Professor Garfield

To be digitally literate empowers students to use digital tools - online learning enviornments, software, hardware, etc. - for critical thinking and problem solving.

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Functional Meaning Making

Operate software and/or hardware beyond functional and presentational needs

Connection: Share with students that you are going to introduce them to a website featuring a world-famous celebrity who will help them become better users of technology. Show students a picture of Garfield, and tell them that with the help of his website, we are going to learn 8 Key Components of Digital Literacy that we will refer to throughout the school year and beyond.

Teaching: Gather students together at the carpet. Ask them to think about the technology that they use at home and at school. You could also ask them to think of a time they or their parents have had a problem with technology. Then, have students turn and talk and invite a few to share their thoughts. Ask them to think about things that they do that do not require any technology at all, or activities for which technology is not necessary to have a positive experience. Ask students to again turn and talk and then share a few of their ideas.

Introduce them to the Professor Garfield website and share that you will be using this website to learn about digital citizenship. Tell them that whenever we use technology in the classroom during this school year, we will connect all of our activities to the 8 Key Components of Digital Literacy.

Watch the Functional Meaning Making video together. Discuss with students the key points:

  • Just because we know how to use devices, phones, and laptops does not mean we are technology experts.
  • Making videos and taking pictures that tell a story and have meaning, require more knowledge than simply knowing how to touch the button to take the picture or record a video.
  • Interacting with others on websites and social media require more from us than just knowing how to type and spell words.
  • We must be thoughtful about using technology and ask ourselves if it is meaningful and necessary.

Wrap Up: Make a two-column chart labeled “Technology” with “Are” and “Are Not” at the top.

Work with students to determine that technology, or devices are:

  • Tools we use to learn, create, and working together
  • A bridge to the Internet
  • (include any other reasonable idea from students)

Technology/devices are not:

  • The only tools for learning, creating, and working together
  • The only tools for completing assignments
  • Toys

Post this chart in a prominent place for the first few weeks and reference it as needed.

Incorporate technology into this lesson by making an iMovie. Ask groups of students to write the ideas from the chart on sentence strips. Make a video of one group of students explaining what technology is and another group explaining what it is not as they hold the sentence strips facing the camera. Watch the video together after it is complete and share it with parents to introduce them to your digital literacy unit.

Finding & Selecting Information

Think carefully about how to find information and use online resources to help make an argument of carry out activities.

Connection: Say to the students, “Have you ever read a book about a topic and found yourself wanting to know more? Maybe you watched a TV show with your family about sharks and wanted to find out more about them? We can use the Internet to search and find information about things that interest us.”

Teaching: Watch the Professor Garfield video, Finding and Selecting Information.   After watching, review with the students the best ways to find information on the Internet.

Model for students how to search and find information. Tell students you wonder about the different sizes of sharks.  Ask, “What would happen if we simply type in the word sharks?”  Decide to type in “sizes of sharks” and talk about the results. Remind students to look for .edu, .gov, and .org at the end of the web address.

Search for information together about a few topics of interest to the students.

Wrap Up: Put students in groups of two, and ask them to think of an animal they would like to know more about. Have students write down a phrase or question they will search. Give students some time to search for the information. Call on a few groups to share what they searched and the information they found.

No tech/low tech: Ask students to think of some topics or questions they wonder about. Give students an index card, and ask them to write how they would search for the information if they were using the Internet. As students are working, walk around the room, and share good examples where students are specific or use quotation marks around their wonder. Collect their cards are staple them to a “Wonder Wall” or keep them in a “Wonder Jar” to periodically search during morning meeting or at the end of the day as time allows. (You could also make a chart that looks like a search engine, and put their wonders there and do the same activity)

***A fun follow-up to this activity would be to introduce students to the website Wonderopolis.

Effective Communication

Effectively communicate using digital tools and in online spaces

Connection: Show students the high five sign or clap out a rhythm to get their attention. Tell them, “Learning to be an effective communicator is something you began to develop the moment you first stepped into a classroom in kindergarten. You learned how to talk to people to make friends, knew when you had done something to hurt someone’s feelings by the way they reacted, or understood when your teacher wanted your attention, even when she did not say a word!”

