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Digital Citizenship Examples for the Computer Science Classroom

We sometimes make assumptions when it comes to students and using technology. For instance, we may assume that students are savvy tech users with incredulous talent because they use cell phones and computers daily. We can try to dismiss the fact that students are competent consumers of information but not necessarily mature content producers. Even more important, we may neglect to plan and instill citizenship skills in the core curriculum because students either have Computer Science classes and, by default, already have Digital Citizenship(DC) built into their curriculum. (The last one happens more often than others.)

Although coding curriculum lends itself easily to incorporating many digital citizenship skills, even the best Computer Science course may not focus as much as you think on directly teaching these important skills. Furthermore, it is a lot of pressure for just one class to bear. However, here are some easy ways to ensure that you focus on the three categories of digital citizenship.

For a better explanation of the nine elements check out, Mike Ribble's post, "Essential Elements of Digital Citizenship."


Respect

When students are coding, you open the door to the world. Access to produce, scrape, share, and build programs that can do amazing things is at their fingertips. However, not all playing fields are equal. Teaching students to respect their power and what can happen online should be a constant in any computer science class. Equal access and digital rights, appropriate conduct on social media, and understanding digital property rights and ownership are always in the forefront!

Here are a few examples to help students build respect online:

  • For helping students learn how to interact appropriately online, look into starting a Discord Channel, joining the Python Discord, or joining Twitter.

  • For teaching equal rights, follow the project Call for Code, create a project that focuses on the Social Good topic, or have students research great entrepreneurs in the tech-for-social-good sector. These companies use "digital technology to tackle some of the world's toughest challenges."

  • For using other coders programs, have your students cite their source code in docstrings or have them make GitHub accounts and clone the programs. Teach students that code is out there for use but reproducing it and claiming it as your own is not okay.


Educate

Educating students on communicating online, using digital materials, and being influential consumers is a considerable skill and takes a community to help students develop. And we can do our part in CS Classes too.

Here are a few examples to help students become more literate online:

  • For choosing the right tools, introduce your students to multiple editors and have them evaluate which editors work best for their needs. Have students investigate libraries from the Python Package Index and look for a library that can complete a specific job.

  • To find and evaluate the best tool, have them build literacy by searching for a particular solution to an abstract problem and analyzing the search results.

  • For being strong digital consumers, have students design a maker/tech project. Incorporate a materials list and budget requirement so that students need to search for the best and most economical materials online to build their project.


Protect

Safety online and oflinef is always our priority, but as teachers we need to ensure that we also model it in all classrooms, including computer science. Taking care of our online, digital footprint, and our offline, personal health should be everyone's job.

Here are a few examples to help students become healthier digital users:

  • One thing that is difficult to do when we teaching coding is not to use the computer. However, there are few options that you can do to help instill healthy use online. Use time blocks for work. Allow students to take a break after 25 minutes of work, encourage students to walk away from the screen for 5 minutes, and rest their brains and body. There are many activities that promote CS topics without using the computer online; check out https://csunplugged.org/en/ for a few examples.

  • For teaching about security, it is essential to discuss the importance of keeping passwords secret or using complex passwords. A fun activity is to help students code a password generator. While coding it, you can discuss the importance of longer passwords and not using common words. You can even discuss 2-factor authentication and maybe even add some AI programs into the course.

  • Students need to understand how websites can use data collected from Internet searches, phones, and computers can put them at risk. Discussing Machine learning is a fun entry point in seeing how websites use this data to collect information about the user. In addition, Common Sense Media has a great example lesson that can be modified and enhanced.

Taking an active part in teaching digital citizenship skills is very important in the computer science classroom. Help students understand the benefits of being producers and positive global creators.