Browse all articles

Tips and Ideas for Teaching Digital Citizenship in a Hybrid Classroom

Help both in-person and remote students collaborate and engage with digital citizenship.

Barbara Huth | May 5, 2021

Our classroom environments continue to shift during the pandemic, often with both in-person and remote students learning together. Whether we call this hybrid, concurrent, blended learning, or something else entirely, Common Sense's Digital Citizenship Curriculum and teaching resources are designed to foster rich discussions for all students, regardless of how and where they're learning. Students have opportunities to stop and reflect, seek facts and evidence, explore other perspectives, and envision how they might take action in real-world dilemmas.

Below you'll find a variety of helpful tips for teaching digital citizenship to both "roomers" and "Zoomers." Best of all, you can also apply these tips and teaching strategies to many other subjects besides digital citizenship.

Collaborate and build community

Apps and other online learning tools can help all students contribute to class discussions during hybrid learning. With online discussions, students can observe all perspectives in the class, build relationships, and expand their own points of view.

Here are three examples of how you can incorporate digital tools into rich digital citizenship conversations with your students. The examples here mention specific tools, but plenty of other tools have similar features.

What matters most isn’t really the tool itself, but the rationale or strategy behind using it.

 Tip: Have students brainstorm or share ideas on an interactive whiteboard. 

Many of our K–12 lessons include graphic organizers (through Google Docs) that you can easily incorporate with other digital tools to help students collaborate and participate. For example, the interactive features in Jamboard help bring the graphic organizer included in our Is Breaking News Broken? news literacy activity to life. All students, whether they're in the room or online, can contribute and see everyone else's responses.

Here’s an example of what this might look like:

Note that I created the example above for a teacher PD session, using a social media post that was highlighted in the News Literacy Project’s "The Sift" newsletter. But you could easily replicate this activity for students with different current events throughout the year.

If you or your students want to dive deeper, consider pulling some of the questions and ideas they shared in Jamboard, and break students into groups to explore further. This activity is also a great way to document and show students' progression in learning digital citizenship concepts over time.

 Tip: Create a digital gallery walk to share students' ideas and work. 

In our third grade lesson, This is Me, students are asked to create a selfie and then share with a partner to analyze what they think the picture represents. The timeline template in Padlet is a great way to mimic a gallery walk, so all students can participate and see each other's pictures in an organized way. You can put students in pairs and have them comment on their partner's picture in the Padlet. They can also view their classmates' pictures to help build relationships and connections with each other in class.

 Tip: Use a go-to strategy (like a think-pair-share) but with a digital twist.

Video sharing tools like Flipgrid can help us build better relationships with students, regardless of whether they're in the classroom or online. Our Quick Digital Citizenship Activities for K–5 and 6–12 are great for incorporating this strategy in a hybrid classroom. All of these activities include a video as well as questions to encourage critical thinking and reflective discussion.

You can have students watch one of the videos, record a response, then watch a response from a classmate. They could then consider how their classmate's response was similar or different. As with many activities using Flipgrid, being able to see and hear each other respond gives students the chance to build empathy, compassion, and understanding for each other, especially when framed around real challenges they may face.

Use inclusive discussions to help all students participate

All lessons from Common Sense use discussion activities aimed at helping young people think through the types of real-life digital dilemmas that they might experience. These activities give students opportunities to share their points of view and engage in civil discourse with others who may have differing perspectives. But it can be tricky to set up a discussion activity like this when you have students interacting both online and in person.

Here are a few tips to help keep these important conversations going with your students, no matter how they're joining your class.

 Tip: Use digital tools to facilitate discussions.

Many of our lessons for grades 6 to 12 ask students to consider a variety of digital dilemmas -- these are essentially tricky situations that students might encounter in their digital lives. Students get practice using various thinking routines to help them slow down, reflect, and take the time to listen to different perspectives.

For example, in the first part of the Take a Stand thinking routine (check out the Educator Guide for more info), it's helpful to use an in-class activity like an agree/disagree line or a four corners debate strategy, like many of us have used in our classrooms in the past. But if you're teaching in a remote or hybrid scenario, this is easy to adapt using a tool like Mentimeter (pictured above), where students can contribute and view the range of perspectives in the class.

 Tip: Help students dive deeper into the debate.

Want to help students improve their media literacy skills? Ask them to curate their classmates' responses from a digital dilemma discussion. From there, students can organize them using a tool like Kialo Edu, develop a rationale for each response, then seek facts and evidence to support or refute the claims.

With this strategy, students won't just dig deeper into the issue, they'll also be able to visualize just how complex these types of digital dilemmas can be. The example above (taken from the lesson Risk Check for New Tech) shows how students might explore the pros and cons of using digital location services to decide if they think the benefits of a new technology outweigh the risks.

 Tip: Conduct a (revised) Socratic seminar.

Facing History and Ourselves offers a great overview of how to set up a traditional Socratic seminar and the rationale behind the strategy. One way you can revise this activity to include both remote and in-person students is simply to have your online students be in the inner circle, or the ones leading the discussion, and your in-class students the observers in the outer circle -- then switch. This offers all students a chance to share their thoughts and discuss the topic in an organized and more equitable way.

A Socratic seminar can work with so many of our lessons, but a couple of lessons work especially well with this type of activity. These include the third grade lesson The Power of Words, in which students analyze how words can be hurtful when read online, and the ninth grade lesson What You Send in "That Moment When ...". In this lesson, students go through a thinking routine using a scenario that invites them to consider how they might use empathy and positivity in some challenging real-world situations.

Design lessons with flexibility in mind

Each of our digital citizenship lessons includes customizable slides and handouts so you can tailor your students' learning experience to their needs. This flexibility make it easy to plug in some more interactive activities and can help students move through content at their own pace. For example, here's a student worksheet from our 11th grade lesson Clicks for Cash that I've modified to incorporate some of the strategies shown above -- all aimed at helping both in-person and remote students participate and collaborate in the discussion.

 Tip: Use a digital station rotation model to offer more personalized support. 

A station rotation model is one way to make sure all students have opportunities for direct support. Dr. Catlin Tucker shares a station rotation model for hybrid or concurrent instruction that includes teacher-led time, online time, and offline activities. Our Digital Citizenship lessons can easily be structured to work in this format. With different stations where students can work together in groups, you'll have more time to offer individual or personalized instruction as needed.

Again, using the Clicks for Cash lesson, here's an example of how you could adapt the worksheet, using a station rotation model after having some brief, direct instruction as an entire class.

 Tip: Give students a system for asking questions and getting help.

Finally, it's important to give everyone a way to ask questions and get help when they need it. During in-person instruction, I've often had students use table tents with the colors red, yellow, and green to signal to me during independent or group-work activities. During hybrid instruction, you could adapt this into a digital format, like a Google Doc, where students can ask for help -- either from you or from their classmates. Just link the help document in the worksheet or assignment students are working from.

Here's a screenshot of how you might adapt the table tent strategy into a digital format:

Image courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.