Ann Oro: Developing A Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Ann Oro helped her diocese develop curriculum standards for digital citizenship by grade level. Ann also talks about the fifth-grade course piloted by Seton Hall in two of her schools.

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Ann Oro: A Digital Citizenship Curriculum

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Date: May 17, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Ann Oro.

We were just talking about how we’re pretty sure we met just about ten years ago to the day that we are recording this, in Princeton way back in 2008. (laughs)

I really followed so much of what Ann has done. She was in the classroom for many, many years.

Now she is working as Director of K-12 Instructional Technology for the 93 schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, and really working with their digital citizenship initiative.

So today we’re going to talk about, “What should we be teaching kids about digital citizenship?”

So Ann, I know that you’ve worked with reworking your curriculum. You’ve partnered with Seton Hall. You’ve done a lot of these things. But where do we start talking about this broad topic?

Where do we start?

Ann: Vicki, where we start is with the teachers, and really being intentional at every grade level with what’s appropriate for the students.

I work with teachers from preschool all the way up to the twelfth grade, and it really just takes a spiraling approach — meaning that when you’re in the preschool class maybe that digital citizenship just looks like, “How do you appropriately share a device with somebody else?”

Then as you work up through the years, it begins to take on different meanings, everything from asking a grownup if it’s okay to go online and if a site’s appropriate to understanding how to research that information. And finally, how to truly put your best self out if you’re doing that on the internet.

Vicki: So Ann, you think we should be intentional. You know, a lot of times, it’s kind of the shotgun approach. I’m just going to pull out my digital citizenship and just hit a bunch of stuff at once and hope I cover what I need to, but there really are things that need to be age-appropriate, aren’t there?


Ann: There absolutely are.

When I worked with the teachers in the 93 schools, we realized that we didn’t have that intentional look at the skills that students and teachers needed.

So we began by looking at the ISTE standards, which is the International Society for Technology Education. We looked at state standards, and then we talked. We spent about two years going with this approach to find the skills that we needed across the curriculum, not just digital citizenship.

We started with the ISTE Standards and state standards

Vicki: Have you shared these somewhere online?


Ann: They are online, and when you look at the Shownotes, I have a link with the resources that I’ll be talking about, and our entire technology curriculum map for K-12 is online. It’s helped give everybody focus, and it really helps us be intentional, like you said, about what it is that we want our students to be thinking and doing when they’re online.

  • Check out for these resources

Vicki: Yeah. So, now, you recently made the news, when you partnered with Seton Hall Law of of fifth grade course. Tell us a little about that fifth grade course and what it was about.

Ann: Seton Hall Law School has a division that is the Privacy Protection Institute. It is a Catholic university.

In addition to working with public schools, they reached out to us to find out if we would be interested in piloting this program.

What it really does is it takes looking at digital citizenship away from, “Be afraid of who might meet you online,” to “How much time am I spending online?”

It’s not, “Be afraid of who might meet you online.”
It’s, “How much time am I spending online?”

It really started with a focus on fifth graders because the research that they did said that that’s approximately the age when many students get their first cell phone.

They wanted to make sure that students are thinking about the implication of, “How often are you touching that cell phone?”

Also, the implications of the way that you use your phone to search is going to give you different results from the way that somebody else uses the phone to search.

It really has been very well-received by the two schools that we worked on with it. They shared an article in The Washington Post, and the leader of the programs said that they have been truly just been overwhelmed with the requests for information about this pilot program. It just points to the fact of how very topical and important it is.

Fifth grade is when most kids get their first cell phone.

Vicki: Did you get any pushback with the age of the kids? Some people think, “Oh, the kids need to be older.” But you’re right — fifth grade is when it happens. But there are a lot of folks that live in denial. How did you approach that when you got the pushback?


Ann: You know, truthfully, and maybe surprisingly, we didn’t get any pushback.

There really is a clamoring for information on the parents’ part. I’m seeing it in different ways around different schools.

A couple of the schools did a screening of “Screenagers” for the parents and attended one of those. It’s a video of them talking about the research that a doctor did on cell phones, and, again, how sticky they are.

The parents, when you talk to them afterwards, are really just interested in how much is too much. And they feel like it’s just something that’s happening to them. They don’t realize that every other parent is dealing with that across the grade levels.

