Celebrate Digital Learning Day With a Digital Call to Write and Act

February 05, 2013
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Common Sense News, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy

In celebration of Digital Learning Day on February 6, Common Sense Media is partnering with the California Writing Project to host “Upstanders, Not Bystanders,” a digital call to write and call to action that aims to raise awareness about bullying.  The national campaign wants to engage students, and educators, in the larger conversation about citizenship and what defines an “upstanding citizen.”

Digital Learning Day, now in its second year, was created to “shine a spotlight” on effective use of technology in the classroom, and also to celebrate teachers across the country. This year’s events include a Digital Town Hall, a live simulcast featuring dignitaries, policymakers, and education leaders. The event is organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a nonprofit education group.

As a part of our role in this day, we’re encouraging teachers to use digital storytelling and writing tools with their students. We invite you and your students to submit digital responses to a prompt, and we will feature several of those responses on the Digital Learning Day site.

The prompt poses the following question and asks readers to relate their responses back to personal experience:

What does it mean to be an upstander? In a digital genre of your choosing, share a real-life example of an upstander. The upstander you choose to write about can be historic, public, or personal. Illustrate how and why this person is an upstander by using current or past events. Explain how the events and the person have served as a call to action to you, the writer.

The California Writing Project has also provided a detailed Digital Call to Write and to Action (pdf) that has great suggestions and resources outlining how to use the prompt in classrooms. The file includes grade-specific tips for tailoring lessons to best fit your students’ needs, and covers grades K-12 and up.

Their suggestions include:

  • Adjust the language used to describe words like “upstanders” and “bystanders” so that it resonates with your students and relates to their own experiences.
  • Pick a specific date, or section of the curriculum, that is related to the prompt’s subject matter in order to seamlessly merge the activity into your lesson plans.
  • Work with digital media that best serve your students and that are accessible at your school. A few of their suggestions include podcasts, digital essays, and wikispaces, or specific platforms such as Glogster or Animoto.

For example, here’s a great prompt for younger students:

Angie Balius, Garden Grove USD and Teacher Consultant, UCI Writing Project, is planning to read Hooway for Wodney Wat with her second graders and then ask them to pick a character from that story, write a letter to that character, and offer suggestions for how their character can solve problems. Letters will be a part of a digital newspaper. This prepares them for the next step: writing about how they can be upstanding, too.

For older students, the writing project has suggestions for helping them explore their own experiences with standing up for themselves or for others and connecting those experiences to real-life historical examples of upstanders who stood up for equality and democracy like Fred T. Korematsu, who as a young man challenged the Japanese Internment when his family was ordered to a camp in California during World War II. The Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement are another great example.

Marlene Carter, a high school teacher in Los Angeles and Associate Director of the UCLA Writing Project, plans to ask her students to research digital texts about historical upstanders and then write about the benefits and risks of being an upstander, using examples from their experience, reading, and research. The students will then blog about their experiences.

The call also includes recommended lessons from our digital literacy and citizenship curriculum, and free digital tools (like Toontastic or Xtranormal) to use with students to help continue the conversation about digital citizenship through student writing.

Organizers have also included definitions of key terms, a calendar of related events that can easily be linked back to the prompt, and recommended reading materials to keep your students engaged in this dialogue for the remainder of the year.

The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2013, and we would love to see where you are posting your students’ work on your own school sites. Please send any links to classroom wikis, Facebook pages, or blogs to the California Writing Project’s website, or post them on their Digital Learning Day Facebook page.