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Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum

Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum

Written by Erin Wilkey Oh
February 21, 2012

Based on the work of Howard Gardner and the GoodPlay Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum from Common Sense Media takes what it calls a “whole-community approach” to digital literacy and citizenship by providing resources for students and educators. The curriculum includes units designed to promote student empowerment and help school communities become safer and more more responsible as they navigate the digital world.

Common Sense Media is a non-partisan not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing trustworthy information and tools to help families make informed choices as media consumers. According to the Common Sense Media website, this curriculum is part of the organization’s digital literacy and citizenship initiative, “which aims to provide educators, parents, and kids with the tools necessary to raise a generation of responsible, smart, and safe digital citizens.” The initiative has three key components: a school-based curriculum; a public awareness and education campaign; and an aggressive public policy strategy designed to bring funding to digital literacy, teacher training, curriculum development and distribution to schools nationwide.

The Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum:

  • Introduces reliable, research-based information to students about digital media and their impact
  • Helps students explore the complex issues of our connected culture
  • Empowers students to think critically about the ways they use digital technologies as they build digital literacy skills for life
  • Satisfies all criteria for E-Rate compliance and is aligned to ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) and AASL (American Association of School Librarians) standards

Curriculum Strands 
The curriculum is organized into three topical strands, each with its own units and lessons. Educators may choose to teach each strand in its entirety or choose individual lessons to supplement instruction. The three strand topics are Safety and Security, Digital Citizenship, and Research and Information Literacy.

The Safety and Security strand includes two units: one on safety and one on security. This strand helps students learn critical online safety skills such as how to communicate online and recognize inappropriate contact, as well as strategies for protecting their online information and guarding against identity theft.

The Digital Citizenship strand includes five units: Digital Life, Privacy and Digital Footprints, Self-Expression and Identity, Connected Culture, and Respecting Creative Work. This strand covers a broad range of skills students need to navigate the digital realm, addressing issues such as privacy, online ethics, cyberbulling, collaboration, and copyright guidelines.

The two units in the Research and Information Literacy strand–one on searching and another on research and evaluation–are designed to help students think critically about finding and evaluating information online. 

Who Can Use the Curriculum? The units and lessons are available free to all educators. There is a unique set of lessons and activities for each grade level group: K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.   

How to Get the Curriculum? The first step is to go the the Common Sense Media website and register. You will need to register as an educator to access the curriculum downloads. All units and lessons are available at the K-12 Curriculum page on the website. The curriculum materials are also available to download from iTunesU (link will open in iTunes).

For more information, read the Curriculum Overview (PDF).

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