Category Archives: Digital Citizenship


Copyright support postcard (front)

(photo design by Liene Karels, from the University of Michigan Library)

Okay, so it’s a made up word – doesn’t mean the fear is not real.

I have been teaching for nine years now, a little over a year in the capacity of a tech teacher, and I have just recently begun to face my fear of teaching about copyright.  Not that it never came up.  On the contrary, there have been plenty of teachable moments over the years that I have always chosen to ignore, ‘sweep under the rug’, and hope it goes away. Why?  Not because I don’t care or don’t think it’s important. Truth be told, I never quite understood copyright laws.  Not only are they written in legalspeak, they are riddled with hypotheticals and exceptions.  Also, they are constantly being amended to keep up with the ever changing landscape of the Internet.

Another reason (excuse) I gave myself for not teaching about copyright is that I never believed kids would ‘buy it’ (no pun intended). Although perhaps it had more to do with my ability to ‘sell it’ so that they’ll ‘buy it’.  How do I convince kids that it’s not okay to download copyrighted music from the internet for free?  Or that just because you pay $5 for a DVD copy of a movie that’s still in theatres is illegal despite the fact that you ‘paid for it’? How do I explain that they cannot just copy and paste any image they found on the Internet into their slideshow/presentation/movie without the owner’s permission.  And even if I convince them that it is wrong, will it change their bahaviour?  Will they stand up for what’s right, or will they ignore, ‘sweep under the rug’, and hope it goes away like I have done for so many years.  Sadly, I didn’t really believe that me teaching about copyright would make much difference in their lives.

But I did it anyway, given a nudge by various circumstances and one conscientious colleague.  After all, facing your fear is an important step in overcoming it, right?  And in order to face copyrightophobia, I needed to learn more about it.

I went online and got more information, found some kid-friendly websites, and started to make some sense out of this copyright business.

It has never been my intention to get philosophical on this blog.  My goal from the beginning was to write posts that are going to be practical and hopefully useful to other teachers.  However, I needed to get this out because I have a feeling that there might be some fellow copyrightophobiacs out there that need a little nudge themselves in order to teach this topic.  Before I lay down the practical though, I just want to share a student post that inspired me to write this.

Just a few days after I taught my first lesson on copyright I was shown this (by the conscientious colleague I mentioned before, Loretta May):

copyright student post

They were listening!  And they took it seriously! And they took action!  Now, I understand that their response here is a little harsh and misguided, but nevertheless: They were listening!  And they took it seriously! And they took action!  I’m ashamed at how grossly I have underestimated them.

So here is the practical, or what I have so far:

Media Smarts’ Raising Ethical Kids For a Networked World

This is an excellent tutorial not only about copyright issues (slides 34-43), but also about online over-sharing, cyber bullying, and plagiarism.  In it, teachers are encouraged to promote respect for the intellectual and creative property of others.

One way to do that is to apply empathy.  A good time to start teaching about copyright issues is after students have spent a lot of time and put in a great deal of effort into creating something of their own.  In our class students created a timeline using Smart Ideas for a biography assignment they were working on.  Lead a discussion about how it would make them feel if they posted their work online and someone copied it and used it in their school assignment without acknowledging the person who created it.

Another way to promote respect is to challenge some social codes students may believe are norms with respect to online materials.  One of those may be that “copying isn’t stealing” (slide 39), another that “it’s okay so long as I give credit” (slide 40).  The logical next step is teaching kids how to find resources online that they are legally allowed to use.  Here is another great Media Smarts resource where you will find information about Public Domain, Creative Commons, and Fair Dealing.

Getting the Goods Ethically Tip Sheet

Here are a couple of great interactive websites for students from a blog post shared with me by Tina Zita (@tina_zita):



Taking the Mystery out of Copyright

copyright mystery

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an expert on copyright laws.  I know that there is still a lot to learn and that I will probably make mistakes along the way in how I use, and teach about the use of media.  However, I’m glad I started the conversation with my students about this important topic.

How do you approach the issue of copyright in your classroom?


Online Safety & Digital Citizenship from K to 6

As a tech teacher, I consider the most vital part of my job is to teach students how to use technology safely and responsibly.  Last year, in my new role as an Instructional Technology Teacher, I have discussed online safety and digital citizenship with most of my classes and assigned activities related to it sporadically throughout the year.  This summer I have vowed to find and organize appropriate resources for teaching online safety and digital citizenship for every grade level I teach so that I can deliver them in a more purposeful and meaningful manner.  Now the summer is almost over and I’m not nearly done.  There are so many online tutorials, games, and activities to choose from.  Below is what I have managed to gather and organize so far.  Most of the resources I found in this live binder that’s a goldmine of links organized by age groups.  All I had to do is pick and choose the ones I liked and thought would be a good fit for my students.  Many came from MediaSmarts, an excellent Canadian resource for digital and media literacy.  Others are resources I used last year and found effective.  Hope you find this guide useful.


Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • What is private information (full name? phone number? address? school? birth date?) and should it be shared online?  Why or why not?
  • What should you do if you see something online that upsets you?
  • What is a “pop up”?  How do you get rid of it?  Why do they appear?

Online activities:


ABCya Cyber Five: simple tutorial with 5 easy to understand rules, complete the quiz at the end as a whole class activity

Grade 1

Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • use the same as for Kindergarten, plus…
  • emailing/chatting with strangers
  • blocking unknown users who try to contact you
  • preventing computer viruses by not downloading from unknown websites/links
  • selecting a strong password

Online activities:

ABCya Cyber Five: same tutorial as for Kindergarten but have students work with a partner or independently to complete the quiz at the end (audio support provided)


BrainPOPjr: video tutorial with a easy/hard quiz at the end that can be completed online (can print results)or on paper

Grade 2

Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • use the same as for Kindergarten and grade 1, plus…
  • posting pictures online
  • privacy settings/policies
  • respecting the privacy of others

Online activities:


NetSmartKids: easy games in a sequential order, allows to save using a nickname and then go back to complete, can print a certificate at the end


Privacy Pirates: a lengthy tutorial with multiple choice questions embedded along the way (provides hints if needed), can print results

Grade 3

Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • use the same as for Kindergarten, grade 1 and 2, plus…
  • What is spam?
  • How do companies try to convince you to buy their product online? How do we recognize advertising ploys online?
  • Is everything we read online true?  How can you tell if it’s true or not ? What is the difference between fact and opinion?
  • What is stereotyping?
  • What is Netiquette?  Why is it important to follow the rules of Netiquette?
  • What is cyber bullying?
  • What are the dangers of meeting cyber ‘friends’ in person?

Online activities:


Privacy Playground: The First Adventure of the Three CyberPigs: tutorial that teaches kids how to spot online marketing strategies, protect their personal information and avoid online predators. There are yes/no questions along the way that kids answer to check their understanding.


CyberSense and Nonsense: The Second Adventure of The Three CyberPigs: this tutorial teaches kids how to authenticate online information, observe rules of netiquette, distinguish between fact and opinion and recognize bias and harmful stereotyping in online content. There are yes/no questions along the way that kids answer to check their understanding.

Grade 4

Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • review discussion points from K – grade 3, focusing on…
  • digital communication and digital security/safety

Online activities:


Webonauts Internet Academy: an engaging game based tutorial that deals with issues of good digital citizenship such as identity‚ privacy‚ credibility and web safety. Student make choices along the way by clicking on different options provided, can print a certificate of completion at the end.

Share Jumper

Share Jumper: this challenging game has student answer questions about digital citizenship by choosing one of two possible scenarios for each question.

cyber criminal

The Case of the Cyber Criminal: an interactive game about protecting yourself online.

Grade 5

Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • review discussion points from K – grade 4, focusing on…
  • digital literacy and digital law

Online activities:


ThinkUKnow:  a great interactive, with five different tutorials (emails, chat rooms, web browsing, SMS/text messaging, personal online space) and a quiz at the end.


search shark

Search Shark:  this interactive reviews how to conduct a good search.  Students have to choose the best key words to use for a search on provided topics.



Grade 6

Guiding questions and discussion points:

  • review discussion points from K – grade 5, focusing on…
  • digital commerce and digital rights and responsibilities

Online activities:


Passport to the Internet: need a username and password provided through a licence agreement


Top Secret!: comic format tutorial about posting/sharing media and online purchasing, with multiple choice questions embedded throughout (no way to track the results though)

Furthermore, I have recently found a great blog post by Craig Badura (@MrBadura) describing a Digital Citizenship Kit  filled with everyday objects (such as a padlock, toothbrush, sheet of paper, notebook) he uses to draw parallels between the objects and online behaviours.  For example, a toothbrush should never be shared, and neither should a password.  What a great way to start the conversation about responsible online practices – I cannot wait to try this with my students this year.

Finally, as I was recently reminded in Matt Gomez’s (@mattBgomez) post “We Should Be Doing More Than Teaching Digital Citizenship“, it is not enough to teach Digital Citizenship through discussion and online activities, we must also model it and provide students with authentic experiences of it.  So along with trying all the wonderful resources mentioned above, I hope to do a lot of tweeting, Skype-ing, blogging, and online chatting with my students this year.

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