Preparing learners’ mindsets for the online world

Dr. Marialice M.F.X. Curran

For over twenty years, Dr. Marialice B.F.X. Curran has served in education as a teacher, principal, associate professor and advocate for student voice. As the co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit, she is recognised as an international expert in digital citizenship. Named one of the Top 10 Digital Citizenship bloggers to follow in 2014 by Common Sense Media, Curran also co-founded and moderates the digital citizenship #digcit chat on Twitter (2011). Her focus is on helping students to think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously. She is committed to helping students be safe, ethical and savvy online.

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Pictured above: Timmy Sullivan    Image Credit: Pictured above: Timmy Sullivan Image Credit:

Given that Innovate My School are celebrating Safer Internet Day with a Safer Internet Week, here are five tips for helping students act safely and responsibly online.

1. Be A Role Model

Be the same person on and offline. What you do when you think people are watching you is all about your reputation, but what you do when you think no one is watching you? Those decisions speak directly towards your character. If you focus on your character, you’ll be a role model and example for all. Let’s show our students positive examples like Timmy Sullivan, and take him up on his dare by Googling him. As Captain America says, “The Power is Yours!” - the choices we make can influence others. Think of it this way: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Be the solution. 

2. Celebrate Others

As John F. Kennedy shared during a speech in 1963, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” When we build up others, we create a positive environment and trust me, positivity breeds positivity. Plus, being positive is so much easier than being"If you focus on your character, you’ll be a role model for all." negative, and it costs absolutely nothing to be kind. Every single person is a gift to the world. Period. Each of us has our own special gifts and talents. Take the time to notice and celebrate others.

The best kind of digital citizen is one who celebrates other people. Compliments are powerful. Share them everywhere! Use these 20 #ICANHELP activities as a way to help schools grow positive school culture, and become a Digital Citizen classroom ambassador to help bring activities and challenges into the classroom. 

3. Amplify Student Voice

Let students be the teachers. Do this every single day. Learning is a two-way street. Let’s learn alongside our students and amplify the positive. Engage our students and invite them to teach us. As our friend Olivia Van Ledtje (aka. Liv Bits) likes to say, #kidsCANteachus!
Recently, we guest moderated the #MinecraftEdu chat on Twitter about the importance of student voice and digital citizenship. The students took the lead during the chat and modeled the power of students as teachers. It’s paramount that students everywhere have opportunities to share their voice both in and out of the classroom.

4. Practice Empathy

Practicing empathy provides students an opportunity to experience how others feel. Just last week in Birmingham, England, Kiran Satti’s Primary students explored how understanding empathy is about making real connections, which further reminds us what makes us all human. When we practice empathy, we begin to learn to humanize the person next to us. Classrooms practicing empathy are better able to humanize the person next to them, in local communities, around the world, as well as across the screen. 

5. Be That KIND of Kid

Students like Lila Mankad represent students who take learning beyond the classroom walls and making an impact in her own community. As a fourth grader she created a petition to make Houston plastic-bag free. Lila is the type of student who is focused on creating solutions in their own communities: “I want to be the kind of person who changes the world instead of complaining. I want to be the kind of person that solves problems instead of creating them.” We want to support more students to be that KIND of kid because everyone can be part of the solution.

Hopefully these five recommendations will help classrooms make the digital world safer every day. If you’d like some viewing to go with your reading, here’s a discussion I took part in: ‘Empowering Student Voice and Digital Citizenship with Minecraft’.

YouTube link

How do you prepare student brains for the internet? Share your thoughts below.

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