Get Started with Digital Citizenship in Your District

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How should an entire district begin teaching digital citizenship? Creativity, flexibility, and strong goals are a must. In “Roadmap to Districtwide Digital Citizenship Adoption,” Theresa Ellington, Instructional Technology Manager at Life Schools Charter School in Texas, explained how she was able to implement a digital citizenship curriculum throughout the Title I district with limited time and no money, and shared lessons learned from the district’s first year using a digital citizenship curriculum.

Life Schools Charter School’s digital citizenship initiative began when they started to notice that many students were posting on social media about their location and other personal details. It was then the district knew that students—especially older ones—needed to be better trained on digital citizenship before entering life after high school. Following the district vision, and in search for a free curriculum, Theresa found Common Sense’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum and began from there.

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Life Schools started small in the first year. First, they identified their desired goals. Then, they figured out what they needed to satisfy for required federal E-rate guidelines. Finally, they determined the best timing for the lessons so they wouldn’t interfere with state testing. After lesson guides for the elementary, middle, and high schools were created, Theresa presented the information to all the principals for input and adjustments. Each of the principals recommended a tech-savvy teacher that could champion digital citizenship on their campus.

Reflecting from the district’s first year implementing digital citizenship lessons, her biggest piece of advice was to be flexible. Rather than telling all eight campuses exactly what to do, it was better to provide suggestions, materials, and expectations, but let the schools implement the curriculum in their own ways. “Each campus is unique, so let them do what works for them,” she said. Also, teachers may need extra support when it comes to things like keeping track of and submitting documentation. Another big takeaway was lack of awareness. She found in a school survey that nearly 90% of the elementary teachers weren’t aware that the district was teaching digital citizenship, despite the fact that every student was receiving instruction on it.

For the 2017-2018 school year, Theresa trained all the teachers on the basics of digital citizenship. She also created a system through Google Classroom for them to easily submit materials and documentation electronically. “It’s also taking (the teachers’) digital learning and their digital literacy up a level,” she said. Along with working to improve teacher digital literacy, Life Schools is also aiming to increase their digital citizenship content and lessons, and integrate the lessons in the core curriculum so students can have a better understanding of why they need to learn the information.

This broadcast was hosted by and Common Sense Education and sponsored by Symantec.

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This article was modified and published by eSchool News.

About the Presenter

Theresa Ellington is the instructional technology manager for Life Schools, an eight-campus charter school district south of Dallas, TX. She is a veteran Texas-certified middle and high school math teacher with 10 years in the classroom and 13 years in education. Theresa’s teaching experience and training includes working with special populations, such as GT/2E students, ELLs, and students with dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. She has a passion for integrating technology and interactive notebooks, as well as implementing innovative data-driven teaching and classroom management methods to inspire students to reach and feel success.

As a Google for Education Certified Educator and Trainer, a Microsoft Innovative Educator, and an Apple Teacher 2016, Theresa has skills in educational technology that stretch across many devices and platforms to reach the needs of all. Theresa is an ambassador and podcast guest for You Can Do the Rubik’s Cube, a Google for Education Certified Trainer, a Common Sense Educator, and a guest blogger for GradeCam.

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common sense educationCommon Sense Education provides teachers and schools with free research-based classroom tools to help students harness technology for learning and life. Our K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum and interactive games teach students how to make safe, smart, and ethical decisions in the digital world. And our revolutionary educational rating system, Common Sense Graphite, helps educators discover, use, and share high-quality digital products that propel student learning.


symantecSymantec was founded in 1982 by visionary computer scientists. The company has evolved to become one of the world’s largest software companies with more than 18,500 employees in more than 50 countries. We provide security, storage and systems management solutions to help our customers – from consumers and small businesses to the largest global organizations – secure and manage their information-driven world against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently than any other company.