ELA 8 – Digital Citizenship Unit

Wow! I can’ believe I am putting the finishing touches on this project! It has been so much fun to build, and I am so excited to continue adding to it as I learn more about Digital Citizenship.

Here are my reflections, and you can click on the link to find my unit plan.



At the beginning of the year, our administrator purchased Cell Phone Holders for each classroom. Teachers implemented the expectation that all students were to start with their devices in the holder, and then teachers could use cell phones at their own discretion. Many students prefer to keep their students, which proved to be a challenge! However, with my grade 8s I was able to “hook” them with a read aloud and doodle at the beginning of class with the caveat that I only read if all cell phones are in the holder. It took a little training, but the students are in a good routine and automatically put their phones up at the beginning of class now. 

I had a great discussion with my grade 8s about responsible technology use. Most of them sound “burnt out” when it comes to technology. They spent WAY too much time in front of their screens, and admit that they don’t know how to properly utilize their devices. When given the opportunity to use phones in the classroom, most choose to use chromebooks instead which I found interesting. 

When I asked which rules they believed were important, they agreed that kids their age should not be allowed to use cell phones in school. They were shocked when I disagreed with them! After I explained that we would be learning to use our phones responsibly so that hopefully I could eventually trust them to have their phones at their desks. They were excited about this idea! 


Digital Citizenship mini lessons soon became the highlight of each ELA class. The students were always excited to see what activity we would do. Originally, I focused on the content of the activity and which platform/app we would use, and not HOW we would access it. Slow school WIFI and parent restrictions prevented many students from downloading apps without parent permission. I hadn’t thought of that! So I had to be a little more organized and tried to give them a list of all of the apps I wanted them to download at home. 

The students LOVED sharing their thoughts, anonymously, through google forms. Many believed that their screen time was too high, or that they should have more rules. Jamboard was fun, but difficult to complete with some on cell phones and some on chromebooks. It will definitely take more practice! I originally created most of these activities to be done independently to protect the anonymity of the students, but most really enjoyed group discussions. I realized that these were things they had never talked about before! Similar to me, these students weren’t used to reflecting on their use of technology. It was very “one and done” for these guys, and I think this attitude contributed to their negative online behaviour. 

Playing the “Digital Compass” game was a lot of fun and a bit of an eye opener for the grade 8s. They had no idea that every single choice they made online had an impact. I enjoyed just sitting back and listening to their candid discussions! 

Creating the “Collaborative Digital Netiquette” was fun! I gave the students a quick tutorial on google forms and explained my expectations for the assignment. The kids watched the video, chose three rules, found photos to accompany the rules, sourced the photos and included a voice note rationale. It was neat to see how the kids reacted to this type of activity! Some were so excited and eager to figure out voice recordings and image searches, while others were overwhelmed and required a lot of support. It was great to incorporate some stuff on plagiarism/copyright and teach the students the importance of sourcing photos and other information found online. The students also learned a valuable lesson in respecting others’ work. In the end, their presentation was well done, and I can’t wait to try creating videos with them! 

Finding someone to allow their social media to be searched by 12 and 13 year olds proved to be difficult too. I wanted the students to be able to see a real adult’s social media, but I had to be so careful! My cousin is an educator and his wife is a business owner, so I was pretty confident that the content associated with them would be school appropriate. They were hesitant, but understood how important the lesson was so they agreed to be my Digital Sleuthing subjects. I gave the students their first clue, a photo of our subjects and a print out of their activity and set a timer for 10 minutes. The activity morphed from an oversharing/undersharing focus to a “using media in our favour”. 

Watching the “Amanda Todd” story was impactful for the grade 8s. Many connected that she similar in age to them, and they have seen similar behaviours online. Using Canva Video and Google Draw to create posters to encourage kind behaviour was fun and the students enjoyed experimenting and expressing their thoughts creatively through digital media. This was a first for them! The “Monochromatic Art” activity was a lot of fun too, and the students were so engaged! It almost seemed like the students felt like this time was a treat! 

The distracted cell phone use activity was fun! Padlet took some getting used to, but the students enjoyed the activity itself. They couldn’t believe I let them try Mario Cart in the classroom! They were shocked at how little they were able to focus on their phones while they were distracted. It was a very thought provoking activity! 

“Spotting Fake News” was a cool lesson! At the beginning of class, I explained that the Digital Citizenship lesson would be on Fake News and then I told the students about a new species of Octopus that had been recently discovered and they were intrigued when I told them it’s name. We brainstormed a list of questions we had about the octupi, and then I gave the students 10 minutes to quietly research. I explained that it had to be completely silent (because I didn’t want any of my critical thinkers to ruin it for those more gullible, like me!). I also “pushed” the website to the students because I didn’t want them to see words like “hoax” or “fake” in their searches. There were a few who caught on right away, but many who were so focused on their research that they didn’t really stop to think about what they were reading. After the 10 minutes, we talked about the implications of engaging with media that is untrue and I explained the differences between misinformation and disinformation. Some of the kids related it to spreading rumors and it was great to see them make these connections. Next, we moved on to Trolls and Catfishing. The students enjoyed playing “Spot the Troll”! They couldn’t believe how “real” they looked, and everyone agreed that they would definitely be on the lookout for them! 


