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!


6 thoughts on “ELA 8 – Digital Citizenship Unit

  1. Congrats, Jill, on the completion of your master’s! It’s so wonderful that you are teaching and adding new lessons and content around digital citizenship. Isn’t it amazing to engage our learners through these powerful conversations? Thanks for sharing all of your work! Take care!


  2. This is an awesome resource. I am wondering what your plan is for the monochromatic art assignment? I also teach grade 8 and love seeing new art ideas! It is interesting how many projects took shape this semester! I think you did a great job of gathering resources that can help build that dig cit piece in class (it is my blind spot). I created a OneNote with the same sort of organization using the 9 elements. Great work!! Let me know what your plans are for monochromatic!


    • Thanks Dalton! Take a peek at the google slides presentation and make a copy, if you like! The kids loved it and it kept them engaged for several classes. It even has a teacher and self assessment at the end!


  3. What a great unit for grade 8’s. I love how you were able to make the students really consider their own use of devices and digital citizenship. I am wondering if you are willing to share access to your activities? Some of them required access.


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