Digital Literacy: Teaching Students Responsibility in a Digital World

If you’re in your mid-twenties or older, you probably remember what school was like before technology became ubiquitous in the classroom. It was a treat when your teacher would come into the classroom with a bulky TV and cassette in tow, or when they rolled in a cart carrying the overhead projectors.

Today, nearly all classrooms have a computer attached to an LCD projector installed. Computer classes include doing more than just memorizing the letter positioning on the keyboard and how to draw art on Paint. Nowadays, teachers have to train their students at a young age how to navigate the internet safely and responsibly, and idea that was never in curriculums decades ago.

As a teacher, you have the responsibility of teaching digital literacy and teaching and learning in a digital world. In this article, we list down ways you can teach your students how to use technology responsibly.

Responsible Digital Technology

Just because your students know how to navigate the internet through accessible technology doesn’t mean that all of them will use it responsibly. Instances such as trolling, cyberbullying, and children being preyed on by older people online occur because not a lot of children are aware of both the dangers of trolling and cyberbullying have on people as well as the dangers they themselves are prone to when online.

Safe Browsing

The internet is filled with websites both useful and dangerous. If your students are young, chances are, they’ll be searching for YouTube videos, flash games, and social media sites they can enter, so the risk of them finding age-inappropriate websites and apps (e.g. pornography, adult imageboards, dating websites) is relatively low. However, as they grow older and inevitably learn more about adult topics, they may be curious and begin searching for it online. How they find out about adult topics depends on your school’s policies on sex education and their curiosity, but as a teacher, you want to at least instill that visiting these websites in school computers is bad.

You can prevent your students from looking at these websites by turning on the SafeSearch feature on Google. When on, Google filters out websites with potentially harmful material and only shows kid-friendly content. This won’t affect your students’ ability to do research for school related topics.

Your school might also want to install a website blocker on your school’s entire network. That means all computers in the school connected to a certain network cannot access sites listed on the block.


Teach About Plagiarism

I remember the days when my teacher would ask us to do research about a certain topic, and what I’d do is simply copy and paste the first few paragraphs of the topic’s Wikipedia page, format it a bit, and then call it a day. Back then, when teachers realized that this was what most students were doing and not bothering to read the work they actually copy, they eventually decided to make this form of research a part of plagiarism and made it an offense in most schools.

Technology and the internet allows nearly all the information on the internet to be available to the public. Before the internet, plagiarism was stealing people’s essays in books or old theses and claiming it as their own. Today, it is the act of students copying articles online without drastically changing the words or adding their own info.

To avoid plagiarism in the classroom, ask your kids to send their homework online. You save a few trees by going paperless, and it’s a lot easier to check the digital file for plagiarism. There are plenty of free plagiarism checkers online, but if you want a thorough checker, invest in programs such as Copyscape or Turnitin. These programs scour the internet and see if your students’ homework matches word-for-word with a certain website. Have a sit-down with students who are caught completely plagiarizing their work.

In some cases, your students may unintentionally commit plagiarism or fail to re-word an idea in their own words. Programs like Turnitin measure how much of their paper is plagiarized, so set a limit of the percentage; around 10 percent is a fair number. If they exceed that percentage, it’s highly likely that they did not give their homework enough attention.

But plagiarism is not just limited to essays and articles. Nowadays, many adults don’t understand that just because you can find an image on Google Images does not mean they’re allowed to use those photos without permission from the author. This may be an idea that we have to teach our students at an early age.

If your students are young, they may not totally understand copyright and plagiarism, but teenage students may have an idea of how Creative Commons and Fair Use work. Let’s say your student needs a picture of a sun for a science project, so they use a picture taken by NASA in 2010. It’s legal for them to use the photo for a school project because they need it to learn. They’re not making a profit off the photo, and they’re using it for personal uses – that is, to further their education. But if they were to take that photo, put it on a shirt, and sell, this would be illegal as you are making a profit out of it.

Avoid Cyberbullying

It’s important to talk about cyberbullying and its effects not only on the bullied but on the bully’s personality and attitude towards others. People think that just because the internet provides the ability to say things anonymously, no one becomes accountable for what they do or say.

We’ve provided an entire lesson plan on how to address cyberbullying to students of all ages. If you want to learn more about this topic, click here.


Be Wary of the People You Talk to

While the internet is used by ordinary people, there are also some people with bad intentions. Some, called trolls, like to anger or confuse random targets just for the sake of it. These are nuisances, and teaching your students to ignore them or not be baited by them is relatively easy.

However, other people have worse intentions. If they find out your student is a young person surfing the web, they may prey on their naivety and get them to become their victim. Sometimes this involves asking them for personal info, their parents’ credit card number, or even invite them to meet them in real life.

It’s a sensitive topic, but teach your students not to trust strangers on the internet the same way they shouldn’t trust random people when they go outside. They don’t know what these people’s intentions are, so it is best to play safe and not give any sensitive information until they are really sure they can trust this person.

The internet allows your students accessible information and easy communication. However, some children may be tempted to abuse the power of the internet and harm other children, or they may be too young to understand the dangers that lurk in the web. As their teacher, it is your job to ensure they understand these points and what they can do to avoid hurting others and falling into harm when they surf.

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