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Best Practice: Bronx Writing Academy, NYC

Audrey Stokes | April 14, 2011

Janet Perez, a technology teacher at the Bronx Writing Academy in the Bronx, NY, implemented Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum in her 8th grade technology class.  She describes her enthusiasm for the Digital Citizenship curriculum: “I wanted to cover all these topics and was researching them and then got this curriculum and it had everything!”

Janet teaches the Digital Citizenship curriculum 2-4 times a week to her 8th grade ESL technology class.  She knows her students well and has adapted the lessons to ensure she’s meeting their various learning styles.  Here are four things Janet’s done to customize Common Sense Media’s curriculum.

1. Incorporate Quick Assignments

Start every class with a “Do Now,” a 2-3 minute quick assignment for students to do when entering the class.  Janet finds it helps with transitions and mentally prepares them for the current class topic. She chooses “Do Now” questions based on discussion lesson questions, questions from past quizzes, or ones she creates based on the current lesson.

2. Utilize Personal Examples

Janet shares about herself. “I need to let the kids know who I am; otherwise, they’ll be disengaged.” To begin the privacy unit, she Googled her own name and showed them how many Janet Perezes there are. Then she Googled her user name, and showed that all this information popped up about herself: all the organizations she’s affiliated with, her Facebook account, and so forth.  She explained to the class that she wasn’t worried about oversharing because she rarely puts out anything personal, and always sets the strictest privacy. This was a great way to demonstrate to students that even with tight privacy settings, you’re not always as private as you think.

3. Highlight Connections

When students started working on their own digital footprint, Janet connected it back to her earlier self-Googling, so that they could understand both the concept and the vocabulary.

4. Mix Things Up!

Janet’s students have a hard time staying focused during predominantly discussion-based classes, so she has them do “quick writes” where they write their responses to some of the discussion questions first, before talking about them.  That way she intersperses a writing activity as well.


The Results?

Janet’s already noticed some changes in her students’ awareness of privacy issues – recently she shared with them her new user name, which is made up of her first name, last name and birthday. “Hey, that’s not safe because it has all your information!” they said to her.  Janet’s response: “They’re definitely picking up on things.”