Digital Citizenship & the School Librarian

School Librarians can teach students to responsibly use online technologies and social media by constructing meaningful Digital Citizenship lessons for our students using a variety of tools provided FREE from the U.S. Government and non-profit websites. | No Sweat LibraryDigital Citizenship encompasses a student’s knowledge of and consent to using technology in a responsible manner. In our increasingly digital online global community, it’s not just important for School Librarians to teach students about digital citizenship, it is required by law!

In a prior post (Student Privacy & the School Library), I covered the 3 Federal laws—FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA—that govern students using the Internet.
Download my PDF of Internet Laws In a Nutshell

In this post I address Internet Safety as it is covered by CIPA. For schools to receive an e-rate discount, they must show documentation that their students are being given instruction about Internet Safety.


The relevant passages are found in the CIPA update of 2011 which incorporates language from the Broadband Data Services Act of 2008, Title II–Protecting Children [in the 21st Century Act], Subtitle A–Promoting a Safe Internet for Children:

… use of the Internet in a manner that promotes safe online activity for children, protects children from cybercrimes, including crimes by online predators, and helps parents shield their children from material that is inappropriate for minors.

The Federal Trade Commission shall carry out a nationwide program to increase public awareness and provide education regardingsafe use of the Internet by children. … that includes–
(1) identifying, promoting, and encouraging best practices for Internet safety;
(2) establishing and carrying out a national outreach and education campaign regarding Internet safety utilizing various media and Internet-based resources;
… (4) facilitating access to Internet safety education…by…schools, … .

part of its Internet safety policy is educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.
(Broadband Data Services Act from the Government Printing Office Website.)


Since schools are required to teach Internet Safety, the U.S. government provides FREE materials with which to do so, and since government information falls under public domain, we can use any of it—as is or modified—for our lessons.

  • The FTC’s Internet safety Website——provides videos and materials for presentations, as well as free handouts such as booklets, brochures, and worksheets, which can be ordered from their Website.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop-Think-Connect campaign also provides free materials on their Website—

Get FREE Digital Citizenship Materials For Your Students - The U.S. government & several non-profits provide schools with FREE lesson guides, videos, and bulk orders of digital citizenship handouts for students. Learn more here... #NoSweatLibraryI reiterate, these materials are free, so I encourage you to order them. I use different handouts for each grade level, and at the start of each school year I order enough copies for all students in my school. Other free materials, such as online videos and games for each age group, are also provided by government-sponsored organizations:


The online world is about social interaction without face-to-face contact, and as a middle School Librarian I need to align my lessons with the unique mental and emotional characteristics of each grade:

  • 6th graders are eager to explore the adult world, but are vulnerable and still want advice from adults; their lessons need simple and direct examples of what to do and what not to do, presented in an interactive way.
  • 7th graders are flooded by hormonal changes, and peers are way more important than adults, so they need socializing norms and skills; their lessons need to be fast-paced and varied, especially short, interactive games and videos of students, animated or real, talking about issues pertinent to them.
  • 8th graders are on the verge of adulthood but still naive about the ways of the world, so they need awareness and guidance to exercise good judgment; their lessons need to incorporate experiences of other teens by using real-life videos coupled with discussion and reflection.

I spent many hours perusing government and non-profit Websites, noting their topic choices and organization in order to create the best possible lessons for my middle school students. To keep things simple, I organize my lessons using these 3 Elements of Digital Citizenship:

  • Personal Safety – protection from online predators and cyberbullying;
  • Privacy and Security – protecting school passwords and personal school files, and personal information from online computer intrusions, identity theft, phishing, and Internet scams;
  • Digital Ethics – proper online behavior, such as legal use of software and other digital material, online Netiquette, and our digital footprint—how the “mark” we leave online is our e-reputation and can impact our future.


As I do for all my Library Lessons, I teach only what students need and avoid anything that isn’t purposeful, yet throughout the school year I infuse legal, ethical, and safety issues into any Library Lesson that involves technology. For example, my first WebQuest with 6th graders is often their first login on our school’s computers, so I begin with guidance on creating a strong unique password. Shortly thereafter I incorporate personal safety and communication ethics when I introduce our district’s filtered student email system in my Library Lesson on Cloud Computing. During the rest of the school year I use videos and handouts from the FTC, NCSA, Common Sense Media, and other non-profits to make my lessons more meaningful.

Get My FREE Digital Citizenship Lesson Planner for Middle School - Download a FREE PDF of my Digital Citizenship Lesson Planner for a complete bibliography of all the resources I've compiled for Internet safety lessons. I include examples of how I customize for my middle school students. #NoSweatLibraryMy school district advises School Librarians to do a yearly presentation on Internet safety to comply with CIPA’s e-rate requirement, and they provide us with a generic slide presentation. I customize the slideshow, targeting content to the theme I’ve chosen for each grade level, and I incorporate videos, games, and handout activities from government and non-profit sites. For a complete bibliography of all the resources I’ve compiled for my middle school digital citizenship & Internet safety lessons, download a FREE PDF file of my Digital Citizenship Lesson Planner.

