By Teachers, For Teachers
Teaching used to be based on textbooks used by millions nation- or worldwide. They took an entire school year to finish, leaving little time for curiosity or creativity. Some subjects still do fine with that approach, because their pedagogy varies little from year to year. In my classes, though, that's changing. I no longer limit myself to the contents of a textbook written years, sometimes a decade, ago. Now, I'm likely to cobble together lesson plans from a variety of time-sensitive and differentiated material. Plus, I commonly expect students to dig deeper into class conversations, think critically about current event connections, and gain perspective by comparing lesson materials to world cultures. That, of course, usually ends up not in a library but on technology in the classroom. Before I set them loose with technology in the classroom, though, I teach them the "Rules of the Internet road" because make no mistake: There are rules. The Internet's Wild West days are fast disappearing, replaced with the security offered by abiding to a discrete set of what's commonly referred to as "Digital rights and responsibilities." It boils down to a simple maxim: With the right to discover knowledge comes the responsibility to behave well while doing so. The privileges and freedoms extended to digital users who type a URL into a browser or click a link in a PDF or scan a QR Code require that they bear the responsibility to keep technology in the classroom a safe and healthy environment for everyone.
Most people, if asked, could easily name the benefits of the Internet:
These rights are so pervasive to our daily activities that many consider them to be inalienable, not unlike those laid out in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To these folks, disconnecting people from the Internet is a violation of international law and tramples all over an individual's human rights.
But there are two faces to this digital coin: Inalienable or not, they require great responsibilities. Some think the Internet's lawlessness (because no world authority holds legal authority over the world wide web) precludes cultural norms like kindness, morality, and ethics. After all, if you purchase porn from a third-world nation where it's legal to sell, who's going to enforce what law?
That's where I teach my students that with rights come responsibilities. Think of the Internet as having comparable expectations to a neighborhood:
Information Security Education and Awareness posits these 10 Commandments for computer use:
... and eight "don'ts" for computer users:
Knowing this, consider three of the great threats to the safe and equitable use of the Internet:
The responsibility to use all data, files, and information from the Internet legally, wisely, and safely means: Don't plagiarize. Always credit the creator. In general terms, you must cite sources for:
Most students are well-versed in the illegality of stealing someone's online words, but plagiarism extends to all forms of media -- images, photos, audio files, videos, and more. Few students make those connections. In fact, they're likely to think if a picture is online, it's free.
It's tempting to believe that everything online is legitimate, yet it's easy to fake a picture with programs like Photoshop. Look at this picture of President Roosevelt crossing a river on a moose*.
This happens so often, even by amateurs, that they are no longer legal in courts of law.
When trying to differentiate between legitimate information and hoaxes, consider these questions:
Look at these sites and decide if they're hoaxes -- and why:
Spam is defined as "Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients." Today, that not only includes annoying marketing emails but phishing (sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies) and spoofing (the forgery of an email header so that the message appears to be from someone legitimate). These are designed solely to trick you into giving out personal information or install malware on your computer that gives others access to it.
Here are seven tips for avoiding spam:
The most important part of this article: Accessing the Internet includes behavioral expectations. Teach this as soon as students visit the Internet (probably kindergarten). Reteach it every year. Add details that are age-appropriate. Never consider your job done until your students and children can cross that virtual road safely, after looking both ways for dangerous digital traffic.
*The Roosevelt photo is in the public domain because it was created more than 70 years after the death of its creator. That's why I didn't cite it.
Building Digital Citizens (online Certificate class)
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days.