Illustration for "Online Is Real" - Figure looking at city composed of ones and zeros

Teachers’ Resources, Module 7:

The online world is inseparable from the “real” world

About This Lesson Module:

The lesson elements in this module teach students about the privacy principle “The online world is inseparable from the ‘real’ world”. They are designed to be independent and flexible, so you can incorporate them into any size lesson plan.

Summary of Learning Objectives: Students can give examples of how online and offline activities affect each other; students can think imaginatively about the potential consequences of their posts for themselves and others.

Target Age: High school, college undergraduate.

Learning Objectives
  1. Students can critically examine the relationship between online and offline activities. They can outline example scenarios in which information originating online could affect their offline interactions, and vice versa.
  2. Students can explain how their online presence (both their intentional posts and other parts of their information footprint) might have a larger audience than that of which they are aware, and give examples of who might be in that larger audience.
  3. Students can identify privacy settings on a particular app or site they use regularly and edit their settings according to their preferences.
  4. Students can explain how interacting with privacy settings allows them to minimize who can see their personal information and posts.
  5. Students reflect on the content that they choose to post, and can discuss the impact a post might have, or the reaction it might evoke, in a greater offline audience — not just within their circle of friends or followers.
  6. Students can describe how they might approach a friend or family member to discuss privacy preferences.
Curriculum Standards Addressed

Lesson elements in this module can be used to address the following computer-science curricular standards.

AP Computer Science Principles Curriculum Framework

The following Essential Knowledge is touched on:

  • Under Big Idea 7: Global Impact: 7.1.1A, 7.1.1C, 7.1.1H, 7.1.1M, 7.3.1A, 7.3.1G.
CSTA K–12 Computer Science Standards (Level 3 — High School)

Elements substantially address the following learning objective under Level 3, Course 3A: Computer Science in the Modern World:

  • CI.1. Compare appropriate and inappropriate social networking behaviors.

The following learning objectives are also touched on:

  • Under Level 3, Course 3A: Computer Science in the Modern World: CI.4; CI.8; CI.10.
  • Under Level 3, Course 3B: Computer Science Concepts and Practices: CI.1.
ACM Computer Science Curricula 2013 (CS2013) Guidelines (Undergraduate)

The following Learning Outcomes are touched on:

  • Under Networking and Communication: Social Networking 2.
  • Under Social Issues and Professional Practice: Social Context 1.

“Engage” Activities:

Use one or more of these lesson elements to introduce the topic and ignite students’ interest.

Quick Opening Questions (Whole-Class Mini-Discussion)

Estimated Time: 3-5 minutes.
What You’ll Need: Blackboard/whiteboard (optional).

Ignite Question

Is the way you present yourself on the Internet part of who you really are?

Fanning the Fires:

  • Is the way you present yourself at school part of who you really are?
  • The way you present yourself when hanging out with your friends?
Quick Knowledge Check

Can the things you do on the Internet affect you offline?

Follow-Up Prompts (If Students Get Stuck):

  • Can you get kicked out of school or lose your job because of something you say or do online?
  • Because of something someone else says about you online?
  • Can you be mad at someone in person about something they said online?
News Stories You Can Use
The Quick Hook

Estimated Time: 2-5 minutes per story.
What You’ll Need: Computer and projector (optional).

These news items can be used to illustrate the real-life consequences of privacy breaches. If you have a computer and projector, you can show the stories on a screen as you talk about them. If not, you can simply summarize them verbally.

Online ‘Shaming’: A New Level of Cyberbullying for Girls
  • Summary: Teenage girls face “slut shaming” online and offline after their boyfriends post explicit photos and videos of them, some captured without their knowledge.
  • Content Advisory: The article references sex and sexually explicit images.
Florida Man Fired After Facebook Post Saying He Wants to Marry His Dog
  • Summary: After the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage is released, a man posts a derogatory Facebook status that costs him his job.
Amanda Todd Case Highlights Issue of Online Bullying
  • Summary: Twelve-year old agrees to flash an older man in a web-cam chat; he later finds her and shares the photo with everyone she knows; after years of bullying, she commits suicide.
  • Content Advisory: The article includes discussion of a picture of breasts and of an online sexual predator, and describes Amanda Todd’s drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. The story may be particularly distressing for students who have experienced bullying or sexual harassment/abuse.
Man Accused of ‘Digitally Kidnapping’ 4-Year-Old on Facebook
  • Summary: A New York man copies photos from a Dallas woman’s Facebook page and claims her daughter is his own.
  • Note: Whether or not students agree that “digital kidnapping” is a valid framing, this story can spark a discussion about why the mother would view it that way.

Optional Extension

Estimated Additional Time: 5-7 minutes per story.

For each news item, ask the students:

  • Did the conflict originate online or offline?
  • Did the victim or user foresee the conflict’s outcome? If no, could they have?
  • What could the victim or user have done differently to prevent the conflict?
  • Who else could have helped to prevent the conflict?
  • Is there any way that the conflict could have remained separate from the “real” world? Or was it inherently relevant to “real” life?

“Explore” Activities:

Use one or more of these lesson elements to ground students’ learning in firsthand experience with how privacy works.

Whole-Class Brainstorm & Discussion: What's the Difference?

Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes.
What You’ll Need: Blackboard/whiteboard (optional).

Ask students to give examples of some differences between how people act online and how they act offline. Answers can be written on the board.

Follow-Up Prompts (If Students Get Stuck):

  • Do people say things online that they wouldn’t say in person? What kinds of things?
  • How does a conversation held in person differ from a conversation by text message or chat app?

Note: It may be helpful to suggest students keep it general and refrain from personal examples, especially about other people.

