Free Curriculum Helps Students ROCK Thier Way to Digital Citizenship

Ok. Some of you might be tired of hearing me say it, but I’ll say it again anyway.  One of the best ways to learn is through stories.  Stories help us put facts in context and allow us to apply more of our senses to the learning experience.  That’s why I’m so excited about the new, free, curriculum recently released by Microsoft that uses realistic storytelling to help students learn about intellectual property rights and how to be responsible digital citizens.

Here’s the essential thinking behind the curriculum:  Students interact with music, movies, software, and other digital content every day. But, do they really understand the rules that dictate the ethical use of these digital files, and, more importantly, do they understand why these issues are relevant?

The goal of the Digital Citizenship and Creative Content program is to create an awareness of the rights connected with creative content. Because only through education can students gain an understanding of the relevance of and a personal respect for creative rights and grow to become good digital citizens.

Through the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Program, Microsoft reached out to teachers across the country to test the curriculum materials and provide feedback over the past year.  As a member of the program (FYI- any educator can apply :) ) I was able to take part in that “testing” phase.  Along with 93% of the other teachers who participated, I highly recommend the materials and plan on using them again.  Here are a few of the top reasons I think you should check out the curriculum:

  • The program focuses on creative rights in the world of digital citizenship so it’s excellent for raising student awareness about proper behavior with technology.      Image
  • It’s relevant and fun for students because it enables them to have the experience of creating their own digital property in the form of a ring tone on the student Web site ( In addition, the curriculum explores the topic using examples like Facebook and MySpace.
  • The program focuses on the positive aspects of the creative process and is not enforcement-based like other programs on the same topic.
  • The program supports differentiated and cross-curricular instruction

The Digital Citizenship and Creative Content program was designed for students in grades 8-10 but can certainly be adapted for 6th-12th graders. It’s organized into four thematic units that include the following subject areas: Civics, Computer Science, Debate, Economics, Fine Arts, Government, Journalism, Language Arts, Drama, and Video Production.

Each unit has a set of standalone, yet complimentary project-oriented activities that play off a creative rights scenario presented through a case study. There are guiding questions to help focus students learning, and pre/post assessments to establish baseline knowledge and gauge student learning. There are also suggestions and tips for engaging parents and peers outside of the classroom.  Here’s part of the basic scenario- one that I think our students can definately relate to:

A high school sponsors a school-wide Battle of the Bands. A student not involved in the production decides to videotape and sell copies of the show to students and family members. Later, one of the performers (“Johnny”) learns his image has been co-opted by the maker of a video game without his permission. Students research intellectual property laws to see who owns the “rights” to the Battle of the Bands as a whole, as well as the rights of individual performers, to determine three or four steps that Johnny can take.

Sounds interesting & engaging, right?  Check out the materials & share your thoughts with the rest of us :)

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