Oct 31 2011

How to Sidestep Online Pitfalls

These instructional video and discussion exercises can help students avoid Internet culture shock.

The Internet can be an abundant source of information and an invaluable learning tool. But it also can be a threatening environment for students who aren't properly educated about how to handle inappropriate content or overtures by fellow users. Understanding online culture is key to staying safe, building a positive online presence and making the most of the resources to be found there.

Lesson Description: This lesson will take roughly three weeks to complete. Its steps, outlined on the Get Wise Online website (sites.google.com/site/cyberwits), teach students how to safely and wisely navigate the Internet. All of the resources they'll need, including handouts, videos and reference materials, are available here.

Begin by having students download all of the attachments from the Process page of the site. Before proceeding further, they should complete the "KLW" document on online culture, recording what they know and what they would like to learn about cyberbullying, online safety, social networks, sexting and online etiquette.

Have students watch the first of the 10 videos on these topics and then answer the corresponding questions outlined in the "Video Write-Ups" document. They should follow these same steps as they progress through the remaining videos. As they watch and reflect on each video, students will learn how to be more conscious of other peoples' feelings when online and how to modify their behavior to protect their physical safety, emotional health and virtual reputation.

Next, have students discuss these topics using a live-event blogging tool such as CoverItLive, which enables real-time collaboration and commentary among users. Once students have received feedback from their peers, they should select a relevant topic to explore further.

To complete the lesson, students must create a final product that educates and inspires audiences about their chosen topic. Using online resources and the "Plan" document from the Get Wise Online site as a guide, they should gather facts, images and videos that summarize the themes they want to communicate to their peers. Have students assemble these materials into a two- to three-minute public service announcement or multimedia presentation using Windows Movie Maker, PowerPoint, or other video editing or presentation software. They can find free music and audio clips to incorporate into their projects at OpSound and other similar sites. (Sample plans and presentations, plus a grading rubric, are available on the Get Wise Online site.)

Conclude the lesson with a class screening and discussion of the final products. The presentations also can be shared with other classrooms and schools, if desired.

Subject Area: This lesson was developed for an eighth-grade class on computers and the Internet, but it could be adapted for other grade levels and subjects.

Curriculum Standards: This lesson addresses many of the National Educational Technology Standards for Students set forth by the International Society for Technology in Education.


Grading Rubric: Students should be evaluated based on the quality of their final product, including the accuracy of their content, work ethics, spelling and grammar, and respect for copyright laws.

Teaching Tips

  • If students don't have access to YouTube in the classroom, screen and discuss the videos as a group. Tools such as Any Video Converter make it possible to download videos for later viewing from any device.
  • Warn students to be mindful of copyright restrictions when choosing music and videos for their presentations. Content on the Get Wise Online site is copyright-free.
  • Consider having students form small groups to produce their final products. Working with peers tends to generate more enthusiasm for the material.