I have the honor of working with a small group of amazing third-grade teachers — my colleagues — and last summer they decided to begin blogging with their students. This past fall each of the teachers set up a classroom blog at KidBlog. This student-oriented blogging site is designed to offer maximum privacy to young writers, but it also offers the opportunity for more access — and more readers — if desired. Interestingly, while the three classroom blogs are all similar, each has slight variations that reflect the personalities of the kids and the ideas of the teacher.
After orienting their students to the idea of blogging — discussing appropriate tone, privacy, and respect — the teachers let the children write. Third graders have learned to read one another’s work and make comments and suggestions. Sometimes they share complete stories, and at other times they write more spontaneously.
Recently, after reading Will Richardson’s article Footprints in the Digital Age, I began thinking about how much attention we pay to online safety and security without thinking nearly as much about teaching kids how to be literate consumers and competent creators of content. Richardson’s article started me thinking about how I might refine the way I teach digital citizenship to fifth graders.
While safety and security will never be left out of the curriculum, the 2008 Educational Leadership article convinced me to put more effort into helping my students think of digital footprints as only one part of the digital life equation. The other part of this equation involves teaching children to think proactively about the online narratives that they are creating and helping them begin to understand how other people will be searching for each of them — and for appropriate reasons. My students and their parents need to become curators of the digital content in their profiles, just as any highly skilled museum curator creates an exhibition.