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  • Teaching With Tech

Teaching Digital Safety With Professor Garfield

by Marjie Podzielinski
 | Jan 30, 2015

Educators are always looking for a way to teach online safety to their students. Now there are four free apps to can download to the iPad for instructional purposes. They were developed by the Virginia Department of Education and the Professor Garfield Foundation. These free apps incorporate cyberbullying, fact or opinion, online safety, and diverse forms of media. Each interactive lesson is correlated to state standards in all 50 states.

Professor Garfield Cyberbullying

The objectives of this app are:

  • Learn to recognize different forms of cyberbullying.
  • Learn different strategies for dealing with a cyberbully.
  • Learn the importance of enlisting the help of a trusted adult when cyberbullied.

Each app opens with a Garfield comic. My students love Garfield so it is easy to engage them. After Garfield receives an email message with someone using his identity, he learns all about cyberbullying. The second step is a drag and drop list to identify whether you are surfing smart or being harassed. This is interactive for the students. After four or five screens, the app concludes with another Garfield comic with a summary of the lesson. The interactive screens offer students great opportunities for problem solving and discussion.

Professor Garfield Online Safety


  • Learn how to use the Internet safely and effectively.
  • Understand that people online are not always who they say they are.
  • Learn that they should never give out personal information without an adult’spermission, especially if it conveys where they can be found at a particular time.

Children are reminded to surf smart by using the acronym “YAPPY” to remind them about personal information they should not share online:

  • Your name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Passwords
  • Your plans

Professor Garfield Fact and Opinion


  • Learn the difference between a fact and an opinion on the internet.
  • Understand that some websites contain facts, some contain opinions, and some contain both.
  • Learn that a fact can be verified.

This app helps the character Nermal write a report distinguishing fact from opinion. Students can quickly decide which statements in the report are facts and which are opinions.

Professor Garfield Forms of Media


  • Understand what forms of media we are exposed to.
  • Become aware of the goals of media: authorship, format, audience, content, and purpose.

Kids are exposed to many commercials on television. This story explores advertising for a sugary cereal.
Commercials can be a powerful influence to buy. Children learn to consider the answers to important questions: Who created the message? What grabs your attention? Music? Bright colors? Special effects? The interactive questions help viewers decide what the ads are persuading them to buy. Students create their own healthy eating choices.

Together, these interactive cartoons can lead to in-depth discussions about media messages and digital safety in the classroom. Students become more aware of advertising and are more aware of how information is shared with others on the internet. Professor Garfield is a wonderful teacher!

Marjie Podzielinski is a member of the Advisory Committee of Teachers and a librarian at Coulson Tough School in The Woodlands, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @marjiepodge.

This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).


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