messy + free-flowing= to know is not enough

Digital Citizenship: What should educators do?

It has become extremely important for educators these days to educate themselves, as well as, students about the new era of digital citizenship—in order to develop, as Nancy Watson explains a “#DigCit State of Mind.” As a first step, I investigated 3 web tools, to learn more about how they manage data and protect student identity—Weebly, Glogsterand Storyboard That.

Weebly is a free website builder that allows anyone to build their own websites quickly and easily. It’s a widely used platform with an extensive narrative on guidelines. Teachers  and students (13 +) can use this platform. I liked their ‘content guidelines’ as it makes clear what type of sites are not allowed—like, copyrighted content music, games, movies (that users don’t have a right to), adult (sexual content etc.), hate speech (race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, ethnicity), spam/SEO (a site whose sole purpose is to get Google ranking, Facebook “likes” etc.), phishing (a site meant to trick users into providing usernames/passwords), illegal content (information illegal in the US or other countries), scams (dubious schemes, get rich quick, pyramid/MLM), excessive advertising (including more than 3 advertising units per page), file hosting (including sites not created by Weeblyeditor), injurious experience (sites using “Custom HTML” element with flashing banners etc., that provides horrible user experience), illegal, inappropriate products (sites selling illegal items-weapons, counterfeit, stolen, violate privacy/publicity rights, offensive or manufactured).

The ‘Acceptance of Terms’ clearly states that action will be taken if they are violated, and it is applicable even when using the service on a trial basis. Further, the users contracting entity will be based on the ‘country of residence.’ Additionally, the user has to be legally capable of using the terms of the contract—legal age in country of residence. Parents/teachers/guardians can create account for young users. Teachers can create a special student account using their ‘education’ site. I really liked this entire site dedicated to educators to help them understand how Weeblyensures student data privacy. This site requires schools/districts or individual teachers to create accounts for younger students. They provide extensive information about—what privacy notice covers, what personal information Weeblycollects, how this information is used, who does Weeblyshare this information with, how long this information stays with Weebly, is this information ever transferred outside the country, what steps are taken to keep personal information safe, what are the users privacy rights, third party users, services and apps. The additional privacy information for U.S. educational institutions—includes relevant federal and state legislations: complying with FERPA, California Children’s Privacy Rights, AB 1584 checklist (containing other state rights). This checklist can be shared with students to educate them of their rights, data privacy laws etc., as well. Weebly updates information regularly and teachers and parents can use Weeblyto empower themselves and their students of digital identity and how to protect data, so that everyone can become good digital citizens. Teachers can use the Weebly ‘education’ site to teach students about copyright laws, digital safety and identity.

Glogster is a creative social site for students above age 13, centered around self-expression. It is a hybrid of blogging, social networking and digital creation. ‘Gloggers’ have to register to create a profile, add friends, and leave comments. The ‘glogs’ can be set to private or public mode, and are online posters that contain text, images, and multimedia elements. ‘Gloggers’ are able to upload their own photos/graphics, or use elements provided by site. Registered users can post comments, rate glogs, and add friends. The site awards “G points” to users for creating glogs, inviting friends, and embedding a glog in an online profile. Live Pulse provides a live feed of glog activity a they’re created or updated. Since this site can be used creatively, I expected the ‘Terms of Service’ to be as exhaustive as Weebly. However, I was disappointed to see that it was not so. Apart from claiming that the site uses copyrighted materials, it puts the user in charge of figuring out if the materials they are uploading are copyrighted or not. The ‘public’ feature allows users to make their materials available to other visitors—hence, parents/teachers should educate students extensively on the elements of copyright, personal data management and student data privacy laws before they begin to use this site.

Glogster clearly states that it does not edit or screen any postings (no responsibility/liability). It also states under “Use Is At Visitor’s Risk,” that students should do due diligence before creating an online profile. The site does have a “Protection of Child Contact Information” section, where they acknowledge FERPA guidelines, and the site has adopted some protocols in compliance with COPPA. Parental consent and verification are required for students under 13, however, the site offers no detailed education on the topic. Personally, I didn’t like that they allow third party advertisements to appear and offer very limited guidance on the subject. Their privacy policy follows the same guidelines as Weebly (not as detailed), and they encourage parents to report any unauthorized use of site. An area of concern about this site, is that it does so little in assuming the responsibility to educate students—leaving teachers and parents to do it. The website itself is very attractive, though it could be more user-friendly. If students don’t know and understand data privacy etc., they are very likely to stumble upon materials that will be confusing to them.

Storyboard That is a website that lets students above the age of 13 to create storyboards for learning and fun. Students can fill panels with images from an image bank by dragging and dropping characters and props into scenes, then adding text into dialogue bubbles or anywhere else. There are lots of choices—characters, scenes etc. Once a storyboard is completed, it can be saved to individual accounts to be worked on at a later time or saved to a computer as a power point file. Teachers can create accounts for younger students. The Privacy Policy is extensive and offers teachers and students with detailed information on all topics. It addresses the concerns raised by FERPA and COPPA, and goes a step further by signing the ‘Student Privacy Pledge.’ The website is easy to use for both students and teachers. Teachers can use this site’s privacy policy, copyright laws etc., to teach students about digital identity, management and data privacy. I really like the ‘Student Privacy Pledge,’ as it offers a host of teachable moments on issues like cyberbullying, selling data to third party companies.

Integrating digital citizenship into everyday teaching and learning practice should become a new norm in schools. Teachers are afraid to use and introduce their students to quality digital tools to enhance their learning, as many adults do not know what to look for when assessing the value-proposition of websites and apps. Sometimes they assign digital tools randomly without doing much research themselves or come to rely heavily on their technology/media specialists to provide them with some options. I learned a lot from this experience. Now, I know what to look for when selecting quality tech tools for students and as a first step—our teachers require training so that they can become independent in their thinking when it comes to tech-tool selection. This will further help them to integrate technology and promote a positive vision of digital citizenship for their students. As a school, adequate teacher tech-tool training is the first step that requires attention, and this is our direction.




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