Media Literacy

What does it mean to have media literacy skills? How do we know when our students are media literate? In an Edutopia video Nicole Pinkard on Digital Literacy, Nicole Pinkard shares that she believes if students don’t have the media literacy skills by the time they graduate they will not be considered literate.   I would agree with Nicole, but what does that mean for me as an educator what is my role in making sure my students are media literate?


In my classroom, I am starting to teach digital citizenship lesson plans, however I am discovering that one lesson for 45 minutes is not enough per concept. Students are getting a sense of what is expected and they are starting to understand what is being taught in the lesson, but they are lacking mastery. For example, when I taught about digital footprint. I followed the 45-minute lesson from Common Sense Media. During the lesson the students seemed to understand the task and what they were supposed to do, but as I observed they seemed to lack the overall understanding of the activity as it pertained to digital footprints. Students need to be taught/introduced to digital concepts throughout their time in school.


As an educator I believe that media literacy is very important, but right now teachers are dealing with schools that are under enormous pressure for their students to do well on standards based assessments so we focus on reading, writing and math. If we want to ensure we are also teaching media literacy we will have to do it by infusing what we are already doing in the classroom with media literacy. For that to happen teachers will need proper training on strategies on how to do this. There will need to be a call to action from the community, parents or administrators. In Nicole Pinkard’s Edutopia video the school and community worked together to give their students the tools they needed to help students use the media literacy skills. After they got the students started then they brought in the teachers to show them that students are actually creating media and it is important for students to have media literacy skills.


In my classroom I will continue to teach my students about digital citizenship and media literacy. Common Sense Media has Information Literacy lessons in their K-8 scope and sequence. Another resource for a media literacy lesson is InCtrl ( I will continue to look for additional resources to teach my students media literacy in a variety of ways. I will also talk with other teachers and share what I have researched, so if they choose to teach media literacy they will have resources available. I believe that school and students would benefit from following Common Sense Media’s scope and sequence K-8. In the FNSBSD district we do have ITT teachers that come into the classroom to reinforce digital skills, maybe one day there will be more of a push to incorporate media literacy into the classroom from these teachers.



Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Retrieved March 30, 2014



Edutopia. (2013, February 6). Nicole pinkard on digital literacy (big thinker series). [Video file]. Retrieved March 30, 2014 from


InCtrl. Teaching digital literacy. Retrieved March 30, 2014 from




What can schools do about Cyberbullying?

If students admit that they don’t get help for cyberbullying for fear of making the issues worse, or because doing so just doesn’t help solve the problem, then how can parents, educators, and administrators be sure that cyberbullying isn’t a problem in their school (Willard, 2013).  What can schools do to ensure the students feel safe? Do we wait until it becomes a problem or do we take preventative action?  I suggest schools take preventative action by providing cyberbullying workshops for their students and staff.  Schools should survey their students, especially at the middle and high school level, to see how many students feel they are being affected by cyberbullying and how serious a problem it currently is at their school. Lastly, schools should educate students about what cyberbullying is and how they can handle cyberbullying situations.

In elementary schools, cyberbullying should be addressed more as a preventative lesson.  Educators can teach lessons to inform students about what cyberbullying is and what do to if they or someone they know is being cyberbullied.  Common Sense Media has what they call the Cyberbullying Toolkit ( to help in this regard.  For elementary grades there are 25 lessons based on cyberbullying issues.  For grades K-2 it’s called Screen Out the Mean and for grades 3-5 it’s Group Think.  For middle school grades there are 28 lessons and in high school they provide 12 lessons.  Along with the lessons, Common Sense Media also provides additional resources for administrators, students, and parents.  Elementary schools could start with these lessons to educate and inform students about cyberbullying issues.

