The Final Project of COETAIL Course #1: My Tech-Rich Unit about Internet Safety

I chose a Digital Citizenship unit as my final project for COETAIL Course #1. I begin every school year by teaching this unit. I find it really important. Students, as well as adults, keep forgetting about some important rules regarding sharing personal data via social media, appropriate behavior online or digital etiquette. However, children in real life often are told not to open the door to strangers, when they are left at home alone. What about the digital world? Do they really know well enough how to keep the private family or personal information secure, when to share it and with whom? Kids usually have access to way more information than their parents realize. But do they always know when is it OK to open that information door?

Here is my tech-rich Internet Safety unit plan that will allow students to gain knowledge and skills to survive in the ocean of the digital world. Below you will find more details about teaching methods and digital tools that enrich this unit.

Gamification

The fact, that I am teaching this unit every year doesn’t make it easier to create. I’m adapting the teaching plan every year since it is getting harder to motivate students by just giving new tools and relevant information. However, in my opinion, the rules of internet safety must be reminded about and repeated every year. While designing this unit plan, I was thinking about my Grade 5 students, since they are more likely to already be using social media in their personal environment. This time I’ve decided to utilize a new tool to make sure I catch their attention and make the information memorable – Gamification. Everything is so much easier to learn through the game. Everyone likes to play. This is one of the best motivations for a learner of any age.

In order not to invent the wheel again, I’ve chosen a BreakOut Edu platform (luckily, this school year our school has purchased several kits and unlimited access to this educational resource). BreakOut Edu is a challenge of an escape room in your classroom. Students get topic-related information through the riddles. By solving the riddles, students get answers in a form of lock combinations that allow unlocking the boxes and getting the key.

Photo by ABEL MARQUEZ on Unsplash

In order to make a research process more exciting and effective for my students, I’ve chosen a game called THINK BEFORE YOU POST, which offers students a possibility to decide whether provided information can be posted online or not, as well as learn more about potentially harmful online activities. As a result, it turns out to be kind of a guided research process through the game.

In order to attract the attention of the students, the main task of the game is related to a real-world situation:
Your parents have changed the wifi password and disabled wifi on all of your cellular devices!  The only way to get online access is to prove to them that you know how to be safe on the Internet!
This kind of challenge is motivating already. At the end of this activity students will learn about:
– Negative consequences of online activities;
– How to sort out Helpful, Unkind and Illegal Posts;
– Create an appropriate Fake Facebook post;
– Learn about location settings and when it is safe to share your location on your device.
Through this BreakOut Edu activity students will go through the following stages of learning from Bloom’s taxonomy – remembering, understanding and applying.

Podcast

Another essential part of my Internet safety unit is the creation of a podcast. Students will analyze and evaluate data, they’ve gained from the Internet safety game. They will have to work in groups and fill out the Podcast outline template in order to structurize the information on internet safety topics. During this process, they will also be encouraged to do additional research online. Students, working in groups, will create and record a podcast about one of the topics:
– Negative consequences of online activities;
– How to sort out Helpful, Unkind and Illegal Posts;
– How to create an appropriate Fake Facebook post;
– Location settings on your device and when it is safe to share your location?
Students will use Anchor – an online podcast generator.
The podcats will be shared through Google Form with classmates, who will be able to share their reflections on their peers’ podcasts and provide feedback.
After sharing it with classmates and receiving feedback, student-created Podcats can be tuned a little bit more and prepared for sharing with the school community on a bulletin board (by providing QR codes of each podcast). Everyone will be able to listen to it and remind themselves about the basics of internet safety.

How does this relate to the learning in Course 1? 

Knowledge gained through COETAIL course #1 helped me a lot while designing this unit plan. The fact that I had to push myself out of the comfort zone and place myself into the learners’ chair made me see the whole educational process that I was used to from an absolutely different angle. I realized, on one hand, how many exciting easily-accessible online learning tools are available on the unlimited pages of the internet. On the other hand, this experience reminded me of something that many of us, teachers, forget due to day-to-day routine – in order to be effective and stay in students’ heads, every lesson must be interesting, engaging and inspiring. Connecting tasks to real-life situations, inspiring collaboration, making it so exciting and unusual that students would geek out about it after the classes and applying the best modern learning theories – I’ve tried to have all of these ideas in mind while creating this lesson plan so that my students would benefit from it as much as I benefited from COETAIL course #1.