Although this course is over, I have more work to do with my grade 8s. I plan to continue following my unit plan until the end of this year. I am excited to dig into the social media section of Digital Citizenship because I think the students will find this very interesting. The kids understand that their final project is to create a reflection of their learning to share with their parents. Because I normally teach grade 9 too, I am excited to continue this digital citizenship journey with these students as they get older!


Closing the Digital Divide

The pandemic opened my eyes to lots of things (Tiger King, Amish Friendship Bread and ) but it also made me aware of the inequalities that exist in our education system, especially when it comes to technology and the Digital Divide.

I was very lucky to be able to comfortable work from home during the Pandemic. We had a good internet connection, and my school division provides me with a laptop. My children were also able to borrow a laptop from the school to complete their school work. At our school of 250ish students, we gave out almost a hundred chromebooks and our division supplied just under 10 hotspots for families unable to access internet. Not everyone in Saskatchewan was this lucky!

Illustration by Emma Greenfield

The Digital Divide is the term used to explain the gap between those who have access to communication and information technology and those who do not. Before the pandemic, I knew this existed but I didn’t really see a problem with it. If a kid can’t game or a parent can’t do online banking, it didn’t really seem to be an issue right? Wrong!

Here are four reasons why the Digital Divide (and closing it) is in fact a big deal:

  1. Closing the divide increases racial equity (Only 24% of Indigenous families have access to Internet)
  2. Increasing access supports kids in rural areas
  3. There is a connection between access and higher GPAs
  4. Kids need digital skills for the workforce

Information from Closing the Digital Divide to Help Kids Thrive

But where do we go from here? I always struggle with that. How do we fix this problem? Throughout my reading, I found out about how important raising this awareness is. This website gave a very kid friendly rundown on what the Digital Divide is. So that feels like a start…but what else can we do?

According to Common Sense Media and their report Connect All Students there are things we can try to bridge this gap. Schools need to start by understanding the needs of their students and families. The following questions are simple and non judgemental.

Things school divisions can do include offering sponsored internet service or lowering the amount of information families need to set up services in their homes. Making sure that families are set up with the approriate technology also helps to avoid frustration and increase comfort.

Digital Sleuthing Activity

I tried out the “Cybersleuthing” activity that @courosa suggested for us yesterday, and the kids loved it! I had spoke to my cousin (teacher) and his wife (pharmacist and business owner) about using them as my “test subjects” and they were a little leary but also excited to see what the kids would come up with.

First we watched the video from CommonSmarts media Teen Voices: Oversharing and your Digital Footprint. We had a group discussion about the dangers of oversharing, and they didn’t really seem to think it was a problem. I showed them the PleaseRobMe website, and they started to agree that it might be a bit of a problem.

I told the students that there was a job opening at the school, and they got to decide who to hire. I gave them the first and last name of each person and showed them a photo to point them in the right direction. I gave them 10 minutes to see what they could find and then set them free!

They did surprisingly well! They found where my cousin and his wife were located, as well as some information on them from their younger life (both were high level athletes in highschool and University and the kids found their stats). We went through and evaluated both and decided that my cousin would be the better choice for a teacher because he had less on the internet. I said they were right, and that he was in fact a teacher and that is why there was less information out there about him.

This morphed into a conversation about why they didn’t choose his wife. Their reasoning was that she had more on the internet about her, but when asked if the content was bad or inappropriate they said no, just more. I then revealed to them that she was a pharmacist, business owner, volunteer and philanthropist. I asked if they thought the information shared was better suited for a business owner vs a teacher and they said yes because sometimes people use social media to advertise a product or promote themselves.

All in all, it was a pretty cool experience. I could see which kids are experienced sleuths and which ones only use their phones for kijijii. Next up, Fake News!!

Fake News

I am terrible at spotting fake news. I am incredibly gullible and am strung along very easily. Unless it is really obvious, I will probably believe that it is true…as in I had to think for a second, the first time I saw the house hippo commercial

But what is “fake news”? In the truest form of the phrase, it means a news stories that is false. The story itself has been fabricated and has no verifiable source. So then what’s all this hype about mis and disinformation? Well from my understanding that is how fake news is categorized – misinformation is information that is untrue or false but spread around because someone thought it was true. Disinformation is information that is untrue, but the “spreader” understands this but spreads it anyway (aka a cause of the majority of issues in middle years classrooms!)

