As we know, technology integration into learning is pervasive in a large number of schools around the world. For those schools who have not embraced technology or are early in their journeys, technology is still ubiquitous in the world that students inhabit. However, a majority of our technology efforts focus on teaching and learning, which specific attention on classroom based learning activities. This has led to a significant gap in our duty of care in learning for students and a dire need for Digital Citizenship.
As an aside, I once heard a mind-boggling statistic about student-teacher contact. If you take a student from kindergarten (pre-year 1) to the end of high school (secondary school), and you assume perfect attendance over that period of time, you find that students only have contact with their teachers 6% of their lives. BTW, I haven’t verified this figure, so please don’t shoot the messenger. Yet, it makes sense when you account for recess, lunch periods, weekends, vacations, before and after school, and the all important sleeping time. We educators just don’t have a lot of time with our students.
Now, technology does have quite a bit of time with students; far more than 6% for sure. Due to that fact, it is incumbent on us – teachers, administrators, parents – to teach students about using technology. That will be, and is, the currency of health and prosperity for them in the modern world. Further, as a school that provides 1:1 access to technology and expects its use in all elements of teaching and learning, we must provide educational programs and support for non-academic technology based learning…and we must do it in partnership with parents and the broader community.
This is where we went 100% all in on Digital Citizenship.
In previous posts, I have talked about Digital Citizenship being the bridge to modern education. Now, I would like to discuss how we operationalized that effort to involve all students, teachers, and parents while embedding Digital Citizenship into all elements of our academic program.
To start, we embraced the holy grail of Digital Citizenship resourcing: Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media (CSM) is a not-for-profit organization providing standards, benchmarks, curriculum, and resources for all things Digital Citizenship. They have materials that can be used by students, teachers, and parents directly from their site, free of charge, that is contextualized to nearly all needs. This content was the basis of our Digital Citizenship program development.
Most importantly, we invested in our stakeholders.
With our parents, we amplified our semi-annual digital parenting workshops by developing a parent ambassador program. Using CSM materials, we created a program where we trained a group of parents on the essential elements of Digital Citizenship then gave them a full tour of the CSM site and available resources. Now parents that are having issues can meet with these ambassadors, who are their peers and not employed by the school, to discuss Digital Citizenship using the same language and knowledge base we use within the rest of the community.
To embed Digital Citizenship in all of our academic and pastoral (social-emotional) programs, we invested in our teachers. As of this year, each of our teachers will become Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Certified Educators. This program from CSM is amazing. Each teacher is required to: a) complete training on the CSM standards, b) integrate CSM materials into roughly 4 of their lessons, and c) engage with their community around Digital Citizenship. This is not a heavy lift for teachers and the results are amazing.
For the training, our Learning Technology team put together an hour long self paced training course on our learning management system. We drew materials from the CSM site and generated some activities and scenarios to make the learning more meaningful. For other schools, they can easily create a short training course or rely on the materials directly available from CSM.
For the four hours of integration, we have made it clear we are looking for integration not replacement. We have helped teachers modify existing lessons to include elements of CSM’s materials, curriculum, and core concepts. For example, a lesson on cellular biology can now have internet based materials where we talk about fair use, copyright, information literacy, and cyber protection. We have all teachers doing this at the school, including our PE department and pre-school.
For the home engagements, we ask teachers to send materials home to parent as part of their normal communications or discuss CSM materials as part of their parent-teacher conferences. We also provide school-wide engagements and materials that teachers can reference in their applications.
Our teachers then register on the CSM site and provide evidence of their completion. Once done, they are certified by CSM for that academic year. Being an international school we recommend teachers use their personal email addresses to register so they can take their certifications with them as they transition to other schools.
The benefits for us have been immense. They include:
- Integration of Digital Citizenship concepts in all elements of the school’s academic programs and school community.
- Engaged parents
- Informed students
- Trained teachers with resume-building certification
- Consistent review and focus on these materials.*
As a result of our programs, our students have been far more engaged, efficient, safe, and cognizant of their digital lives. Our incidents of cyber-bullying and unsafe activities has decreased and our engagements in STEM and digital literacies has grown. Our partnerships with parents had improved. And our teachers have shown incredible engagement with the program which has resulted in more innovative uses of technology for learning.
* One quick note about CSM certification: unlike other certifications, CSM only lasts for one year. Teachers have to re-certify to keep current. This is a minor exercise as the requirements are not difficult. It benefits us as a school because it is an areas of training we revisit annually ensuring our teachers stay up to date.
Please contact me if you would like further information on how we have integrated Digital Citizenship across all areas of the school.