Episode 149: KidCitizen with Ilene & Michael Berson

In episode 149, Dan and Michael chat with Ilene & Michael Berson of the University of South Florida about their KidCitizen app, cybersafety, and other digital resources that can support social studies instruction whether your class meets at school or remotely.

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Books, Articles and Other Amazing Resources



  1. You can find the KidCitizen site at https://www.kidcitizen.net.
  2. Here’s one of the Berson’s many cybersecurity articles: Berson, M., & Berson, I. (2014). Bringing the cybersecurity challenge to the social studies classroom. Social Education, 78(2), 96-100.
  3. Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Snow, B. (2017). KidCitizen: Designing an app for inquiry with primary sources. Social Education, 81(2), 105-108.
  4. Ledford, E., Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Ledford, A. (2019). Mrs. Mink goes to Washington: The first Japanese American member of Congress. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 32(2),10-15.
  5.  Varga, B. A., Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Snow, B. (2019). Behind the lens: Sourcing photographs with KidCitizen. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 31(4), 28-32.
  6. Episode 94 of the Reset podcast, “How congress is trying to end child abuse online,” and discussion of the EARN IT Act.
  7.  Leah Plunkett’s 2019 book, Sharenthood: Why We Should Think before We Talk about Our Kids Online


Dr. Michael J. Berson is a Professor of Social Science Education at the University of South Florida and a Senior Fellow in The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. He coordinates the USF College of Education Ph.D. Program in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Social Science Education. Dr. Berson has received the USF Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, was twice chosen as the USF nominee for the United States Professor of the Year Program sponsored by CASE and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was honored with the USF Institute on Black Life Advisory Committee Outstanding Faculty Service Award, was recognized for his service learning work by the University of South Florida Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships, and has received international recognition for integrating emerging technologies into instruction and modeling innovative pedagogy. He also was honored with the National Council for the Social Studies President’s Award for outstanding contribution to the field and was selected for the Florida Council for the Social Studies International Relations Award for his research in global child advocacy. Dr. Berson has served as an advisor on cybersecurity and the integration of technology into education to companies and organizations throughout the world. Among his leadership positions, he was elected Chair of the College and University Faculty Assembly of the National Council for the Social Studies, Vice President of the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education, President of the Social Science Education Consortium, and a member of the Advisory Board for the International Society for the Social Studies. Dr. Berson has extensively published books, chapters, and journal articles and presented his research worldwide. He was named the Association of Educational Publishers Distinguished Achievement Award Winner in the Learned Article category. He has grants from the United States Department of Education, Florida Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the Library of Congress.

Dr. Ilene R. Berson is a Professor of Early Childhood at the University of South Florida and coordinates the Early Childhood Doctoral program in the Department of Teaching and Learning. She also holds affiliate faculty status in Learning Design and Technology as well as Qualitative Research. Dr. Berson teaches courses on Early Childhood Integrated Social Studies, Humanities and Arts; ICT in the Early Years; Visual Research Methods; and Cybersecurity in the Schools. She conducts participatory research to explore young children’s civic engagement through multiple literacies and studies the intersection of technology and the pedagogy of inquiry in the early years with a focus on children’s affordances of ICT innovations. She also has led international studies on integrating social justice and child advocacy into early childhood teacher preparation. Dr. Berson’s internationally recognized work on the integration of digital play with tangible technologies in the early childhood environment has informed the design of digital resources and classroom pedagogies. Her findings provide insight as to how preschool children develop spatial reasoning and transversal competences, including problem solving, inquiry and computational thinking and communication skills as they play with tangible technologies. Moreover, her research on cybercitizenship spans over two decades and has sought to optimize the engagement of young students’ access and use of digital technologies by preparing children and youth to question information sources and assess their legitimacy, engage in critical decision-making to inform constructive choices and behaviors, and evaluate messages intended to manipulate beliefs and actions. She studies the effects of cyberliteracy and concepts of cybercitizenship on risk and decision-making behaviors with digital technologies. Dr. Berson has met with policy leaders worldwide to discuss children in digital spaces. She has been a key presenter on Issues of Human Behavior in On-line Security and Privacy Protection at a U.S. Senate Policy Forum on Privacy, Security and Identity in a Networked, Data Driven Educational Environment; an invited speaker at Oxford University to discuss her research on children and privacy infringements in a digital age; invited to speak in the UK at Parliament; and has been the keynote presenter at several conferences in New Zealand that brought international researchers together to focus on the social impact of the Internet. Dr. Berson has authored over 120 publications, and has extensively disseminated her research, delivering keynote addresses worldwide. Her most recent book is titled Participatory methodologies to elevate children’s voice and agency, and she led the development of the Policy Statement on Early Childhood Social Studies for the National Council for the Social Studies. Other recent publications have appeared in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Multicultural Perspectives, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Social Education, the Journal of Social Studies Research, and Social Studies and the Young Learner. Dr. Berson has been the principal investigator on numerous grants from organizations such as the Spencer Foundation, the Library of Congress, the Florida Department of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop innovative solutions that promote young children’s well-being and educational outcomes. She has been honored for her outstanding contributions and excellence in teaching, research, and service, receiving recognitions that include the USF President’s Award for Women in Leadership, USF Global Academic Partner Scholar, USF Institute on Black Life Service Award, USF Office of Undergraduate Research CREATTE Scholar, American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group Research in Global Child Advocacy Distinguished Service Award, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Excellence in Evaluation Award, and the National Child Labor Committee Service Award.

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