Technology Can Be More Engaging When Making Real-World Connections

Drew Perkins of TeachThought PD has listed a great list of questions about technology embedded in our curriculum – 15 Questions To Ask About Tech Integration In Your Classroom. I like it because some of the questions make us think critically. Has technology recently been the best tool for students’ learning or reflection? Is it relevant? Is it up to date? Valuable? Add free? Appropriate for the age group? From my experience, students love learning those tech tools, which are also actively used by adults. They are thriving to be just like adults and that’s why real-world connections, as well as simulations, are helpful for educational purpose.
Educators are always responsible for the digital tools they provide to students. It is the responsibility of any educator to make sure that any provided digital tool is appropriate for students. However, students also have to learn to troubleshoot and react appropriately if something goes wrong with a provided tool.
We, educators, have to teach appropriate reactions to any inappropriate content that shows up during the research process, just because the internet is full of everything. And we have to make the learning process challenging, motivating and interesting.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

I find students fascinating and love the passion but just because a tool has captured your imagination doesn’t mean it necessarily has a place in your classroom or school. It might indeed be a great way to grow to learn but starting your lesson planning by thinking, “how can I integrate this neat new tech toy” more often leads you down a stray path.” Drew Perkins

Tech-Rich Unit that I Used to Plan

My experience in planing a tech-rich unit was always related to the ideas of other teachers. My role at school is to help teachers plan a tech-rich unit. And I value this experience very much. First of all, because I always make connections with teachers and have a great opportunity to learn from them. Secondly, I am always learning something new. Teachers are very creative personalities and always come up with great and sometimes crazy ideas – for example, asking students to make an interview with Joana d’Arc. How can this lesson be embedded with technology? Hmm….? Can we make it look like a news report? What other tools can students use to make it more interesting and attractive?
Working with other teachers is constantly motivating me to search for new online tools, which are showing up day by day and become better than before. Sometimes I get lost. There is so much, but what is the best tool from all of this huge amount? It is time to choose only the best few..
Even now it is incredible how many resources I’ve discovered since the COVID-19 situation has occurred. I thought I know so many of them, but this situation has opened my eyes widely.

Till now I used to plan technology-rich units according to the following steps:

  • Use my research skills to find the best resources relevant to my curriculum online.
  • Search domains such as org, edu, gov etc.
  • Read the policy to make sure the resource is GDPR compliant.
  • Search for resources and suggestions from other teachers on Twitter.
  • Communicate about the new tools with other teachers of technology integration from other international schools to sharing ideas and experience.
  • Discover possible field trips, related to the content I teach.
  • Analyze how students will benefit from certain technology.
  • Combine various tech tools for one unit for formative and summative assignments.
  • Use my favorite online tools for students to explore – simulations. They create connections with real-world and real situations. The best ones I prefer – NSTEENS and CK-12.

After doing some research and spending time analyzing the experience of my colleagues, I would add some new ways and changes to my planning process for my future tech-rich units.
I loved reading Kim Cofino’s recommendations and will definitely include them in my planning process.

  • First of all, I will think about what I want students to know and be able to do at the end of this unit.
  • Secondly, I will make my teaching content related to students’ real-life and experiences as much as possible.
  • Thirdly, I will think about possible connections with professionals who could tell students more about certain topics we learn and inspire them with real-life experience and success. I will try to find people from families or communicate with professionals online. This could be a great resource for Skype in the Classroom.
  • The fourth step is to think of how to create a possibility for students to share their experience with a wider audience and even their peers. Other students from the same grade level from other schools is always a great audience for sharing and exchanging.

However, I really do believe the most important step in designing a technology-rich unit is ensuring that you are starting with the student learning goals and outcomes for whatever content area you’re working on. Kim Cofino

Making connections with the real-world is about geeking out

Geeking out is an interest-based process that pushes young people to seek for knowledge as well as feedback, that is usually actively encouraged by people with the same interests. People can even be famous and well known in certain communities. That is an exciting learning process.

Although generally considered marginal to both local, school-based friend-ship networks and to academic achievement, the activities of geeking out provide important spaces of self-directed learning that is driven by passionate interests.
Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)


Creators across different communities often describe an inspiring moment when they received positive feedback and suggestions from a fellow creator whom they respected. It raises the interest in the process and shows how valuable and fun can geeking out be. Of course, we should always be aware that safety first and students should always have in mind that the online world is full of dangers and they have to use critical thinking, no matter how fun and engaging the process of geeking out is!