The importance of digital citizenship in today’s classrooms
When I walk into Amy Jahna’s fourth and fifth classroom at All Saints Academy in Winter Haven, Florida, I see her students playing a game on their devices.
This is a good thing.
The game is called Interland, and it teaches children how to make smart choices online. It’s part of a free Google program called Be Internet Awesome, and Amy’s students think it’s exactly that: As I walk around the room, I can see that they’re highly engaged in the game, and it’s great to hear them cheer each time they answer a question correctly or beat a level.
Be Internet Awesome leverages kids’ love of digital play to teach them serious lessons about internet safety. The teachers I know who are using it rave about how it’s turning their students into responsible digital citizens.
Cybersafety is a concern for educational leaders all over the country. And it should be. In a 2017 National Cyber Security Alliance survey, 34 percent of teens reported that someone had been mean or cruel to them online in the past year, and a large percentage said they worry about online encounters with people and information that make them uncomfortable. Programs like Be Internet Awesome provide the basics early on that helps kids understand technology and how to stay safe when they use it.
Geared to third through sixth grade students, Be Internet Awesome also is aligned with International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for promoting critical thinking skills, appropriate use of technology, and pedagogical use of technology. As part of the digital citizenship unit, each student has the opportunity to take the pledge to be Internet awesome by completing the five supplemental lessons based on Interland. The lessons help students develop critical thinking skills, learn to protect themselves by being smart about sharing information, being kind and respectful online, and to ask for help when they use the Internet.
Amy Jahna is pleased with how her students responded to Be Internet Awesome. “The students loved the games,” she said. “I am confident that they have a solid foundation [for avoiding] cyberbullying, creating strong password and privacy settings and [practicing] Internet safety.”