Teaching: We can also communicate with one another using technology, and it is very important that we are clear and that people understand what we mean. Watch the Effective Communication video to learn some ways to effectively communicate using technology.

After watching, remind students that to communicate digitally we should:

  • Be honest, clear, and respectful
  • Communicate about the types of technology you want to use when collaborating

Use your smartboard or projector to show a variety of pictures and have the students orally practice the response they would make if these pictures were online. Choose pictures that may solicit a variety of responses. Model for the students that their replies need to make sense and promote kindness. Discuss what they might say if the picture does not appeal to them and how they can reply in a constructive way. You may also talk about how to reply in a way that keeps the conversation going.

Wrap Up: (Set up a Seesaw account prior to this activity.) Introduce students to the Seesaw app. Tell them you are going to make a post and practice how to use effective communication skills to make comments on your post. Post your picture, and allow students time to post their comments and interact with one another.

No tech/low tech: Put a picture on large poster sized paper and ask the students to  comment on an index card. Post the index cards on the chart and discuss. (You may add a few non-examples of good comments to help with the discussion).


Work effectively in online collaborative enviornments

Connection: Gather students together at the carpet.

Open the Popplet app on your iPad and project it on your screen. Tell students they are going to learn about how to collaborate to make a chart in this app. Before you can do this you will explore what it means to collaborate.

Teaching: Watch the Collaboration video together. Stop and explain that collaboration involves everyone and that we must be respectful of everyone’s ideas when we work together.

Make a Popplet together to teach students your expectations and rules of iPad use in the classroom. Be sure you instruct students how to use the app as you collaborate.

Some ideas include:

  • Have clean/dry hands when using
  • Keep it in a safe place; do not leave on the floor
  • Carry with two hands
  • Put it in its space and on the charger at the end of each day
  • Stay in the app your teacher wants you working in
  • Keep your iPad clean
  • Use your iPad to create and have fun

Wrap up: Remind students of the iPad expectations and that they need to remember to follow those rules them whenever they are using their devices.

Low tech/no tech: Put students in small groups to build towers out of red plastic cups. Tell them they must collaborate to build the tallest, strongest tower they can in a given amount of time. Call out ways you notice them collaborating by involving everyone and respecting each other’s ideas. To add tech to this, students can take a picture of their tower and discuss ways that they collaborated. Ask them to reflect on whether everyone had a voice and whether they were respectful of each other’s ideas.

Critical Thinking

Think critically about which digital technology to use when creating multimedia content or specific purposes and audiences

Connection: Say to the students, “This summer, while playing outside with our dog, Lucky, my son accidentally threw her frisbee on the roof. He then spent the next hour trying all kinds of ways to get the frisbee down. He tried to stand on a chair and get it with a large stick. He then tried flinging the large stick, which did not work at all (the large stick was now stuck, too). He then got a ladder and a broom and was able to successfully get everything that was not supposed to be on the roof, off of the roof.

When using technology and creating and collaborating with devices, you must be able to think critically.

Teaching: Watch the  video, Critical Thinking from Professor Garfield  to learn more about how to think critically and problem solve.  

After watching you might role play the following:

  • You disagree with your friend about what to play at recess. Role play how you might problem solve this issue.
  • There is one cookie left in the cookie jar. You and your brother both want it. Role play how you might solve this problem.

Wrap Up: Discuss with students different ideas they had for thinking critically to solve the problems. Tell them that this time they will do the say kind of problem solving with tech. Give them one of the following scenarios on a strip of paper. Ask them to think critically about the problem and jot some ideas for ways to solve it.

  • Your friend posted some work online that has some mistakes that make it hard to read. Think critically to decide what you might do to help them solve this problem.
  • Your friend posted a Pic Collage poster of her favorite books. You do not like the books, but have some others titles that you think she might like to read. What kind of comment could you make on her post that is both kind and helpful?
  • Your brother loves to play online video games with his friends. You notice he is staying up very late playing and having trouble getting up for school in the morning. What are some ideas to help your brother solve this problem?
  • Your class is learning about endangered animals and you want to share the information with others. What are some ways you could use technology to help you do this?

