This quarter in my class, Values, Ethics, and Foundations in Digital Education, one of our assignments was to interview a school administrator about the digital readiness of the district. I chose to interview the district Technology TOSA (teacher on special assignment) of a rural school district of about 4,600 students. There is one high school, two middle schools, and five elementary schools in this district. The District Tech TOSA works with K-12 staff and district administrators to integrate technology into the classrooms, provide trainings and professional development to teaching staff, and teach students technology lessons. I formed my interview questions with the help of Ribble and Miller’s article titled, “Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically”. Ribble and Miller describe nine elemental areas of digital citizenship organized under three general headings: Respect, Educate, and Protect (Ribble & Miller, 2013).
I was impressed and inspired with what this district is doing K-12 to address the needs of their students. Their digital citizenship curriculum scope and sequence is well-organized, thorough, and has continuity as students move through the grades. In addition to this curriculum, which is taught by technology specialists K-8 and in advisory classes in high school, classroom teachers are teaching students how to follow copyright laws and avoid plagiarism. Beginning in 3rd grade many teachers are using Google Classroom, among other learning management systems, and students are using Chromebooks several times a week in their general education classrooms across content areas.
I divided up the digital citizenship focuses for this district into three categories: 1) Privacy, Safety, & Security, 2) Creative Credit & Copyright, and 3) Digital Identity & Literacy. With regard to Privacy, Safety, and Security the district seems to be covering these topics well using selected Common Sense Media lessons, which include a Family Tip Sheet. This area is evolving so quickly and an area I see a need in the near future is social media citizenship and safety. Students are becoming members of social media platforms at younger ages and with these digital communities come different sets of citizenship and safety guidelines. The district has a strong program in place to address harassment, bullying, and intimidation and cyberbullying is included under the umbrella of bullying. Creative Credit and Copyright is actually first addressed in Kindergarten, but really begins in 3rd grade. Students are receiving formal lessons on as part of the district Digital Citizenship curriculum, but after my interview with the Tech TOSA, it appears like classroom teachers are also covering this topic heavily in their classrooms, especially in the older grades. Some next steps in this area might be looking into using more OER (open education resources) and teaching the older students what these are and the benefits of OER as well as making sure all teachers are aware of the current copyright laws regarding use of digital content so they are able to model and teach their students best practices. Digital Identity and Literacy is an enormous topic and has some many components. One of the key ideas in Digital Literacy is integration. Our students are digital natives and do not see technology as a separate subject area. In order to be most efficient with our instruction, teachers need to incorporate technology into what is already happening in the classrooms. One of the goals of technology is efficiency and with all that is expected to be taught in a school year, efficiency is a desirable and powerful feature in K-12 public education. Digital identity and one’s digital footprint is a crucial topic for older students as they begin to assert their independence and presence online. Participation in the digital world, while so powerful and enriching, can be a high stakes endeavour. It is a fine balance for us as educators to teach our students the incredible power of using technology while warning them of the dangers and temptations that can result from irresponsible (or simply uninformed) digital participation.
I learned a great deal during this experience; the most noteworthy was how much we need to be teaching and how quickly what we need to be teaching is evolving with regard to technology. This is an area where we, as educators, need to keep up with current trends and shifting digital participation by our students. Our task is tremendous, but with careful planning, engaging delivery of information, and meaningful integration of digital practices into our classrooms, we are well-equipped to meet the needs of the emerging digital citizens in our classrooms.
Ribble, M., & Miller, T.N. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137-145.
Common Sense Media for Educators (accessed December 12, 2017) https://www.commonsense.org/education/