Pick a few interesting examples from the list of differences and ask:

  • Why do you think people do this differently online than they would in person?
  • For online behaviors: What do you think the consequences of that online behavior or action might be?
    • Online consequences?
    • Offline consequences?
  • For offline behaviors: How might that offline behavior or action affect the person online?
  • Possible examples: Someone might post a picture of it or talk about it online.

Wrap-up Question: Are offline actions more “real” than online actions?

Worksheet Activity: Could You Score Yourself a Job?

Estimated Time: 8-12 minutes.
What You’ll Need: Copies of the worksheet; pens/pencils.

Students review their own social-media postings and take a Cosmo-style quiz to determine which characteristics might discourage potential employers from hiring them — or possibly encourage them to hire.

Download Worksheet: “Employability Quiz: Could You Score Yourself a Job?”

Once students are done calculating their scores, use the following guide to tell them what their scores mean.

Total points < -5…

  • Your online presence suggests that you’re quite the questionable candidate! Many employers might be wary of hiring you, so you might only get job offers from employers who aren’t too choosy.
Total points between -5 and -1…

  • Your online actions suggest that you’re a debatable candidate! Some of your online actions are questionable, yet you have also done some positive things. You may sit through a few interviews before the right employer decides to give you a chance!
Total points between 0 and 5…

  • Your online actions suggest that you’re not a bad candidate! There’s little to nothing that would make an employer think you’d be risky to hire.
Total points > 5…

  • Your online actions suggest that you’re a great candidate! Your online reputation is not only clean of negative aspects, but also conveys you in a good light.
Sources for Quiz Questions:

How potential employers use social media:

Perception of usernames:

“Explain” Activities:

Use one or more of these lesson elements to provide students with important facts and underlying concepts.

Slide Deck for "Online Is Real"

Estimated Time: 5-10 minutes.
What You’ll Need: Computer and projector.

These slides can be used for an overview lecture on the basic concepts underlying the principle “The online world is inseparable from the ‘real’ world”. The slides are accompanied by Notes with details and examples to guide your lecture.

Access Slide Deck: “Online Is Real”

Coming soon! We will be adding a graphic organizer to guide students’ notetaking.

Related Readings from Blown to Bits

The Blown to Bits textbook covers a wide spectrum of ideas related to Internet privacy, with a particular focus on the new, unique, ever-changing nature of the Internet.

Online Version: Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion, by Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, and Harry Lewis

You can assign students all or parts of the following chapters for an in-depth but engaging exploration of the ideas covered in Module 5.

  • Chapter 2: Naked in the Sunlight: Privacy Lost, Privacy Abandoned — Excerpt
  • Content Advisory: Blown to Bits refers to STI outbreaks and discusses the dangers of sending sexually explicit content online.

“Elaborate” Activities:

Use one or more of these lesson elements to go deeper into the underlying concepts and/or let students practice important privacy skills.

In-Class Whole-Group Activity: For Real Friends

Estimated Time: 20-30 minutes.
What You’ll Need: Computers for students (or smartphones), with access to social-media sites; scrap paper and pens/pencils (optional)

Tell students to open up Facebook or another social-media site in a web browser. Have students write down the number of friends, followers, or contacts they have on that site or service.

Now tell students to browse through their friend/follower/contact lists, and see if they know everyone on these lists. Tell students to keep a list of people that they don’t know or are unsure about, as well as people they have not contacted in a year or more.

Next, tell students to go to their profile and open the “view as” feature. (This is a Facebook-specific feature; if students are using another site or service, just tell them to imagine viewing their page as this person.) Have students select one of the people from the list of strangers or old acquaintances and view their profiles as this person. Make a list of information that this person would be able to gather (locations, birth date, vacation spots, etc.).

Tell students to imagine the different ways in which this person, or someone else from their list, might use or abuse this information. Ask:

  • What if this person…
    • showed up at your birthday party?
    • showed up somewhere that you had checked in?
    • showed up at your house?
    • robbed your house while you were away?

Encourage students to have a discussion about their findings, and remove non-friends if desired.

  • If there are students who don’t use social-media sites (or even if they all do), this can be a partner activity.

“Evaluate” Activities:

Use one or more of these lesson elements to assess students’ understanding of the material and development of new skills.

Review Questions (Quiz/Homework)

Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes.
What You’ll Need: Copies of review sheet.

This learning assessment can be used as an in-class quiz or as homework.

Download Assessment: “Online Is Real: Review Questions”

Teachers: Find out how to access the answer key for the Module 7 review questions.

More for Teachers

Resources and background information to help you brush up on the technical nitty-gritty and be prepared for student questions.

Coming soon! In the meantime, check out the main web page for Online Is Real.

Other Recommended Classroom Resources for “Online Is Real”
Poster: I Took a Photo of My Friend That I Want to Share… Now What?
Lesson Plan: Private Today, Public Tomorrow
  • Target grades: 9–12
  • Summary: In this lesson, students learn how to be responsible for others’ privacy when posting information online. Students read about real-world cases and create materials about how they would prevent information leaks. Note: Teacher registration required.
  • Produced by: Common Sense Education/Common Sense Media
  • Link:
Activities and Videos: Social Networking; Revealing Too Much
  • Target grades: K–12
  • Summary: NetSmartz has activities and videos, including some that are very teen-friendly. Resources in the “Social Networking” and “Revealing Too Much” categories focus on the potential dangers and consequences of sharing personal information on a social-networking site.
  • Produced by: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys and Girls Clubs of America
  • Link: (Note: The link is to a page where you can retrieve activities by category and grade level.)
Recommended Classroom Resources on a Related Topic: Cyberbullying
Lesson Plans: Counter Cyberbullying
Lesson Plans and Videos: Standing Up, Not Standing By: A Free Cyberbullying Toolkit for Educators

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