After students have jotted their ideas, tell them they will make a FlipGrid video to share their creative problem solving. Model for students how to reply to the prompt using FlipGrid. Give them time to read their problem and share their ideas for solving it. When they are finished they may view each other’s work and make comments. Remind them about productive and positive comments and that good comments keep a conversation going. Debrief with students about some good ideas they noticed among their classmates.

No tech/low tech: Write each problem on chart paper and post around the room. Ask students to brainstorm ideas with a partner and then write it on the paper as they move about the room. After papers begin filling up with ideas, call students together to share their thinking.


Make connections between ideas and generate creative digital products

Connection: Say to the students, “When you try to create something new – a piece of art, a Lego creation, a story you are writing – is it simple? Do you sometimes have to start over when what you imagined in your head does not look that way in real life? There is a process involved in creating something new, and sometimes it takes lots of stops and starts before your creation is just right.”

Teaching: Watch the Professor Garfield video, Creativity, to find out more about what it means to create.

Share the video. Stop and discuss some of the key points.

  • Talk about process and product.
  • Ask students if there has ever been a time when creating something was difficult or happened easily. Discuss why it was hard or easy.


Wrap Up: Use creativity to make a self-portrait in an app like Pic Collage.

You may extend this activity by having students save their pictures to share in a class Padlet. Students may comment on one another’s pictures and practice making kind, appropriate comments on one another’s work.

No tech/low tech: Give a brief definition of pixels (the tiny parts that make up an image on a device). Show them an image that has been zoomed in on so the pixels are visible. Have students make torn paper self-portraits or fancy name tags using small pieces of construction paper to represent a non-digital version of the pixels in an image. Students could take a picture or make a video of their final project and share with Seesaw or a QR code


Be competent, discerning users of technology and develop skills to critically question their own and others' technology use

Connection: Ask students to imagine that they are at a busy amusement park with family. Explain that to stay safe while they are there, they would have to do certain things like make sure they stay with a parent, wear sunscreen to protect them from the sun, and follow the rules of the park.

Explain that when we use the Internet, there are also ways to stay safe. Tell students they will learn some ways we can have fun while using our devices and also stay safe.

Teaching: Watch the E-Safety video. Stop and discuss various points along the way.

After watching, give students the following scenarios, and ask them what they should do to stay safe. (You may divide them into groups and have them discuss and share or do as a whole class activity.)

What would you do if someone asked your name and age when playing a game on a website?

Your friend asks you for your Animal Jam password. Should you share it with them?

Someone sends you a private message on a gaming website you like to play on after school. Should you reply to them?

You heard about a cool website from friends at school. When you get home, you immediately sign up for a username and password. Did you do the right thing?

Review the three E-Safety tips from the video.

Wrap up: Remind students of the collaboration video from Day 2. Tell them you will collaborate to make a poster sharing the three E-Safety tips from the video. Use Pic Collage EDU to create a classroom poster.

No tech/low tech: Post the three tips on the whiteboard, and ask students to work together to make posters with construction paper and markers.  

Social & Cultrual Awareness

Understand how digital technology shapes the culture in which they live

Connection:  Say to the students, “When I was a kid, when my family planned a vacation, we bought travel books and used maps to figure out what we wanted to do and how we would get there. This summer, my own family took a vacation, and we used very different things to plan our trip. Let’s watch a video to learn more about how technology has changed the way we do many things.”

Teaching: Watch the Social and Cultural Awareness video. Discuss some ways that technology has changed our lives. For example,

  • Online school and shopping
  • Can keep us safe - find and keep track of people
  • 24-hour access to television, movies, and music

Introduce the students to Google Earth. Search your school and show them some of its features. Take a tour of the community surrounding your school.

Wrap Up: Give students time to tour Google Earth. If you are studying your local community, you may write the names of local landmarks on index cards and ask students to students  search to see where they are and what they look like.

No tech/low-tech:  Make a T-chart of ways in which technology helps us, as well as ways it can be a problem. Students may make the chart on paper or by using an app like Pic Collage.