Personal vs. Private Information:

Using Avatars to Teach Internet Safety -- Susan Oxnevad

  • Curriculum area: Internet Safety
  • Grade level: 4-5


Students will distinguish between personal vs. private information, then create avatars and pen names for participating in online projects. Students will write and publish a story about their avatars.


Students will
  • distinguish between personal vs. private information.
  • create avatars and pen names to protect their identities when publishing and collaborating online.
  • agree to follow publishing safety rules and web etiquette.
  • publish a story that includes only personal information

Tool or technology:

  • Build an Avatar Playlist
  • Windows 7 snipping tool
  • Choice of publishing tools:
    • VoiceThread, a tool for holding online conversations about media
    • Google Presentation, PowerPoint online, part of Google Apps, access through your district email
    • Blogger, a web log
    • Wikispaces, an interactive website in which members contribute

NETS-S: National Education Technology Standards for Students

View standards covered

Lesson Overview:

*Teachers: Before starting this lesson, look at the Publishing Options below and choose one.

Whole Group Discussion:

  1. Personal vs. Private information. Use CyberSmart handout as a guideline for discussion,View handout
  2. Discuss "Live and WorldWide" on the web.
  3. What's an avatar? An avatar is an online identify used to allow users to have a personality while protecting private information. Brainstorm places on the Internet in which avatars are used. (Gmail, FaceBook, Student Projects)
  4. Discuss Publishing Safety Guidelines and Web Etiquette

Hands on Activity:

If you don't have time or access to computer, please consider assigning this as a fun homework task. BuildYourWildSelf is a very easy tool to use and students should be able to complete it independently.
  1. Create an avatar
    1. Create your avatar..
      Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!
    2. Take a snapshot of your avatar. How do I take a snapshot?
    3. Save the avatar snapshot in a location for easy retrieval. (Computer desktop, flash drive)
    4. Create a pen name. Use something you can remember and spell, but please do not use your real name. Be creative!
    5. Suggestion for teachers: Use a Google Form to collect information about students' pen names vs. real names. See example

Next Steps: Assign a Writing Activity and Publish

Writing choices:

  1. Write a story about "Your Wild Self Avatar" Be sure to include only personal information.
  2. Write a story from your avatar's point of view.

*Publishing options: Choice for Teachers - Choose 1 Activity:

See additional resources below after choosing your tool.
  • Upload the avatars to VoiceThread and ask students to read them. View sample
  • Upload the avatars and stories to Google Presentation and publish.
  • Create a discussion blog and allow students to respond to questions and ideas through the comments section of the blog, using their avatars and pen names. View sample
  • Use this activity to kickoff a wiki project. Students can write and publish stories in a wiki, then later upload the avatars to the profile page of a wiki and introduce a discussion to introduce their avatars. View sample

Additional resources: