SAN FRANCISCO—Millions of students are heading back to school this week, backpacks heavy with laptops, mobile devices grasped tightly in hand (or hidden in pockets). Teachers will manage assignments through learning management systems, and kids will collaborate on projects and communicate through a variety of digital tools. But even as many schools across America have embraced technology for meaningful learning, concerns about the downsides of kids' 24/7 connected lives—such as cyberbullying, privacy, and tech addiction—are at an all-time high.
In response, Common Sense today launched a new and improved Digital Citizenship Curriculum, available free to all schools through its flagship Common Sense Education platform. The new, innovative resources were created in collaboration with researchers from Project Zero, in partnership with Howard Gardner and colleagues at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and guided by research with thousands of educators. Each digital citizenship lesson in the award-winning curriculum takes on real challenges and digital dilemmas that students face today, giving them the skills they need to succeed as digital learners, leaders, and citizens tomorrow. The updates feature new lessons to address a changing world and include activities and teachings that advance digital well-being.
"In the eight years since we launched our K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum, we've seen educator needs and concerns grow and become more complex with the evolving digital landscape," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. "We're pleased to share this significant update to our curriculum that truly moves students beyond simple skills to ethics spotting and complex perspective-taking, which is the vital real-world stuff that is going to help them make the most out of their digital experience."
Common Sense has been at the forefront of helping educators, administrators, and schools navigate the tricky online world their students are living in. The curriculum is now used in classrooms across all 50 states, and in more than 50,000 schools, by more than half a million educators.
"The opportunities and challenges of living networked lives are here to stay. Understanding how we can support youth to make their own way in this landscape is vital," said Carrie James, Ph.D., principal investigator, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. "In our current research at Project Zero, we are studying what this requires of educators, with a focus on identifying promising pedagogies and classroom approaches. Our long-standing collaboration with Common Sense Education is an essential part of this work."
What's New in the Updated Curriculum:
Revised and expanded topics. Core topics have been updated and expanded to address educators' and parents' top concerns: Media Balance & Well-Being; Privacy & Security; Digital Footprint & Identity; Relationships & Communication; Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech; and News & Media Literacy.
Revised Scope & Sequence. The new Scope & Sequence offers one lesson on each of the six topics for each grade level. This new structure allows for more targeted, age-appropriate lessons as well as a more in-depth skills progression for each topic for grades K–12.
Lesson slides. Every lesson now includes customizable slides with a fun, student-centered look designed to foster rich classroom discussion and critical thinking.
New and improved lesson plans. The updated lessons allow educators to customize content to fit highly varied implementations and the needs of their students. The lessons are also aligned to many standards (ISTE, ELA Common Core, CASEL, AASL, and CSTA).
Fresh new designs and content. Lesson materials give students relevant, engaging ways to demonstrate learning and spark conversations on digital citizenship at school and at home.
Flexible documents and Add to Google Classroom options. The updated materials are now available for the G Suite for Education, including classroom activities in Google Docs, lesson slides developed in Google Slides, and quizzes in Google Forms so educators can download and customize materials.
"We are in an age where technology and social media are ubiquitous in students' lives, so it's absolutely critical that they receive digital citizenship instruction in order to thrive in the connected age," said Liz Kline, vice president of education programs for Common Sense. "Parents and educators are seeking guidance on a variety of issues, including media balance, cyberbullying, privacy, and news and media literacy, and the updated curriculum addresses these topics and more. Our unique approach honors students' real experiences with tech, doesn't shame them with consequence-based approaches, and helps them take control of their digital lives."
The updated Common Sense Education K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum will be released in phases over the course of the 2018–2019 school year:
August 15: Grades 3–5 lessons
January: Grades 6–8 lessons
Fall 2019: Grades K–2 and 9–12 lessons
The Common Sense Digital Citizenship Curriculum is available free to all schools thanks to the generous support of the following foundations and donors: the Best Buy Foundation, the Bezos Family Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Morgan Family Foundation, Niagara Cares, the Sherwood Foundation, Symantec, and the Wasserman Family Foundation.
For more information, visit https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship.
About Common Sense
Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.