Middle and high school schools should survey students to get a sense of how much of a problem cyberbullying is in their school.  Nancy Willard takes this approach in a great deal of her cyberbullying research.  She has an anonymous student survey for students grades 7-12 that can be found at  Another survey that could be useful is  This survey asks students important questions that ask about their experiences with cyberbullying and ends by asking the students to name one thing about cyberbullying that their parents don’t know.  Schools could also choose to have a group of students, administrators, teachers, and parents create their own survey.  By having students take a survey, schools would have the data they needed to define a starting place in educating their students.  Schools could create student cyberbullying workshops based on the needs of their school.

Finally, there needs to be training and collaboration for adminstrators and teachers.  Schools should provide their administrators and teachers with cyberbullying workshops/professional development helping to equip their staff with the skills they need to handle cyberbullying issues.

In my 3rd grade classroom I plan on using the Common Sense Media cyberbullying lessons.  I have created a digital citizenship unit that I have been teaching my students, however, it doesn’t include a cyberbullying component.  My unit does address being safe and respectful online, but after reading the materials from this week I see the importance of changing my unit to add cyberbullying lessons/topics.



Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Cyberbullying toolkit.  Retrieved March 17, 2014



WFYI Productions. (2013, April 30) Bullying symposium 2013 keynote speaker nancy willard.  [Video post] Retrieved March 13, 2014 from


Willard, N.  Cyber savvy survey.  Retrieved March 17, 2014 from


Wired Safety.  Student cyberbullying survey.  Retrieved March 17, 2014 from




So you want to teach digital citizenship?

If you are an educator who feels there should be digital citizenship lessons being taught for all grade level K-12, then there are some things you can do to make this happen.  Start by familiarizing yourself with your school districts technology curriculum or standards your district may want teachers to follow involving technology.  It may take a little time, but search the district website for it’s K-12 technology curriculum.  On the Fairbanks North Star Borough School district’s website is the technology curriculum, with a portion for digital citizenship.  Some topics on this site are listed below;

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So now what?  The curriculum gives topics to teach in the classroom, but where can lesson plans be found?  Are teachers supposed to create lesson plans based on these technology topics?  Well fear not because Common Sense Media ( has a very thorough digital citizenship curriculum.  Commons Sense Media’s curriculum can be used in many different ways to suit the needs of teachers and students.  They offer several tools and resources that can be used in and out of the classroom.  Some examples of tools they offer are iBooks, professional development, lesson plans, and much more.  A good place to start is with their training video,  When you scroll down the page there will be links for elementary, middle school, and high school videos.  Watch the video relevant for the grade level you teach.  The video outlines how Common Sense Media and their affiliates have made research based decisions to create their digital citizenship curriculum.  The approach is one that involves educators, administrators, parents, and community.  The training video also outlines how educators can use the lesson plans as they are arranged on the website in a scope and sequence unit by unit or they can pick and choose what lessons will fit their classroom needs.


I have started using some of the lessons in my third grade classroom.  I have taught their digital footprint lesson Follow the Digital Trail  ( and their Internet safety lesson Staying Safe Online (    The lesson plans are straightforward and easy to follow.  All the lessons come with a parent letter that can be sent home to reinforce topics being taught.  During my next digital citizenship lesson I plan on sharing the video Pause and Think Online, from Common Sense Media about thinking before sending something online (  In my classroom my students have been using Google Docs to collaborate on projects.  A few of my students don’t know that using all caps when typing means that you are yelling at someone.  I had one student’s feelings get hurt when another student typed in all caps.  It was brought to my attention and as a class we discussed what that meant.  I tried not to single out the student who had commented using all caps, but at the end of our class discussion he asked, “What should you do if you accidently use all caps?”  I explained that comments can be deleted and retyped before they are sent.   I shared that before I put something on Facebook or send an email I always read and reread to make sure I am spelling things correctly and that it won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.  This discussion reminded me of the Pause and Think video that is why I plan on using it my class next time I teach about digital citizenship.


Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Retrieved March 2, 2014 from

Common Sense Media Inc. (2014).  Follow the digital trail.  Retrieved March 9, 2014


Common Sense Media Inc. (2014).  K-12 online curriculum training.  Retrieved March 9, 2014 from

Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Staying safe online.  Retrieved March 2, 2014


Common Sense Media Inc. (2014).  Pause and think online.  Retrieved March 2, 2014 from

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. (October 2011).  Technology curriculum K-12. Retrieved March 9, 2014 from

Teaching Digital Citizenship Resources

In our digital world we are expected to portray ourselves in a positive manner. Yet how can we expect students to understand how to portray themselves without role models and teachings from educators and parents?  That is why it so crucial for schools to become advocates for digital citizenship courses and even more crucial for schools and parents to work together in teaching children to be prepared to behave in a digital world.  Fortunately for schools, educators, and parents there are useful online resources and tools to help teach about digital citizenship.

One of those useful tools is Digital Driver’s License (DDL), this program is online and free to use for schools, educators, and parents.  The DDL program takes students through digital citizenship lessons and at the end of the program students can earn their digital driver’s license.  DDL is geared more towards middle and high school students, but it does a good job of ensuring students are mastering digital citizenship skills, because after each lesson topic it assesses the students knowledge.  By doing this, a teacher or parent can identify where a student is struggling and can discuss those areas to ensure the student understands the material.

Another online resource/tool is Common Sense Media.  This website has a K-8 curriculum which is set up through a scope and sequence, so if schools would like to use the scope and sequence for their digital citizenship program they may or teachers can pick and choose from a list of topics by grade level. Every lesson can be downloaded in printable format and they are easy to follow with digital citizenship objectives and essential questions.  Also each lesson comes with a letter that can be sent home to parents to ensure parents know what is being taught and to help the parents reinforce skills at home.  Part of the Common Sense digital citizenship program is its digital passport program.  The digital passport is aimed for students in grades 3-5. This program allows teachers to assign certain digital citizenship skills, of which there are six.  Each skill has a short video told from a student’s perspective and after each video there is a game quizzing the students about the digital skill.

Other digital citizenship resources/tools I found are: Kings Canyon Unified School District and Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum.  Kings Canyon School District has their digital citizenship lesson plans on their website, everything is laid out by grade level from K-12.  There philosophy is to teach two lessons a year to K-2nd grade students.  The first lesson is to be taught in January and the second in May.  For grades 3-12 they teach four lessons a year in August/September, October, January, and May.  Their lesson plans are easy to access and they also offer supplemental resources for each lesson.  The Google Curriculum is for middle school students.  It offers three 50-minute lesson plans based on evaluating the credibility of content online, the importance of online citizenship, and how to conduct yourself online.

Being an elementary education teacher I find the Common Sense Media more to my liking.  I like how they have a curriculum scope and sequence in the K-8 program.  I appreciate that they have the digital passport program as a tool to go along with the lesson plans.  I have already started using some of the Common Sense lesson plans in my classroom.  Last week I started teaching digital citizenship.  As a class we discussed what students already knew about digital citizenship and what they want to know about it.  We also used the Common Sense Media lesson Staying Safe Online.  During the lesson my students learned about Internet safety.  I was pleased to see most of my students already had a good grasp on Internet safety and that if anything seems inappropriate to let their parents or an adult know.  In my classroom the digital citizenship concepts I plan to teach my 3rd graders are: digital footprint, privacy and security, relationships and communication and Internet safety.  Commons Sense Media has been a critical resource to help me teach my students digital citizenship.


Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Retrieved March 2, 2014 from

Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Digital passport by common sense media.

Retrieved March 2, 2014 from

Common Sense Media Inc. (2014). Staying safe online.  Retrieved March 2, 2014


Digital Driver’s License. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2014 from

Google. Google digital literacy and citizenship curriculum. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2,

2014 from


Kings Canyon Unified School District. (2006). Digital citizenship lessons k-12.

Retrieved March 2, 2014 from