The discussion of online privacy and security in the classroom can be challenging, particularly when your number one challenge is to get the message past a series of yawns and glassy eyes. One teacher explained it perfectly, “Students see Internet safety no differently from school fire drills. To them it’s pointless—just another precautionary measure for things they believe they’ll never encounter.”
So, should teachers resort to breeding fear and paranoia in students to get them to listen? While it may get some attention, leaving students with a digest of scary statistics and a lecture on what makes the Internet an unsafe place won’t hold their interest or arm them with the skills to protect themselves online. Kids need to know the hows: how the Internet operates, how it can be misused, and how they may be leaving themselves vulnerable online. And this all has to be taught within a context that is relevant to their online experiences, while being engaging and challenging.
Here are some classroom activities courtesy of Kiwi Seminars, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing free Internet safety seminars into classrooms and the local community, with the end goal being to engage students’ critical thinking skills to ensure greater interest and retention.
Where Does Your Personal Information Go?
This activity reinforces the concept that any information that we post or send through the Internet is public, and travels through a large number of computers before it reaches its destination. After a discussion on how networks and the Internet work, ask your students how many computers they believe their information travels through every time they send a message to a friend or go to a website.
To demonstrate how the Internet really works, ask students to take out a piece of blank paper and write a letter to a friend as if they were writing an email. Ask them to include things like their name, favourite hobbies and even an Internet safety fact that was discussed earlier in the lesson.
Then instruct students to pass their letters up to the front of the room, while remaining seated. Each time a letter is passed between peers, ask the kids to put a check mark on the back of the letter. Once all the papers have reached the front of the room, give the papers back to their respective authors and have them add the number of checks; thereby reinforcing how personal information travels through computer networks.
Thinking Twice About What We Post
In order to demonstrate the importance of being critical while considering what to post online, create a real representation of a Facebook group on a bulletin board or common wall of the school. The goal of this activity is to have students understand that the Internet is a shared space and that no information is really private, and can be viewed by almost anybody.
Instruct students to create a one page profile of themselves using a blank piece of paper, with the knowledge that these profiles will be posted in a common, shared space in the school.
Once the profiles are all posted on the wall, ask the students to consider what they have posted on their online profiles, and question if they have anything posted which they would not have put on the wall of the school.
Building A Profile From Online Identity Trails
In this activity, students act as detectives in an online investigation while they piece together a profile of an individual of the teacher’s choosing in the community. The goal of the activity is to have students be able to recognize how easy it is to collect and compile personal information about someone online, reinforcing the importance of protecting their digital footprint.
Over a series of days, have students compile a profile of the selected community member by providing them with guidance on where to look for information online. Resources like Google, Facebook and Twitter will all provide information that students can use to refine searches and dig deeper into the personal information of the individual. The objective is to use repeated, refined searches to find out as much about the person as possible.
Once students have completed their research, have them put together a brief biography of the chosen individual. Things like full name, contact information, photos, hobbies, associations, or even events they will be attending can often be easily found online. Students will be surprised at how much they can find about the individual with little effort, reinforcing the importance of keeping private information offline.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when developing your own lessons and activities that will help increase student interest.
1. Keep it positive. Emphasize the good about the Internet as much as the bad. Your underlying message should be: to avoid online threats and to maximize the benefits of the Internet, people must practice safe and responsible use online.
2. Keep it interesting. Go beyond handouts to hands-on activities that directly relate to their everyday online experiences. Think interactive case studies, computer games, docu-dramas or a series of mock sites based on real-life scenarios and criminal cases, where they can apply their Internet safety and privacy skills.
3. Keep it relevant. Remember to keep the content personally relevant by addressing issues and web activities particular to your students’ age group.
4. Keep it engaging. Aim for interactive and challenging exercises. Don’t spoon-feed the lesson; make them work for the answers. Also, leverage interactive and collaborative learning by making use of Web 2.0 technologies like Wikis, podcasts and blogs.
For the complete lesson plans, please visit http://KiwiCommons.com/CanadianTeacherMagazine
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Wilson is a staff writer for KiwiCommons.com, an Internet safety resource dedicated to providing teachers and parents with the most informative late-breaking news, guides, product reviews and media. Kiwi Commons is proud to be the content partner of educators across the province of Ontario, including York Catholic District School Board and the Empowered Students Program.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s January 2010 issue.