It’s Never Too Soon to Teach Digital Citizenship
If we want our students to use powerful learning tools in a responsible way, I believe it’s best to introduce technol- ogy early, teach students how to be good digital citizens,
and bring parents along on the journey. As a kindergarten
teacher, I introduce technology to my families even before
the kids walk into the classroom on the first day of school.
Here’s how I engage students and families to build a great
relationship that lasts long after the school year ends.
Welcome email and postcard. A few weeks
before school starts, I send parents a post-
card introducing myself and an email with
a Google Form embedded asking permission
to use their children’s photographs and school work. I as-
sure parents that I never use their child’s name and photo-
graph together, and I explain that the content posted on
blogs and wikis is always related to what we are learning.
This allows me to model good digital citizenship skills
from the start.
Technology handbook. Next, I send out a hand-
book called “Kindergarten Life.” This is a
document I created that describes in detail
all of the technologies that both parents and
their children will be using in the year ahead. The hand-
book explains how to set up a password for the wikis they
will be using with their children. At this time, I also invite
parents to sign up for Skype and Twitter so they can start
learning about these tools if they haven’t already.
Summer reading blog. After parents have had a
chance to review the handbook, I send a link
to a summer reading blog, where I have cre-
ated a post with each student’s name. This is
where I begin modeling what and how to post in a safe,
responsible way. Students post about a book—either one
they have read or one that has been read to them. I read all
posts and leave comments on each one. My comments are
always positive and encourage more interaction, such as,
“Have you read this book?” or “I liked the part when... .”
Through this type of explicit and intentional modeling, my
students and families begin to experience how to connect
and use proper etiquette.
Meetings with former students. Once school
begins, I bring in former kindergarteners to
share the technology tools we use. It is so
much more meaningful coming from former
students because they give reasons why and explain how
technology helps their learning.
Class blog. I blog with my students on the first
day of kindergarten, and I immediately use
specific language to explain what types of in-
formation we share about our kindergarten
day. We share about things we are doing, and we like to in-
clude pictures in our tweets. My students are never at a loss
Once we have posted, we read the posts together, and
I ask my students to reflect and share. During this large-group sharing time, I reiterate how important it is to be
kind. I want my students to share what they are learning
and exploring with a larger audience so they can get feedback through comments.
I attach a world map widget on the blog, and we watch
as the map “lights up.” My students understand that this
means people are looking at our blog because they are interested in what we are learning in kindergarten. This is crucial when helping young children and their families become
digital citizens. The purpose has to be clear and meaningful.
Skyping. I have a class Skype account available
to my students throughout the day. At first, I
create a schedule and ask parents to Skype in
so we can videoconference with familiar fac-
es. After a while, Skyping becomes a routine activity, and
we no longer need a schedule. Skyping is an ideal activity
to teach students online etiquette, such as how to introduce
themselves and say where they are from.
Last year I had a parent call us from California while
away on a business trip. He shared that it was 6 a.m. on
the West Coast, and he asked what time it was in Vermont. That brought up the topic of time zones and how
important it is to be aware of them when Skyping. This impromptu math lesson was meaningful because it came up
in an authentic way.