SFUSD educators aim to guide students to make good decisions while using the powerful technology that permeates their lives. (Courtesy photo)

Preparing students for the digital world

We all know that being safe and successful in the digital world is now essential knowledge.

That’s why this week schools across the City will be teaching lessons related to digital citizenship.

As the largest public school district in California to be recognized as digital citizenship certified by common sense education, we continue to promote safe, appropriate, and responsible online behaviors for students and staff. This means our schools commit to incorporating multiple lessons throughout the school year.

What does teaching digital citizenship look like?

We start as early as kindergarten. Our students play a simple game called “going places safely,” where they discover that the Internet can be used to visit far-away places and learn new things, and that staying safe online is like staying safe in the real world. There are some good basic rules for children to stay safe while traveling on the Internet. For example, don’t meet up in person with someone you meet online, and think carefully before you post something.

For older students we promote in-depth activities about cyberbullying. In one lesson, called “upstanding,” students discuss what it means to be brave and stand up for others offline and online. They learn to show empathy for those who have been cyberbullied and generate multiple strategies to intervene when peers need help.

By the time our students reach high school, digital tools are essential to accessing information and building knowledge. However, given the “alternative facts” littered across the internet, we spend time teaching our students to be critical consumers of the material on the screen in front of them. Who is the author? What is their point of view? Who is the intended audience? Where was it published and in what medium? When was it written? Are valid sources cited?

Ready for the world

We have a set of competencies we want all students to possess by the time they graduate, including readiness to tackle a changing world. This includes understanding new technologies and navigating in an interconnected 21st Century global society.

Many of the lessons and activities we work with at SFUSD related to Digital Citizenship are shared with us by an organization called Common Sense Media. If you have children in your life whom you’re helping to guide through the digital world, I encourage you to check out their helpful tools online. You may also head to StaySafeOnline.org to keep learning about how to be a safe and responsible user of digital resources.

We want SFUSD students to contribute their voices responsibly in all aspects of daily life, from social media to face-to-face communication. To ensure they do so safely and responsibly, it’s important for the entire community to reach the whole learner about issues such as cyberbullying, online privacy, and managing their digital footprint. Being a good digital citizen doesn’t just happen; it takes effort on the part of educators, parents and peers — just like it takes effort to be good citizens offline.

Learn more about Digital Citizenship week in SFUSD at sfusd.edu.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District

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