I’ve been teaching elementary technology classes at Chenoweth Elementary for five years and for the first four I thought that topics like Cyberbullying and Information Privacy were subjects best left until middle and high school. That was until there was an incident at my school last year. Without going into too much detail, it involved Student A guessing Student B’s password and then emailing Student C some unpleasant stuff in the guise of Student B. Student A was my first “Bad Computer”.
Even though it was a fairly harmless prank and the student readily admitted to the impropriety, it was the kind of misuse of technology that needed addressing. The students at my school were only going to become more tech savvy and connected digitally as the years passed and what was once thought of on my end as a teenage problem will have soon enough made its way to my pre-teen demographic. Thus, the Good Computer vs. Bad Computer Public Service Announcement (PSA) was born.
I needed to start somewhere, so I started with BrainPOP. The BrainPOP videos on Information Privacy, Cyberbullying, and Digital Etiquette provided excellent background knowledge for my Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) kids to develop the PSA. The videos also provided me with plenty of jumping off points for discussions of what constitutes positive and negative online behaviors. With the videos supplying the aforementioned background knowledge, my students were able to conjure from their own experience instances of such behaviors. Even if that experience was only that they had received a SPAM email or two, it was something.
Taking terms like ‘trolls’ and ‘flame wars’ from the BrainPOP videos, we decided on eight concepts (4 positive behaviors, 4 negative behaviors) that we would turn into images using our Good Computer and Bad Computer characters. For example, the concept of “Bad Computers ignore copyright laws and practice piracy” was turned into an image of a computer pirate complete with ship and booty of illegal movie and music downloads. Needless to say, my students love Tim and Moby and the animation style of BrainPOP. While I haven’t yet found an animation program that I like to use with 4th and 5th grade students, I knew that we could create “cartoonish” drawings of our own to get our points across. We created the drawings used in the PSA in Microsoft Paint and took clip art from Office to make them stand out a little more. Kids love to cut and paste.
After drawing the images in Paint, the students then recorded their narration of the Good Computer/Bad Computer concepts using the free recording software, Audacity. Audacity allows us to manipulate whatever doesn’t sound quite right in the narration. For instance, when the students would take an abnormal pause between words we could then edit out the pause and play back the modified and more perfect narration.
For our ending the kids and I decided we needed a human element to tie in the concepts laid out in the PSA. Channeling every late 80s, early 90s PSA I can ever remember I recalled that most all of them ended with a single question to the viewer. Thus, the student asking “Are you a Good Computer or a Bad Computer?” directly to the camera to wrap it all up. It only took 9 takes, too (5th grade girls can be perfectionist directors)!
Over the next couple of weeks, every 4th and 5th grade student at Chenoweth Elementary will watch our PSA. We will then discuss the behaviors mentioned in the video with the hopes that just maybe they’ll be a little friendlier in their future online endeavors because of the video and my teaching. After all, it’s not the computers that are good or bad, it’s the choices their users make.
Chenoweth Elementary, Kentucky
How are you teaching internet safety? How do you involve your students in establishing expectations? Share ideas below!