When it comes to digital citizenship, it’s important to teach kids about the different types of mis/disinformation out there so that they can learn to create a positive and informed online presence. Here is an infographic that I found helpful, and will be including in my final project.

Image by Claire Wardle at FirstDraftNews.com

It is important to teach students the difference in each of these. For example, it is important to understand what parody is and it’s place in society. Often, when created and used properly, parody can provide different perspectives and deeper understanding of complex issues. It is also important to understand when something has been fabricated or manipulated. Advertisements can prey on the body image issues of young teenagers by using unrealistic images. Kids need to be aware that this type of information is out there. But how do we make sure that they make good choices when they post?

It is also important to teach kids how to spot it. I found this a really useful quote from How to Spot Fake News: Lessons and Activities for Students (It even has a full lesson that I plan to try out!)

This website also shared 6 easy steps to spotting Fake News

  1. Develop a Critical Mindset
  2. Check the source
  3. Cross-Reference with other sources
  4. Gather the evidence
  5. Check its current
  6. Ask the experts

I am really excited to try this lesson out. Stay tuned to hear about how this lesson went in the Final Project tab of my blog!

Today’s learner and multiple literacies


I remember, in one of my first years of teaching, having a conversation with a “seasoned vet” about the language students were using. She was horrified that students were using “u” to replace “you” and “r” to replace “are”. She felt it was a sign of laziness or lack of intellect, when really it was just she was used to a more traditional sense of literacy. She liked her students to share their understanding in the form of written essays. I often think back to that conversation and wonder if sometimes I get stuck in a mindframe similar to that teacher. There are so many ways for people to be literate. Written, spoken, digital, visual, critical, informational, cultural the list goes on. As a self declared “old person” I am beginning to realize how important it is for me to appreciate that my students have unique strengths and that they share their understanding in different ways. What is more important – what we say or how we say it?

Social Media has majorly changed how people communicate. Yes, sometimes it means shortening already very short words but sometimes it means thinking a little deeper. I often use tik tok trends to teach different concepts in my classroom. For example the #tellme challenge is great for teaching different types of figurative language. Also, it’s very interesting to hear them explain the meaning behind different slang terms! For example, the other day our director of education stopped by my classroom to say hi. After he left, one of my grade 10s said “Woah, Mr. (so and so) is looking drippy!” Now I’ll admit. I was a little taken aback but I got him to explain what that meant. He said it means like hes “drippin’ with class” and I thought that was pretty cool!

Literate Schools. 2017

Students need to be able to interpret and understand information from various context. I need to teach my students to be able to sift through content and use that to formulate their responses. Although I believe that students should always be able to share their understanding in the ways that work best for themselves (Think of the Dr Seuss quote “If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid“) I also think it is important to teach students that there is a time and place for specific literacies and they usually begin with a question. I found this great infographic that I wanted to share:

As teachers, we need to make sure to provide students with various opportunities to practice their literacy skills. Confining students to printed materials and text books, only works for some of our students. A mixture of digital resources, photos and videos are necessary to ensure a wide range of success in the classroom. I make sure to keep that conversation with the “seasoned vet” close to the front of my mind whenever I think about my assignments. Do my students really always have to share their understanding in written form, or could they create a digital presentation instead? Change isn’t easy. This takes time to get comfortable with, but it is worth the effort!

Rules are rules…

The grade 8s and I are really enjoying our digital citizenship time! I always structure every class the same way. DEAR, Read Aloud, Digital Citizenship mini unit and then work on our main unit. It sounds like a lot, but our classes are 112 minutes long and grade 8s need to be kept busy!

So far, we have found out the jamboard on cell phones are difficult, google forms are great for surveys and mentimeters are super cool but I don’t have the paid version so we could only use it for two questions.

After each survey, I pull up the results and we discuss. I don’t attach the student’s names to their responses, and the kids enjoy the anonymity of it. Last week, I wanted to get a sense of the guidelines and expectations the kids had in their homes. They loved sharing them! Some said their phones had a “bed time” (put away at 9pm) while others said they had to have permission to download certain apps and games.

Our discussion naturally took us to a place where I asked the kids to come up with 3 rules (or less) that they believe parents should have for their kids. It was so cool! They met in small groups and then we gathered back together to share the findings.

Most said they liked the idea of a certain amount of screen time or a down time, decided upon together with parents. Some said they thought we needed to include something about locations on (only for certain people like family or close friends). The kids were super engaged and we spent way longer than my allotted 15 minutes!

One of the kids brought up Google Family Link app so we did some digging. Turns out it checks most, if not all of the boxes for cell phone guidelines that the kids brought up!

Some of the features of Google Family Link are:

-Guide children to good content (all apps and games must be approved by parents/guardians)

-Set Screen time limits (ex. time limits – 2 hours or shuts off at 10 pm)

-Location services (see where your children are)

Google Family Link (2022)

I am curious to know if you use this app with your own children, or if there are other better apps out there!

