Google’s Be Internet Awesome is a newly released resource that combines internet safety with gaming. It looks like it would work well for upper primary/junior students.
It uses a Quest motif and an imaginary land called, “Interland” and its purpose is to teach students to “Be Internet Awesome”. I LOVE the sound of that!!
It focuses on five key lessons:
- Be Internet Smart: Share with care
- Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
- Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
- Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
- Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out
All of these are very powerful and important points.
I went through one of the lands, “Mindful Mountain” just to try it out. This part of the quest reinforces that “you must be very intentional about what you share”
The user goes through a series of scenarios and makes you determine whether or not it is appropriate to share with friends, family, or others. The idea is that you use the game features and you lose and/or gain points depending on your accuracy.
I received points and the following information at the end:
-Savvy Sharer (thoughtfully consider what you share and with whom)
-Patient Poster (pause and keep extra sensitive information to yourself)
-Informed Internaut (understand the power and consequences that come along with sharing)
What’s great about it:
- The lessons themselves and conversations that would result from these lessons are definitely great.
- The different mountains “Kind Kingdom”, “Mindful Mountain”, “Tower of Treasure” and “Reality River” are definitely far more positive than much of the fear-mongering that we often use when talking about internet safety, and touch upon a comprehensive approach to helping kids navigate online spaces.
- Even when mistakes are made, the game is iterative so that you continue trying until you arrive at the right answer.
- Reinforces the importance of empowering students to be upstanders
- Internet & Safety Course is now available on Google to support teachers
What’s not that great about it:
- If you are not a good gamer (like me), you lose points even if you know the right answer which can be frustrating for some kids (or literally, maybe this is just me??)
- Sometimes, when trying to get to the next level, students don’t always read the text (in this case the digital citizenship lessons) carefully
- The Be Internet Awesome pledge, while excellent, needs to be co-constructed with kids for them to really feel ownership of it.
- As good as it is, it still exists out of context.
One of the chapters in my book, Social LEADia stresses the need for tackling Digital Citizenship in context and as a basis for Digital Leadership. A student can know Interland inside out and it may very well transfer to their own use of the internet, but it would be way more powerful if these lessons were reinforced throughout the school year, rather than tackled in a discrete unit.
I cite the theory of situated cognition which states that, “learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential and knowledge must be applied in context in order to be used and made explicit” (Brown et al, 1989).
This is why I showcase the examples of Stephanie Viveiros, Kayla Delzer, and Robert Cannone who show us what it looks like to do this work using a class account (i.e. students have ownership of the account but technically the teacher posts because students are too young). I also talk about how Julie Millan and Diana Hale involve their students in the process of what responsible use of technology looks like. It’s also how with the mentorship of Jennifer Scheffer students like Timmy Sullivan are confident leaders both on and offline, and how Rachel Murat‘s high school students have moved beyond digital citizenship to digital leadership.
Here’s an excerpt from the Digital Citizenship in Context chapter:
Having a class Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook account affords you so many unique opportunities. It can help to reinforce the following points and Digital Citizenship elements (I use Mike Ribble’s Digital Citizenship Elements):
-We emphasize that not everyone has equal access to technology (Digital Access)
-We only check our social media feed at certain times during the day to ensure a healthy balance (Digital Health and Wellness)
-We don’t put our notifications on because we don’t want to be distracted by them (Digital Etiquette)
-The classes and accounts that follow us are opportunities to connect with people: other classes from other communities and learn from them (Digital Communication)
-Our worth is not determined by how many followers we have because the most important thing is that we engage in conversations and relationships with the followers we do have (Digital Health)
-We block anyone who proves to be inappropriate or is trying to sell us something (Digital Security)
-We notice that there are some posts that are sponsored (Digital Commerce)
-We pay attention to how “edited” a photo might be by asking,” I wonder how many times they had to try to get such a perfect photo” (Digital Health and Wellness)
-We emphasize that a “like” isn’t the same as making a comment and forging a relationship, and that when you like something it means you agree with it (Digital Literacy)
-We ask clarifying questions rather than making statements when we don’t agree with something or when we are not quite sure of the intent (Digital Communication)
-We delete a post if we think it might be misconstrued (Digital Communication)
-We regularly check our settings to see if anything has changed and talk about what should be private (stay in the classroom) and public (fine to share with the world) (Digital Security)
-We create a strong password and check for possible fake accounts following ours (Digital Security)
-When we use a hashtag, we understand that anyone can see our post even if they are not following our class account (Digital Literacy)
Use the Be Internet Awesome Pledge, (the headings), but allow your students to come up with the descriptors so they take ownership of it.
Use Be Internet Awesome as a foundation, but also engage in real-life sharing using Digital Leadership as a framework with a class account.
Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42