To really connect with students, here’s a phenomenal idea to use when teaching digital citizenship:

Craig Badura, Technology Integration Specialist for Aurora Public Schools NE, has an ingenious set of props to help K-8 students relate and remember digital citizenship lessons. He calls it a “Digital Citizenship Survival Kit.” Mr. Badura encourages us to use his idea, to create our own kits and stimulate conversations with students during our lessons.


I hope you agree that it’s crucial for school librarians to uphold and model the rules we expect students to follow regarding Digital Citizenship and the use of online services. For example, we can never ask students to enter a false birth year just to register for and use an online service. Not only is this unethical, it is actually breaking Federal law!

School districts are very aware of Federal laws on student Internet use, so many of them provide under-age-13 students with private contracted services, such as Gaggle, in order to provide a safe and private online environment for elementary and early middle school students. It is our responsibility to become familiar with these provided services and incorporate them into our Library Lessons.

We must also be cognizant of our own Digital Footprint, not only for our professional standing, but also as a guide to students for what is appropriate online material for public consumption. Be mindful of the conversations we have in our personal and professional social media accounts: be polite and considerate, and express alternative viewpoints as diplomatically as possible. Be careful of the photos and selfies we post: be appropriately dressed and behave in a professional manner. If you haven’t Google’d your own name lately, do so, to be sure you are modeling digital citizenship with your own digital footprint.

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Social Media, Cloud Computing, and School Library Lessons

Social Media, Cloud Computing, and School Library Lessons - Lessons using social media are abundant, but School Librarians need to inculcate the wider concept of “cloud computing” so students truly understand such technology. This model for teaching the elements of cloud computing makes tech integration more effective. #NoSweatLibrarySocial media is always growing and changing. There are so many ways it can be used in education:

  • As part of a teacher’s or librarian’s Professional Learning Network (PLN)
  • To inform parents and the community about school-related events and information
  • As an engaging technology tool for students in the classroom.

Many educators don’t realize that it’s a School Librarian’s responsibility to teach students about social media!


AASL School Library Standards logoAccording to the American Association of School Librarians (a division of the American Library Association) and National School Library Standards, the School Librarian is tasked with teaching students the responsible use of social media, evident by these 5 references:

  • III.B. School Librarians demonstrate the importance of personal, social, and intellectual networks by modeling the use of a variety of communication tools and resources.
  • III.C.1. The school library provides opportunities for School Librarians to connect and work with the learning community by facilitating diverse social and intellectual learner networks.
  • V.C.1. The school library [and School Librarian] prepares learners to engage with a larger learning community by modeling and promoting the use of personal and professional learning networks.
  • VI.A. School Librarians promote ethical and legal guidelines for gathering and using information by directing learners to responsibly use information, technology, and media for learning and modeling responsible and ethical use of information, technology, and media.
  • VI.C. The school library [and School Librarian] encourages participation in a diverse learning community to create and share information by providing both online and physical spaces for sharing and dissemination of ideas and information.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (another division of ALA), offers a 13-page downloadable PDF “Teens & Social Media Toolkit” for teaching students positive ways to use social media. The document suggests helping teens “learn about a variety of social media technologies,” which includes “photo-sharing technologies, …video creation technologies, …image editing. …connect with favorite authors, artists, musicians, and so on via Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs.”

ISTE Standards infographic

Click to enlarge

The International Society for Technology in Education has 3 Standards for Students that directly relate to social media:

  • Digital citizen – Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  • Creative communicator – Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
  • Global collaborator – Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.


Lessons using social media tools are abundant in print and online, but these rarely give students an understanding of the larger concept of cloud computing. And, as online tools steadily replace desktop apps, School Librarians need to emphasize Cloud Computing, so students learn the responsible use of ALL online tools.

Teach Students the Concepts of Cloud Computing Instead of Tools - School Library Lessons about social media need to focus on the type and purpose of digital services, rather than brand names, so students know when and how to use any tool responsibly. Read about forms of interaction, presentation, transmission, and more... #NoSweatLibraryFor every School Library Lesson we can provide a deep understanding of cloud computing as a prelude to introducing a digital tool. I teach each different aspect of cloud computing by focusing on the type & purpose of digital services, rather than brand names, so students learn how & when to use a particular kind of tool regardless of who makes it.

For my School Library Lessons I group cloud computing tools into 3 types of services:

  1. Personal services: individual tools for organization, communication, and learning—email, drop box, digital documents, digital storage.
  2. Presentation services: tools to create and publish original multimedia products—blogs, audio podcasts, slide shows, videos, webinars, live broadcasts.
  3. Group services: tools for collaborating with others—chat rooms, discussion forums, wikis, social networks, video conferencing.

