email for 8 year olds… really?

This is a question that I often receive when I explain how our Grade 3 students are introduced to email. In fact, at our school we introduce Google Apps for Education (and email) to our grade 3 students. We do this for a number of reasons that I’m not going to go in to in this post. Having said that, one of the key reasons for introducing online tools to our students at such a young age is to have them develop the understandings of safe and responsible online use before they are online themselves and develop poor habits.

This week we (the Grade 3 teachers and I) have begun the process of this task with some of our classes by having students learn about digital citizenship. We began by dedicating a large amount of time for students to explore a range of websites, videos, games and posters that explore digital citizenship. This was followed by ‘homework’ and another 20 minutes in the next lesson with continued exploration. At the beginning of this I made it clear that the kids’ only responsibility was to be a thinker and think about how to be safe and responsible. No notes or questions were needed.

Following this, I introduced the tool of Google Docs by sharing an open document (so that they didn’t need access to their account yet) with the following questions:

  • Form: What does being online mean? What are some examples of being online?
  • Responsibility: How do I be responsible when online? How should I behave?
  • Reflection: How do I know when I should ask an adult for help?

To help prevent ‘getting in the way’ of each other on this document, the girls entered what they could for 10 minutes, followed by the boys for 10 minutes. Together, today’s class came up with four pages of information.

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Following this, we held a discussion to review what we had learned. We used to copy the notes into to find common themes among the answers. During this discussion, it was evident the kids had a solid understanding of responsible and safe online behaviours.

Next up, we will develop an essential agreement/user policy for our email and Google Apps. The kids will also be involved in create digital citizenship posters to display in the lab, classrooms and on our in-house TVs.