Have Your Students Earned Their Digital Passport?

April 08, 2013
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, United States
CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, In the Classroom

Are you using Digital Passport in your classroom? Are you looking for a new tool to help prepare your students to play and learn in online communities? It’s been almost a year since I first wrote about it on this blog, and, well, a lot has happened since then.

In 2012, Digital Passport won a bronze medal at the International Serious Play Awards, which honors exceptional educational games, and was included in ESchool News’ list of top ten technologies to try this year.

If by some chance you’ve missed it, our Digital Passport is a unique web-based tool designed to help educators teach the basics of digital citizenship to elementary school students in 3rd through 5th grades. Through videos, games, and classroom activities, Digital Passport addresses issues that students will face in the online world, including safety and security, privacy, cyberbullying, copyright, and finding credible information. It allows students to work on activities at their own pace, and in the order they choose, earning badges as they complete the coursework in each subject.

It’s also designed as an easy way for teachers to measure students’ readiness to handle new digital and mobile technologies in a responsible way.

Digital Passport uses a blended learning model, which combines teacher-led classroom instruction with self-guided, technology-rich learning. This enables educators to use multiple techniques to reinforce key concepts while taking advantage of students’ diverse learning styles. Through Digital Passport, educators can set up their own account, create class groups, and assign students with specific tasks to keep them engaged. The resource also provides access to wraparound classroom activities and downloadable assessment reports on the online games.

We’ve also learned a lot from some great stories about how educators are using the games and videos in the classroom. Mary Foster, a computer teacher and technology coordinator at Denver’s University Park Elementary School, uses the Mix-n-Mash module with her students. Mix-n-Mash teaches students the importance of copyright, permission, and credit when it comes to using online content.

“This is an opportunity for the students to look at what they need to do as far as citing sources,” Foster said. “They tend to think that if it’s on the internet you can just take it; you can copy it, you can cut and paste it into your documents and it’s yours, and this gave them a chance to see that what’s on the internet is actually created and owned by someone else.”

The Mix-n-Mash lesson asks students to create their own song, and then imagine that it was used by someone on the internet without first gaining their permission. After a short discussion, students are then asked write another song responding to the person who had infringed on their copyrights.

“They had a blast,” Foster told us in this video. “There is something about this program that got them dialoguing.”

While the lesson was fun enough to captivate her students’ attention spans, Foster noted that it also encouraged student collaboration and teamwork. “It got some kids together that, I think, might not have chosen to play together on the playground or something, but were very successful as teammates,” she said.

Susan Termini, a technology coordinator at Chicago’s Thomas J. Waters Elementary School, says she uses Digital Passport to help her students “understand that there’s a responsibility that’s attached to using technology.”

“They need to know that there are ways to protect themselves when they’re online,” she told us in an interview last year. “They need to know what their options are and what their responsibilities are. We don’t want them to feel scared, but we want them to know how to be safe too.” 

These educators say that if students know how to use the tools responsibly, they will be prepared to take advantage of all of the opportunities technology offers. This is just one of the many takeaways resources like the Digital Passport can communicate to young learners. Sign up to try Digital Passport in your classroom.