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Common Sense Media: A Digital Citizenship Tech-Over

I used to be one of those 'hip' teachers. I knew all the latest songs, saw all the latest movies, spoke all the latest slang, identified with the latest trends. Sadly, my immersion and, let's face it, taste for current pop culture has, shall we say, waned (wow, that was a lot of commas). Even though I'm from Canada, I am still not a Belieber. *gasp*

It stands to reason, then, that being up to date on the latest gadgetry, apps, programs, and culture of today's students is a challenge. Smart Phones, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Selfies, Photo Vault, and a bunch others. Fortunately, my job revolves around my ability to test out new apps, be familiar with new programs, and be digitally savvy. But where does a teacher start when she's struggling to finish reports, create IEPs, or just find time to use the loo?

Empowering students is the first step in Teching-Over a class. I will never suppose to understand a student's online reality. But I can empower her to understand and thrive within it. I will never suppose to understand a student's culture of Likes, Selfies, and the new digital evaluation of popularity. But I can empower him to be self aware, respectful, and comfortable within it.

This is where Common Sense Media comes in. If you've never heard of Common Sense Media or haven't spent much time on the site, stop reading this immediately and go check it out. Seriously. Whether you're a parent, teacher, or student, check it out. There's an entire section dedicated to Parent Concerns with technology. A section dedicated to helping educators find the right digital tools and effective ways to integrate it in the classroom.

But it's the following section for teachers and students Digital Bytes that gets my vote today. It's a perfect place for teachers to start the conversations that need to happen. Digital Bytes is a series of videos that explore the new generation of the digital world, interpretation of the digital world, activism within the digital world, and innovation within the digital world. Each video is accompanied by a discussion question the students can complete online (and print out to save it or share it). There are also case study videos to watch and discuss as a group. Finally, there is the opportunity for students to complete creative tasks that build not only their critical thinking skills, but also allow for creativity, collaboration, and communication. Win-Win.

So, in the final days before summer vacation, if you're looking to empower students to be responsible digital citizens, Common Sense Media and their Digital Bytes program is a great place to start.

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