Within and across these 3 groups I teach the specifics which differentiate the services and individual tools from each other:

  • Audience interaction
    • 1-to-1 (personal individual tools)
    • 1-to-many (presentation tools)
    • many-to-many (group tools)
  • Method of delivery
    • 1-way transfer (drop box, digital storage, podcasts, blogs, slide shows, videos, live broadcasts)
    • 2-way exchange (email, some digital documents, all group tools, webinars)
  • Transmission interval
    • synchronous (chat rooms, some social networks, video conferencing, webinars, live broadcasts)
    • asynchronous (email, discussion forums, wikis, some social networks, blogs, podcasts)

Next I decide whether to teach the scope of a tool—all its potential uses—or the efficacy of a tool, that is, its best use. I make that decision based on the purpose of the library visit, as noted in my Library Lesson Matrix, and then I create the lesson with my Library Lesson Planner.


Consolidating all online tools under the umbrella of Cloud Computing allows me to introduce a variety of media for students to express themselves, add creativity and value to student assignments, and inculcate responsible online behaviors. I can keep lessons short and simple, focused on the purpose of the library visit, with a classroom-related activity so students can practice what they learn.  Often my Library Lessons help teachers understand Cloud Computing and see how to integrate it into their own lessons.

Cloud Computing is my first technology lesson of the school year with Spanish and Art classes, and I’ve also incorporated the concept into lessons with core subjects, ESL, and Special Ed. Using just a few slides, I introduce the concept, types of tools, their purpose, and form of audience interaction.

First 2 slides that begin every Cloud Computing lesson.
Types of Cloud Computing Cloud Computing Tools

The best way to teach technology is to demonstrate how to use it, so I close the slide presentation and open the online service. I distribute a handout showing images of the tool to help students follow my demonstration. Then students use the rest of the period for a daily grade activity that guides them through 2 features chosen by the teacher which they will use throughout the school year to respond to assignments.

Often after the lesson students ask other teachers to give them assignments using the tool, so the teachers come to me for help, and I’m able to expand student use of the service through short lessons during library visits with other subject classes.

Other ISTE Resources:

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Student Privacy & the School Library

Student Privacy & the School Library - Educators need to be aware of the 3 Federal laws—FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA—regarding student rights & privacy. But, School Librarians must also apply student privacy as it relates to intellectual freedom and freedom of access in the school library. FREE download: Internet Laws In A Nutshell. #NoSweatLibraryIn this age of measureless digital information and ubiquitous electronic access, it’s important for educators, including school librarians, to be aware of the 3 Federal laws governing student rights and privacy, especially regarding online access: FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA.


FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, has been around since 1974. It’s purpose is to protect the privacy of a student’s education records. It’s impact on us as educators is that it gives us permission to publish student work and photos, but without last names or any personally identifiable information.

Between September and December of 2016, the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) conducted focus groups regarding teacher training on student privacy. They discovered that, while schools and districts encourage the use of technology applications, there was wide variation on vetting what teachers can use in their classrooms, with ‘free’ resources often left to the teacher’s discretion. With that in mind, it’s especially important for educators to consider COPPA.


COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, took effect in 2000, and forbids websites from collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 unless they obtain verifiable parental permission. It’s why websites ask for birth dates to create an account and many refuse to create one if the applicant is under age 13 (so they don’t have to verify parent permission). In rulings since 2013, personal information also includes videos, audio files, and geolocation that can identify a child. (NOTE: COPPA is not COPA, the Act regarding pornography that never became law.)

COPPA also allows under-age-13 students to use secured online services contracted by the state/district, such as Gaggle student email or Google Apps for Education. Also, COPPA permits schools to act as “agents” for parents, which means they can get signed permission slips from parents so students can register for a public online service—if you do this, be sure your school/district has written parent permission!

I vehemently discourage students from using a fake birth year to create online accounts—it’s breaking the law! My online Library Lessons for below-8g students only use contract services or public sites that don’t need them to create accounts.


CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act, enacted in 2000 and administered by the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, covers the e-rate discount for schools; it requires filters against harmful content and restricts disclosure of a minor’s personal information. CIPA was augmented by the Broadband Data Improvement Act (2008) and by the FCC (2011) to incorporate the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act-Subtitle A: Promoting a Safe Internet for Children. Those direct the FTC to create a national public awareness campaign about safe Internet use by children and requires schools to educate students about Internet safety, including student privacy.

