National Writing Project

Spotlight on Common Sense Media

By: Tiffany Chiao
Date: November 8, 2011

Summary: Common Sense Media helps kids navigate the Internet safely and interact with their peers in a responsible, respectable manner—and provides resources for parents and curriculum for teachers to serve those ends.

 

In today's world, technology advances at breakneck speeds. New forms of social media pop up with each passing second, and younger and younger generations grow up using the Internet, watching TV, and communicating with others online or on phones on a daily basis.

Parents and educators alike find themselves hard-pressed to keep up with the fast-paced influx of new information and can't always keep an eye on what their children or students do online. That's why finding ways to teach kids how to navigate the Internet safely and interact with their peers in a responsible, respectable manner on their own has become a top priority.

It was in response to this concern that Common Sense Media emerged, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping the relationship between media and users healthy.

"We created Common Sense Media to give parents, educators, and young people a choice and a voice in the media and technology that's everywhere in our lives. Today, with our kids growing up in a 24/7 media environment, our mission has never been more important," said Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media.

Being empowered to understand what is at stake is an essential part of being a literate person in today's world.

Common Sense Media's reach has expanded significantly since launching eight years ago. Their free digital library, widely used in all states and 70 countries, contains an education program for parents and an online curriculum for classrooms .

Support from the public from continues to grow as well, including partnerships with schools, foundations, businesses, and others who work with Common Sense Media to spread the importance of safe digital use.

"I love this idea of having a driver's license for kids to navigate the Internet....Our children can be trusted to make the right decisions, if they know. That, too, is part of common sense," said former President Bill Clinton at the 7th Annual Common Sense Media Awards.

Reviews, Advice, Programs, and More

Common Sense Media provides exactly what its name states: sound, practical advice for safely navigating and using technology.

Their website gives consumers information on various types of media, including reviews on movies, books, games, and more, in order to give them a say in what they experience so often.

In addition, they provide free tips and lessons for safe, smart online browsing with their Digital Literacy Curriculum , which covers topics from cyberbullying to social networking to gaming.

According to Rebecca Randall, vice president of Education Programs at Common Sense Media, each component of the curriculum is designed to give students the necessary tools and training "so that they will be equipped to go online on their own to use the Internet for research, schoolwork, and fun, while behaving safely and responsibly."

Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum

During the NWP 2010 Annual Meeting, Common Sense Media gave each attendee a USB that contained the Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum.

The curriculum, which includes lesson plans, assessments, videos, handouts, and more for teachers, students, and parents to use, is a great tool for encouraging writing in the classroom and receiving responses from students. It focuses on skills related to "critical thinking, media literacy, online research, email and appropriate online writing based on audience, as well as 21st century and college-readiness skills practice," goals that the NWP subscribes to as well.

Several National Writing Project teachers also had a hand in creating the curriculum, acting as "Master Teacher Reviewers" who helped revise the curriculum to create a thoroughly comprehensive and instructive product to be used by schools all over the nation. 

Andrea Zellner, a Red Cedar Writing Project teacher-consultant, remarked on its accessibility in classrooms and the value of the topics addressed for students.

"As teachers of writing, it has never been more important to consider and explore the ways this culture both improves our lives as well as hindering it," she said. "Being empowered to understand what is at stake is an essential part of being a literate person in today's world."

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