Vicki: What kind of results have you seen since implementing the curriculum and this program in fifth grade with your students? Has the behavior changed? Are they talking about change? What’s happened?

Ann: Well, this is, again, it’s very, very new. We’ve only been doing it for about eight weeks in two different schools.

So the results are not in yet, but we also — through the Washington Post article, The CBS Morning Show chose to interview the school. What they found when they were interviewing the students is that the kids really clamored for the information. And the students were really becoming more intentional about how often they were touching that phone.

Vicki: Because, you know, digital health and wellness is something that you and I have talked about for years.

These devices are designed to be addictive

These devices are designed to be addictive. They’re sticky, is what marketers call it. They want it to be sticky. They want the eyeballs.

But we have to learn how to put them down. Isn’t that so hard, Ann?


Ann: It’s absolutely hard. I’ve heard you talk about it before on other shows.

It’s that concept that we’re talking about young children with young brains, and whether it’s touching that phone or whether it’s not perhaps leaving the nicest message for somebody, that kids’ brains are really developing up until their mid-twenties, depending on whether you’re talking about male or female.

A lot of what they do is really spur-of-the-moment, so it’s really a need to help the students realize that adults have a hard time with this. They have a hard time as well.

Vicki: So, Ann, as we’re finishing up, if you could challenge those working with a digital citizenship curriculum around the world with students with a thought about what it means if they do NOT have digital citizenship in their curriculum, what would you say?

Ann: Well, I would say that you’re lacking not even a future skill — I mean, this his is a skill that everybody needs.

If you’re not teaching this, then you’re setting your students up for failure

If you’re not intentionally taking care of it, you’re really setting your students up for failure when they move on into college. If they don’t go to college, when they move on to work, because you need to manage your identity.

You need to ethically interact with other people. You need to understand the rights and responsibilities of posting things online, taking control of making sure that intellectual property is cared for. And again, finally, just being very cognizant of how you’re sharing your data.

If we begin in preschool and keep spiraling through that, through twelfth grade, we’re setting students up for success in a way that other students, in previous years, really fumbled through on their own.

Begin in preschool and keep spiraling through twelfth grade

Vicki: And we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, which is educating! We’re not just saying “Hey, just figure it out yourself.”

We don’t give them geometry formulas and say, “Here’s some formulas, figure it out.”

But we hand them the phone and we don’t do that, and phones don’t come with user manuals anymore. It just kind of blows my mind.


Ann: Absolutely. In the course of looking around online, if a teacher isn’t comfortable with this, there are so many resources out there.

One of the resources that I had shared recently with some of the local teachers is a Google program that’s in their training center in Google for Education. It’s a digital citizenship and safety course for adults. Adults say, “You know what? I’m new at this. I have no idea what to do.”

It really talks about why to teach digital citizenship and safety, how you can search online in a savvy way, how you can protect yourself from phishing and scams and how you can manage your online reputation.

If so if they’re not comfortable with this, that course really gives them just the nuggets that then they can turn over to students in an age-appropriate way.

Vicki: Well, teachers and educators, we have a lot to think about with creating our digital citizenship curriculum, with things that we should be considering.

And also the challenge that, you know what? Fifth grade, is really kind of a key age to start into pretty deeply understanding of what kids need to be sharing, even if they’re a little younger than that technical age of thirteen, they are they getting phones and that does put things out there.

So I just challenge you to go to your district, go to your school, ask, “What is our digital citizenship curriculum? What are the things that each grade level should know or understand?”

Truly, I’m not sure how a school who calls itself a 21st Century School if it doesn’t have an intentional digital citizenship curriculum. It’s just part of it.

So thanks, Ann!

Ann: Thank you so much, Vicki.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Ann Oro is the Director of K12 Instructional Technology for the 93

schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. Ann has been leading teachers and students in the instructional use of technology to support student learning for over 15 years. Ann works to assist teachers in integrating technology into the curriculum to engage students in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The ability to critically review search results is an integral part of life in the 21st Century. It is equally important to communicate results in a creative manner. Ann shares collaborative projects with students and teachers across the globe. Her Monster Project, co-led with Anna Baralt, was highlighted at the 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference closing keynote. She and her students were part of a project that won the Chase Multimedia in the Classroom Award with Lisa Parisi. She has been a K-8 computer and middle school math teacher and received her M.A. in Educational Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University.



Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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