Download a FREE 2-page PDF of
Internet Laws In A Nutshell
to hand out to your colleagues.
Image link to Internet Laws in a Nutshell: FERPA, COPPA, CIPA handout - Download this free 2-page PDF to hand out to teachers. #NoSweatLibrary


How Student Privacy Applies to School Libraries & Student Reading - Student privacy protects their freedom to read what they want from the school library, and School Librarians are obligated to keep confidential the books a student has checked out. Read more about student privacy... #NoSweatLibraryMost educators think of student privacy in terms of student grades or publishing class photos, but a school librarian must approach student privacy in a unique way because student privacy is inextricably linked with intellectual freedom and freedom to access information.

  • Intellectual freedom is the right to freely publish personal creations in any media format. Should we treat a child’s intellectual freedom for expression the same as we would an adult’s? Just as we monitor the language (verbal and written) and the behavior of young ones in our schools, so too, educators often act in loco parentis to constrain public products that reflect inappropriate youthful expressions; however, we need to be careful that our “editing” of blog posts, webpages, videos, and other online products is truly monitoring and not censorship.
  • Freedom of access is a person’s right to obtain and read, view, or listen to media without restraint, and this includes what students choose from the school library. Student privacy protects this right, so librarians do not divulge any of the books a student has checked out, except to a parent. (To protect student privacy, my district’s library automation system only keeps track of current checkouts—once an item is returned, it’s removed from the student’s record.)
    Conversely, school librarians have a responsibility to choose print & online resources that support the state/district curriculum, so we are in the precarious position of using negative selection policies, not necessarily as filtering or censorship, but because funds must be spent advantageously according to the age and literacy of students.
  • Filtering freedom of access for a child depends on where the access takes place. In a public library all information is available to the general public, and, while resources are organized to minimize psychological danger to children, it is necessarily the parent’s duty, not the library’s, to monitor what the child reads, hears or views. The situation changes in the public school setting: schools are regarded as in loco parentis to act for the best interests of the child, and CIPA law requires filtering of online access for schools to qualify for a discounted e-rate.

Padlock around Earth representing Internet FilteringTim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web and the man who has had such an impact on our lives, shares his thoughts on filtering in his book Weaving the Web (HarperCollins, 1999):

A nation’s laws can restrict content only in that country; filters can block content no matter where it comes from on the Web. Most important, filters block content for users who object to it without removing the material from the Web. It remains available to those who want to see it. (p.125) An individual clearly has the personal right to filter anything that comes at him, just as he would do with regular mail. (p.134)


Striking a balance between productive online classroom activities and keeping students’ safe online can be a challenge, especially inculcating into students the need to protect their privacy. I discovered that, while schools are required by CIPA to teach Internet Safety, the U.S. government provides FREE materials with which to do so. All government information falls under public domain so we can use it however we wish. The FTC’s Internet safety website——provides videos and materials for presentations, as well as free handouts such as booklets, brochures, and worksheets, which can be ordered from their website. The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop-Think-Connect campaign also provides free materials on their website— I use different handouts for each grade level, and at the start of every school year I order enough copies for all the students in my school.

School Librarians Can Teach Student Privacy with Digital Citizenship - Download my FREE Digital Citizenship Lesson Planner for a list of resources & materials to teach student privacy and other digital citizenship topics. Visit my site & find FREE Librarian Resources on the menu bar! #NoSweatLibraryI reiterate, these materials are free, so I encourage you to order them, as well as other free materials provided by government-sponsored organizations, such as the National Cyber Security Alliance at, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at, and Common Sense Media at All 5 websites have valuable pointers on how to teach online safety to various ages of children, resources to use in presentations, and videos and games for different age groups.

At the start of each school year, my first 6g lesson using online resources helps students generate a password that will protect their privacy. StaySafeOnline has a wonderful lesson about this, along with free posters to hang in the library and computer labs: CyberSmart! Classroom Materials: Password Security Activity and Posters

Password Protection Posters from

Throughout the school year I have Library Lessons on Internet safety and student privacy related to whatever online activity we are pursuing. Additionally, October is National Cyber Security Month, sponsored by the Dept. of Homeland Security, and January 28 is Data Privacy Day, both of which offer opportunities for school librarians to focus the entire school on Internet Safety. My Internet Safety Lessons with my middle school students address 3 different issues, one of which is Student Privacy. My privacy lesson for 6g focuses on protecting personal information when using the WWW:

WWW questions for personal information privacy

For the student privacy part of the 7g lesson I use materials from the FTC, beginning with a video, Net Cetera: Protection Connection, and then focusing students’ blossoming social awareness on socializing online.

Now that so many students have smartphones, the student privacy lesson for 8g students addresses online and phone phishing, and cautions about phone apps which can access personal information.

The combination of a yearly whole-school Internet Safety month and short relevant lessons throughout the school year, all customized for any online tool being used and the maturity/grade level of students, provides my middle school students with an ongoing focus on, and a deep understanding of, student privacy issues. I believe they are well-prepared to safely navigate “The Cloud” and for the new challenges they’ll face in high school.

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