What Do You Want the Virtual World to Say About You in 10 Years?

September 05, 2012
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Parents and Families

Regular readers of this blog know we’re big fans of Diana Graber, “CyberCivics” teacher and co-founder of the adult digital literacy program, CyberWise. Graber has been an outspoken advocate of our curriculum and has incorporated many of our digital citizenship lessons into her sixth grade classroom.

“I love that Common Sense Media’s curriculum is research-based and offers a range of activities that emphasize critical thinking, ethical discussion, and decision making,” she said in a guest post she wrote for us last year. “It is a perfect fit for Waldorf schools because it solves the problem of finding a way to introduce media that honors their developmental approach.”

Graber, who has master’s degrees in both media psychology and social change from UCLA, supports the idea that teaching new media literacy does not require access to technology. Earlier this year, she hosted a webinar for us detailing just how effective it can be to teach digital citizenship in a “no-tech classroom.” In this short segment, she stresses the importance of character education and ethical decision-making over simply just giving students access to new technologies.

Graber also posted a series of videos that allow you to see just how excited her students are about the lessons and to watch as they begin to truly comprehend the importance of exhibiting safe behavior online. Graber also maintains a blog about her experiences teaching digital literacy in the classroom, and recently asked her seventh grade students to write a list of rules for “safe and respectable online behavior,” for both students and adults.

Here’s what they came up with—pretty smart kids:

  • I will not post embarrassing pictures of other people on public sites.
  • I will not post mean comments online.
  • I will not post any personal information about myself online.
  • I will not give out any personal information about my friends.
  • I will not make up fake identities.
  • I will always ask permission before posting pictures of others.
  • I will respect a person’s decision if they do not want a picture or video of themselves posted online.
  • I will think twice (or three times) before putting anything online.
  • I will not pretend to be another person online behind their back.
  • I will not post personal stories about my friends online without their permission.

“I think these are terrific rules for all of us, young person and adult alike,” Graber said of the list on her CyberCivics blog. “After all, as tempting as it is to over share personal information on social networks, like Facebook, following these guidelines not only demonstrates respect for the ‘digital footprints’ of our families and friends, it’s also just plain smart.”

Graber developed the “CyberCivics” program in 2010, and much of the curricular material is adapted from the our digital literacy classroom curriculum. The program was created for grades 6-8, and is organized by topic, such as digital citizenship, information and research, and media literacy.

"If we as adults don't understand what our kids are doing in the digital world, then I think we have a huge failure to connect," Graber said of the importance of digital literacy education in a recent interview with the Orange County Register.

One of Graber’s recent lessons, the Register reported, was to give her sixth grade students a piece of paper with a footprint on it and asked them to draw everything they want the virtual world to say about them in 10 years. "They kind of imagine the perfect person that they would put out there," said Graber. "Hopefully that acts as a blueprint for them to think about all the things they put online that might not give that message in the future."

One of Graber’s overriding messages in all facets of her teaching is that the key to ensuring students’ safe behavior online is to provide them with the knowledge to make informed decisions – and that this knowledge does not always come from sitting them down in front of a screen.

“I believe that taking Common Sense Media’s approach to digital literacy is a smart choice for all schools, particularly in a climate where ‘stranger danger’ is taught more readily than digital preparedness,” she said last year on this blog. “Perhaps if we arm students with the skills necessary to navigate the ethical decisions that loom in cyberspace, adults will have confidence in their ability to make wise digital choices and maybe even encourage digital media use for education!”