Teachers role with Digital Citizenship

I used to believe that it was a parent’s job to teach their kids about the internet….until I had kids of my own. Weird how that happens, hey?

The main theme that has been weaved throughout most of my experiences with technology has been to basically find any reason not to use it. In theory, I love the idea of providing students with the opportunities to try new apps and tools, but they usually backfire on me because I don’t know enough about them and the kids use them for the wrong reasons. I also noticed that that attitude was trickling down to my students. We tried a jamboard using cell phones the other day and it didn’t work well. The kids were frustrated and asked me not to use jamboard again. I almost said yes, but then I used it as an opportunity to talk about resilience and opportunities. That’s the whole point of what we do, isn’t it? To use those little, insignificant moments to teach about the bigger, signficant things. We decided, as a group, that that jamboard sucked but that we would try again soon…and that I would also find a new app to try next time.

I did a little research about my role as teacher, when it comes to digital citizenship and found this website. This website broke down the elements of digital citizenship nicely, and gives teachers a good idea of what they need to do!

Image from https://agpartseducation.com/9-elements-of-digital-citizenship/
  1. Understand Dr Ribble’s key elements
  2. Help learners reach that same level of awareness – Easy peasy!

I love that this is very flexible interpretation of my role. It allows me to have a general idea of my scope and sequence, but also lets me follow the interests and abilities of the students.

A few key ideas that I feel are applicable to me are:

-Use blended learning

-Discuss key themes

-Work on digital literacy

-Be inclusive!

Image from Kathleen Morris’ website Helping Teachers create digitally literate global citizens

So I feel good about the what now I need to focus on the how. The infographic above gives a good explanation of a digital citizenship teaching approach. I was immediately drawn to number 2: Storytelling and our conversation on discord about Kara’s strange encourter on twitter. I feel confident in using each of these strategies, and I think that is what makes me feel so much more comfortable about teaching this content.

So to conclude, the teacher’s role for teaching digital citizenship is not very different from teaching anything else. Feel comfortable with the content and then get to it!

Major Project Update

I have to thank Durston for the information he shared in his portion of the content catalyst video. I was really struggling with the implementation of my project. I knew I didn’t want to present the information in a one and done unit, but I just wasn’t sure how to fit it all in. It wasn’t until he suggested to treat it like a mini lesson or a lunch time talk, basically focusing on it for 15-20 minutes each class.

I think this idea could really work for my group! I plan to start this with a jamboard which asks the questions “What is a citizen?” and then “What does digital?” and then “What is digital citizenship?” I want to use this as my base line. From there, I plan to have the students fill out an anonymous google form about Cell Phone Home Rules & Regulations.

I have really liked the last few classes because I feel like I am starting to get a bit direction for my project. I am excited to talk to my kids about spotting Fake News , recognizing their digital footprint and somehow incorporate Be Internet Awesome.

My Digital Identity Journey

When I sit back and reflect on my Digital Identity, I am immediately drawn to the extensive list of email addresses I began my online journey with. Horselover10, sparkleprincess_439 and gurlygurl_10 – some of the many user names I have tried out over the years. Don’t use your real age or real name I was once told, so I figured that all of these would protect me from creepy internet stalkers. I was completely untraceable AND super cool!

When I first got facebook, I thought it was the coolest thing! I enjoyed looking at the photos others chose to post. Checking out their trips, weddings, new babies – I loved it all! I set up my facebook account in my last year of university, so I liked that I could keep tabs on my friends and see where everyone’s lives took them. I didn’t have the app for my phone, so the time I spent on it was minimal (compared to now) . Slowly, facebook became more about rants and vent sessions than about posting albums of home renovation. I took a hiatus from facebook after my brother passed. I didn’t want to read the posts or see any other news about him. It was refreshing and it took me a long time to log back on because I loved the sense of freedom I felt not being tied to facebook. When my teaching load was switched to highschool, I started to receive friend requests from my students which I promptly deleted the app. I wasn’t confident with my security settings and I just thought it was easier to delete my profile and be done with facebook.

I realize now that I took the same approach to my facebook presence that most people do to social media. As soon as I got nervous, I “jumped the gun” and deleted it. Much like keeping my professional life separate from my private life, this is proving to be a difficult task. Out of sight, out of mind – right? Wrong. Instead of doing this, I should have focused more on building my confidence and learning more about my digital identity. Finding ways to have an online presense that reflected my views as an educator, while still being me! After reading Overcoming Digital Dualism I am beginning to understand that my “online” presence is enmeshed with my “offline” and that the two are actually inseperable.

I liken this situation to my use of technology (specifically cell phones) in the classroom. I need to focus on building my confidence with new apps and teach students how to be respectful and responsible online. I need to grow as a digital citizen, as well as take my students along on that journey.