On one of our many walks to school, my 11-year-old son asked, “What are you blogging about these days, Dad?” I replied, “Elementary school digital citizen activities. So, what is it that kids do on computers most?”

“Games and videos,” he replied. I can attest to that.My son likes to watch videos of game walkthroughs where people take videos of themselves playing through a game to the end, all while commenting on what’s going on; much like watching a movie. He also likes to play free games.

The adult in me wanted to say, “You should use it for learning and collaborating and organizing.” But I held my tongue. I wanted to empathize.  “Go on,” I said. Almost knowing what I was thinking he said, “There are games that are fun and that teach me biology and physics and stuff.”

Certainly I would want my kids to be well developed and well rounded. But I can feel the future pressing in—this need for kids to have a meaningful and relevant digital experience. One that connects people around the world, helps solve problems, helps us get things done, and inspires our imagination.

So what would I teach in the way of elementary school digital citizen activities? I say meet them where they are. They love to play. They love games. Gaming is recreation. And recreation is immensely needed.

TOCO

I recently gave my son a TOCO mail account because he needed an email address to sign up for Evernote’s digital portfolio (Gmail’s minimum age is 13).

Tocomail is great because I see everything before it gets to my son’s inbox. I also get to approve or reject it. So far, his only contacts are his Mom and Dad, so it’s neat just to send him little messages here and there. He can reply and we can guide him in safe Internet practices as we release control gradually to him.

toco-mail-homepage

Rather than writing his assignments, because he has dysgraphia, he prefers to video himself speaking into a camera. While the school has no policy on submitting videos in place of written work in cases of children not being able to write, I went ahead and introduced them to it.

We recorded an essay that he rehearsed on “Valuing the Family” and posted it to Evernote and shared it with his teachers. He enjoys posting things to his very own portfolio.

Elementary kids would love to scan in their work and upload it to Evernote to show off to Mom and Dad when they have time.

Suggested elementary school digital citizen activities: Simple email back and forth from parents to their children; and scanning in their work or recording themselves, then posting on Evernote to share with their families.

Typing Club

I also require my son to practice typing in TypingClub to earn his “fun” videos.

typing-club-home

In this way, he gains valuable keyboarding skills. Two lessons at a certain level earns him a 30-minute video of his choice.

Suggested elementary school digital citizen activities: The lessons are very straightforward, and there’s a reward component to it. Typing is an essential component to the digital lifestyle.

Minecraft

Who hasn’t heard about or experienced Minecraft? Kids just dig this experience and there are tons more modifications for educators to dismiss it.

minecraft-homepage

Suggested elementary school digital citizen activities: Allow students to collaborate and build things together, especially a portion of their own school

Code.org

For computer coding, there’s Code.org which uses Google’s Blockly.

code.org-homepage

I’ll have to say that in our recent experience, both our older boys (9 and 11) love computer coding using Blockly’s graphical interface. They help each other solve coding puzzles and are developing their logic skills. Occasionally they’ll peek under the hood to see the actual text code, but for now they’re getting the concepts down. And as they develop their keyboarding skills using Typing Club, they’ll eventually do the text code.

Suggested elementary school digital citizen activities: Go through the first tutorial and make your own first program while learning about code.

Digizen

Finally, here’s a game to help specifically teach global digital citizenship. Digizen lets you assume an avatar and walk through digital citizenship.

digizen-homepage-game

Teaching by Doing

While most of the tools above are not overtly about Global Digital Citizenship, they can offer opportunities for you to teach kids while they are experiencing the Internet. Let’s stop teaching digital citizenship by talking about it. Let’s teach it by doing it.

The time to learn will be when they are taking their first steps online, not when they get into some trouble. As much as kids can play in the physical world, which is where they learn, they can also play in the digital world. Healthy lessons abound there as well.

Take a look at these tools, and maybe you can see how a driving question can come about. Then use our Solution Fluency Activity Planner to come up with a great project-based learning unit around it.

 

 

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