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Why I Love Teaching Cyber Civics


Peter Kelley is Cyber Civics' Outreach Director. Maybe you've had a chance to chat with him? A former high school English teacher, this year he started teaching Cyber Civics in the classroom. Here are his his reflections. Contact Peter if you'd like him to teach a sample Cyber Civics lesson in your classroom!

Being able to actually get in the classroom this year and practice what I’ve been preaching about Cyber Civics has been enlightening on so many levels. To see from a different lens how this program unfolds-- from reviewing the lesson online and printing materials, to teaching the students these vital life skills, and then watching the positive results--makes me that much more motivated and excited to spread the word and get this ground-breaking program in front of as many educators as possible.

Here are just a few reasons why I love teaching Cyber Civics and why I’m confident that if you take a closer look at implementing this program at your school, you’ll feel the same way.

  • The program emphasizes ethical discussions, critical thinking, and decision making about digital media issues... all through role-play activities, hands-on projects, and problem-solving tasks. This not only excites and engages students, but it should excite the teacher as well.

  • What’s surprising to most, is that all this can be taught without the use of technology. Additionally, Cyber Civics is focused upon the social and emotional development of a child, so every online skill we teach, correlates to offline life as well. And to witness an “aha” moment when the students realize this is priceless! Every lesson is social by nature and focuses on creating ethical, critical thinkers in the digital world.

  • Cyber Civics is flexible, and it should be since every classroom is different. For example,

I was able to create a scenario around a “To Share or Not to Share” lesson that mirrored a real-life situation that occurred among the students in my class. One student had just posted a picture on social media and tagged a classmate without their approval. Needless to say, this created some classroom drama. When I embedded this scenario into the context of our lesson, the student who posted the picture and tagged the classmate without approval blurted out, “Hey wait, I totally did that, I’m so sorry.” That “aha” learning moment in front of the entire class reinforced my passion for teaching these lessons and motivates me every day.

  • At Cyber Civics, we urge students to think for themselves and to think critically when consuming media, mainly because they’re not always going to be in a classroom setting. So, when a “digital media issue” arises, we’re ready to discuss it in our classes. There are countless examples of society making the wrong (or right) choices when dealing with media. Unfortunately, the poor and sometimes damaging choices people make are the ones that end up in the headlines. But on the bright side, we see these as “teachable moments.” Or as we like to say “cyber civics moments.”

  • Funny things happen when students discuss real life topics among themselves in a classroom setting…they actually learn from each other. And when you combine that with a topic they all love to talk about – media use – you have a fun, exciting and educational learning environment.

  • Finally, I love how I can witness the students grow from earnest digital learners in the 6th grade into blossoming digital leaders in 8th grade.

One of the reasons I enjoyed coaching high school tennis was being able to see student development from 9th – 12th grade. Well I’ve found a new passion now, and have a feeling I’ll be just as emotional when I see my 8th graders graduate this year…knowing they’re entering a high school setting with skills that will keep them safe online as well as equipped with the tools that can unlock their full online potentials.

We’ll be starting a #cybercivicsmoment Twitter and Facebook campaign in the coming days to open the discussion around “cyber civics moments” that arise in your classrooms too. Examples can be anything from a celebrity or politician bullying through social media, an obviously photoshopped image used to persuade a narrative, or a sexting story gone horribly wrong – these are the stories we strive to teach our students to think critically about and have open discussion in class, in an effort to keep them from making these mistakes themselves online. We hope you’ll join in the conversation as well.

If you’re not already, follow us on Twitter at @cybercivics or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BeCyberwise to join in and share in our discussion.

Peter Kelley is experienced in both education as well as marketing. He received a degree in Communication from the University of Portland with an emphasis in Media and Society. Peter has always had a passion for teaching and working with kids. In 2011 he made the switch from the business sector and was a teacher and coach at Aliso Niguel High School for the next 6 years. Peter now works full time for Cyber Civics and teaches the program to middle school students at Journey School in Aliso Viejo, CA. With his experience teaching high school English and background in media, he sees this as the perfect fit. He resides in San Clemente, CA with his wife and young daughter.

#cybercivics #digitalcitizenship #teaching #cybercivicsmoment

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Finalist for the Project Tomorrow/OC Tech Alliance "Innovation in Education" Award.

2017 "Media Literacy Teacher" Award from NAMLE