Lesson 1: Data Collection & Profiling
Students need to know that their actions are tracked. Internet service providers, social media sites, and search engines track each user’s demographic information and digital behavior. This information is used to construct a profile that can be sold to corporations, giving them the ability to personalize content and display ads that will attract the user’s attention.
This may be unnerving to most users, but digital profiling is a standard practice today that can have a profound impact on our decisions. Each user’s digital profile essentially serves as a filter through which they view content — and our experiences online can impact the things we buy, higher education choices, and even the job opportunities we might pursue. In a sense, corporations may make our decisions for us if we are not conscious of digital profiling.
Teachers and parents play a critical role in ensuring student privacy. While the federal government and schools across the nation have collaborated in an attempt to protect student data and information about internet behavior, students must be aware of how their behavior can impact what they see online.
As evidenced by recent data breaches at major corporations like Yahoo and Anthem, internet security is vital to success in the modern world. Similar stories make headlines every day, and it is the responsibility of K-12 instructors to prepare students to avoid cyber threats.
Being aware of the basics of cybersecurity is an essential part of the toolset that students require. Some basics include learning about phishing, what to do when a system is compromised by malware, and the importance of antivirus software. When new scams or threats emerge, it is appropriate to have a discussion about these issues.
For the most part, students are being introduced to cybersecurity through organizations like the National Cyber Security Alliance, which provides teachers with a wide variety of lesson plans and activities for students of all ages. These resources aim to help teachers impart the basics of internet security to students.
Lesson 3: Managing Your Online Reputation
Sharing content on social media can come back to haunt students, since employers and admissions offices at universities often research applicants online. Online reputation management is a skill that digital natives must learn.
Social networks usually have privacy options. Students should be encouraged to take advantage of these features. Even with optimum privacy settings, there is no telling who might share your content with others. For this reason, students should refrain from posting offensive content in any setting. Potentially embarrassing content should be scrubbed if possible, but students need to know that nothing is ever truly deleted online.
Uninformed students may find themselves in legal trouble for exerting bad judgment online. Some common actions like impersonating a peer online, pirating content, or accessing an unsecured Wi-Fi network are crimes that are punishable by law. By imparting the importance of being professional and ethical while online, educators can potentially save students from serious trouble.
Digital citizenship is a complex subject that cannot be partitioned and squared away in a one-off lesson. These lessons should be instilled in the classroom through persistent reinforcement. Digital citizenship should become a part of your classroom’s culture.
For students to practice these skills, teachers need to give them the opportunity to engage in content creation online. From simple forum exchanges between students to more involved learner-generated video projects, proper online etiquette should be reinforced at every step of the process. This is an effective strategy because it mirrors the way that students typically interact with the world online on a daily basis (yes, tweets and selfies are “content”!).
The internet plays a central role in the way we interact with the world today, so educators must instill students with the knowledge of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. While it can be difficult to determine how to tackle subjects like digital profiling and internet security, there are resources available to guide teachers in the right direction. If the aim of the education system is to prepare students for the real world, digital citizenship must be a component of the curriculum.
About the author:
Bob Hand is a blogger from Boise, ID. He studied English with an emphasis on Secondary Education at the University of South Carolina, and continues to keep a pulse on current issues in education. His hobbies include reading and collecting vinyl records. You can follow him on Twitter @bob_hand567.