Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Authentic Internet Safety Lessons

Starting out the year with lessons on internet safety is usually a good thing. As we use the internet more and more in our classrooms, it is important to discuss how to stay safe, not be a cyberbully and what digital citizenship means. Last year I spent two class periods on this with my third grade students. They watched a video and created a poster. This year we actually practiced internet safety and cyberbullying in grades one, two and three for almost an entire month. This real life application is what cements learning, not a video and poster.

All five first grade classes set up blogs this year with Kidblog.org. Last year, only two teachers used them in the second half of the year and they were instrumental in bringing the entire first grade on board. We started by learning how to comment appropriately and substantively. We replied to a blog post from another classroom in another state and practiced being positive and writing something worthwhile. No more "Cool!" or "Good job dude!" comments were allowed as we stressed the importance of meaningful replies. They then commented on their teacher's post for individual practice. During the following weeks we learned how to write our own posts, comment on each others and finally add pictures from safe picture websites. I really like morguefile.com and pics4learning.com. Both have safe pictures for young students and fall under creative commons licenses. The blogs are currently set as private to only those who can log in (the students and teacher).

Our second graders took a big step in learning to use a Wiki as I wrote about in my last post. The internet safety skills learned included finding safe pictures from the internet, using an online account, not altering others work that is on the same page as theirs (they really wanted to correct things!) and not using full names on the internet. The wiki is set as private (a nice feature of pbworks.com) so that we can learn in a safe environment.

Finally, our third graders learned to use email appropriately by sending one to their teacher and myself telling us what they learned about internet safety so far. They also learned to use an online account, our school Moodle account. In there, we practiced doing a forum, which is where the students answer my question, and then can comment on each others. This offered us the opportunity to learn substantive, positive comments that add value, along with discussing cyberbullying. They also posted a piece of writing and experienced the joy of sharing their work with each other. One of our lessons that provided additional comments even the next day, was showing them the internet site for the city of Mankato. A very real looking, but almost completely false, website. They couldn't believe it was fake and it provides a great lesson on not believing everything you see on the internet, helping you stay safe.

Looking at all the authentic experiences the students had to practice internet safety and digital citizenship this year, I feel they understand it much better than last year's video and poster. As they continue to use blogs, wikis and Moodle throughout the year, these lessons will be reinforced over and over again until they hopefully become habits. Wouldn't that be nice!


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