworthy, how to be friends and live and survive in the world we want our students to be good Digital Citizens and to recognize those who are not or even the places where those bad actors live on the internet. We want them to be savy users of this tool that is ubiquitous to their everyday lives as digital natives.

I have always loved Robert Fulhgum’s everything I needed to know I learning in Kindergarten.

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do

and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not

at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the

sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

I thought that a few of his ideas really worked with Digital Citizenship…

Share everything: Well…not everything. At Sunday school or kindergarten sharing everything means sharing all of the toys you really just want to keep to yourself. It also means that you should share the scissors and the glue, take turns on the swing set, etc, etc. I don’t think that kids are encouraged to share absolutely everything. The great strength of the digital world is the way it can bring us together. A good digital citizen is a collaborator. Sharing interesting information with your digital community is essential and mostly natural. Who doesn’t want to share great things with friends? Of course the issue is that not everybody is your friend or maybe doesn’t need or can manage that information appropriately. Just like you shouldn’t give a fellow classmate with a nut allergy in your KG class a peanut butter sandwich you don’t need to share absolutely everything in the digital world. A good digital citizen learns what is appropriate to share what is not appropriate to share and then there’s a time and a place for everything. Common Sense Media has some great lessons to help teach about the ins and outs of sharing at different ages and levels. Keep it Private, Follow the Digital Trail, and Powerful Passwords are great for K-2, Private and Personal Information, Strong Passwords, You’ve Won a Prize are for 3-5, Trillion Dollar Footprint for 6-8. Risky Online Relationship, What’s the Big Deal about Internet Privacy, and Does It Matter Who Has Your Data? are the lessons that would be great for 9-12.


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Play Fair, don’t hit people – this really just refers to how we treat people. Cyberbullying immediately comes to mind. When older kids want to hurt each other they sometimes resort to the physical but what hurts the most is the social and psychological warfare that they wage on their “enemies”. In the face to face world we are talking about bullying tactics, online this is cyberbullying. Again Common Sense Media has some fantastic ways to introduce and inform students about these issues. Screen Out the Mean for K-2, The Power of Words and What’s Cyberbullying? are the 3-5 lessons. In 6-8  Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding, The Reality of Digital Drama, and Cyberbullying: Crossing the Line are three lessons that teach how to be good digital citizens. For high schoolers they have Turn Down the Dial on Cyberbullying and Online Cruelty, Taking Perspectives on Cyberbullying, and Breaking Down Hate Speech.


Don’t take things that aren’t yours –  a good digital citizen follows Copyright Laws.  Make sure you only use things that are in the Creative Commons. always give credit when you use someone else’s images or ideas. Just like we learned in kindergarten sharing is important but just because you want to use it doesn’t mean you always can. We learn that things sometimes don’t belong to us. if it doesn’t belong to us we can’t use it unless you have permission. I can’t just take my friend’s toys or supplies anytime I want. I have to ask permission and sometimes they are going to say no. Once again there are great resources from Common Sense Media to help develop these concepts. My Creative Work is one example for K-2, in 3-5 there a couple of lessons dealing with Copyright and the Creative Commons, there are three lessons for this topic for 6-8, and there are lessons that are geared to grade 9-12 students.


Just like play based learning isn’t a one off unit in the younger years digital citizenship needs to be integrated in different subject areas and different areas of the curriculum in an ongoing basis. It is tied or should be tied into everything we do when we use technology in the classroom and at home for homework. This is the greatest challenge we face in my opinion. Content and curriculum need to be covered and time is limited. Extras like digital citizenship can easily be pushed to the back burner. As much as I really like the lessons and units from Common Sense Media I can imagine a situation where the teacher completes the unit or lesson, crosses it off the list as finished and never refers back or reviews it again. I think digital citizenship is too important not to be reintroduced or reviewed from time to time. The consequences of not doing so could be significant.

2 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship Starts with Face to Face Citizenship

  1. Nice kindergarten analogy. I’m a fan of play based learning at all levels and appreciate your insight in this post.

  2. Andrew,

    I really enjoyed reading your post because it comes right after I read an article on Harvard Business Review link to about the power of networks and how they connect us with people we know, as well as those we do not know but share common values or ideas. However, he continues to say that although networks seem to connect us, communities care and that is where the real active collaboration happens.

    The author quotes Thomas Friedman, a famous political journalist, and discusses his ideas on how Facebook and Social Media were the catalysts behind the Tahrir Square movement in Egypt. I know I have brought this subject up in a previous blog post, but this is a great recent example of the use of Social Media by the people for the people. The author quotes Friedman saying, how his Egyptian friends told him that “Facebook really helped people to communicate, but not to collaborate.” The author mentions how it was the smaller communities that acted and social media mainly served as the means to raise social awareness. In other words, a platform for people to help the people realize they were not alone in their thoughts.

    My favorite quote from the article was Friedman added that “at their worst, [social media sites] can become addictive substitutes for real action.” Which to me is so accurate. How many “activists” are their on line that just talk the talk without truly walking the walk. So, as much as we love the networks, it is not until they are used effectively will we truly find collaboration. On a side note, you might find this book, link to interesting too.. Again, thanks for the thought provoking post!


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