Middle school includes grades 6 through 8, with kids ranging from ages 11 to 14. It is absolutely critical to develop middle school digital citizenship skills at this time in their lives. Why? Because they are beginning to take more control of their lives. Their minds are thinking “Me” most of the time, and they are becoming more independent. They are beginning to expand socially both in the physical world and in the digital world, if they have not been doing so already.
So it stands to reason that venturing out onto the Internet is a big deal for some, and may be old hat for others. Nevertheless, the wanting to explore different things will likely lead to trouble if students not trained well.
What middle school digital citizenship stresses at this point in time is respect. In a sense, respecting at this stage in the game requires that they know the law. So what do we include in a middle school digital citizenship curriculum in our plans?
Approaching Middle School Digital Citizenship
We will merge ideas from 2 excellent resources on the Web to create a template for a curriculum on middle school digital citizenship. Digitalcitizenship.net’s REP, and the Global Digital Citizen Foundation’s Essential Fluencies of Modern Innovative Learning.
We need look no further than Digitalcitizen.net to find an easy way of organizing our curriculum over the span of a child’s school experience. They call it REP, fashioned after the technique of physical exercising with sets of repetitions:
- R stands for respect
- E stands for educate
- P stands for protect
These are their pillars of digital citizenship. As long as we focus on aspects of these, we can form a pretty good basis for our middle school digital citizenship curriculum. Each year focuses on something different within those 3 REP categories.
Middle school encompasses what Digitalcitizenship.net calls “repetition 3.”
Respect Yourself/Respect Others
In middle school, we talk about Digital Law. We’re talking fair use policies and copyright as well as privacy and security for oneself. Students need to know their rights and responsibilities, dangers, and what the law can do to protect them.
It is quite easy for students to take for granted our easy access of information. But being a good digital citizen means respecting other people’s hard-earned work and respecting yourself enough to protect yourself.
Educate Yourself/Connect with Others
In middle school, the focus is on Digital Commerce. At this stage in a child’s education, the digital marketplace is a way for students to connect to others.
Now kids don’t need to leave their home to get stuff. Toys and online games are literally at their fingertips. Frightening, huh? The digital marketplace targets kids as early as they can to get them clicking on their cartoon-cantered website and watching their proprietary YouTube videos, all geared toward hooking kids and their parents’ wallets. Middle school kids need to be taught how to spot deceptive marketing strategies, or simply understand when they are the target of marketing practices.
But digital commerce doesn’t mean just getting stuff. The marketplace in general has long been a way for people to interact with each other and help each other get what they need. Collaboration with other students, teachers, schools, and community members all serve digital commerce in a sense that all are participating in the flow of education and resources.
Protect Yourself/Protect Others
In middle school, this is Digital Health and Welfare. While the Internet can be the source of so many tips on improving your health, there is also a plethora of bad information. A good middle school digital citizenship curriculum must include a provision for vetting information as to its reliability and trustworthiness. As already mentioned above, knowing your rights and responsibilities falls under this category.
Judicious use of passwords and logins, how to create strong ones, how to remember your passwords, what personal information to put out there, and what not. These are the skills which also fall under the “P” of REP.
The Essential Fluencies
While REP can be used as a basic template within which to craft our curriculum, we here at GDCF believes in framing digital citizenship within the context of the Essential Fluencies.These are the specifics, which you can incorporate into your REP pattern.
As a reference tool for middle school digital citizenship, you can download a free copy of a the Fluency QuickStart Guides at each respective links.
- Solution Fluency: Students need the ability to solve complex problems in real time. Download FREE guide
- Information Fluency: Students need the ability to think analytically, which includes facility with comparing, contrasting, evaluating, synthesizing, and applying without instruction or supervision and being able to use the higher end of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Download FREE guide
- Creativity Fluency: Students need to be able to think creatively in both digital and nondigital environments to develop unique and useful solutions. Download FREE guide
- Media Fluency: Students must be able to communicate with text or speech and in multiple multimedia formats. They must be able to communicate visually, through video and imagery as actively as they do with text and speech. Download FREE guide
- Collaboration Fluency: Students must possess the ability to collaborate seamlessly in both physical and virtual spaces, with real and virtual partners globally. Download FREE guide
- Global Digital Citizenship: This cluster includes adaptability, fiscal responsibility, personal accountability, environmental awareness, empathy, tolerance, and many more. Download FREE guide
So to recap, we’ve just blended the techniques of Digitalcitizenship.net with some techniques of our own here at GDCF. Using REP as an easy template to remember, we incorporate the specifics of Solution Fluency (problem solving), Creativity Fluency, Information Fluency (analytical thinking), Collaboration Fluency, Media Fluency, and Global Digital Citizenship (ethics).
As we begin to give our kids more autonomy, nudging them forward into a digital landscape, we expect their caregivers and teachers to guide them to independent safe practices. The focus needs to shift from basic safety literacy to creatively using the digital landscape as the canvas that they will encounter and use for the rest of their lives.