Tag Archives: Academic Technology

Creating a Culture of Positive Digital Citizenship

My first session of the day is “Creating a Culture of Positive Digital Citizenship” by Matt Scully and Derrick Willard from Providence Day School. I had the privilege of visiting Providence Day last year when I was in North Carolina for a conference. If you are in the neighborhood, I urge you to drop by. They are a school on the progressive, cutting edge of educational technology while maintaining rigorous academic standards. This is live blogged, so please excuse the typos and some poor phrasing!

Providence Day has published a Professional Development eBook. You can get more of the resources here.

Copy of Providence Country Day School Digital Citizenship Compass http://pddigitalcitizenship.wordpress.com/

Copy of Providence Day School Digital Citizenship Compass

After an exercise in groups where we explored what issues our schools are facing with regards to digital citizenship and actions our school is taking, we explored other group’s answers. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap; social media was a primary concern all around (for both students and faculty), as was online dangers and ethics and student devices. The strongest theme in the room was “control,” control of access and behavior.

We all have different definitions of Digital Citizenship. If you look at DigitalCitizenship.net, they will have a number of definitions and resources for you.

Matt states that at Providence Day, they realized that faculty/staff, students, and parents all needed to be engaged in the conversation about Digital Citizenship. All of the actors have different relationships with technological tools and resources from very savvy to luddite. When they engaged the community at Providence Day, they found that there was a sliding scale between “Appropriate Usage Policies” to “Appropriate Usage Guides.” So this was not a cause and effect punishment type model. Instead, they focus on guiding and then dealing with consequences as necessary. They wanted to provide the community with a common language, so that they could have meaningful conversations. They also wanted to engage the community with programming and resources. They also wanted to make the experience and discussion positive. This is moving away from an an Appropriate Usage Policy model and moving more towards guides. I’m a fan of getting away from “stranger danger” and “danger-tale” stories. Scare tactics may work in the short-term, but they aren’t effective in the long term and do not teach student’s necessary skills.

By bringing parents into the discussion, they could draw on the community to engage students both on and off campus. With a common language, they were able to have more meaningful conversations. When tough discussions had to happen, they could do it effectively. Also, use non-technical language so that it is accessible to those who are slick and savvy or those just getting acquainted with the digital world.

In addition to discussion, they put together an iTunesU iBook. This brought together a series of resources to have discussions or engage activities, geared towards appropriate grade level. Derek is quick to point out that this is not a curriculum, it is a teacher resource. For parents, they recommend “Parenting in the Digital Age.” This was created and curated by Matt and provides resources for parents to engage with their children at home and so that they have the power to engage students.

Teaching Empathy: Cultivating Communities of Kindness in the Digital Age

The next sessions I’m attending is “Teaching Empathy: Culivating Communities of Kindness in the Digital Age” with Andrea Hernandez  of the Martin J. Gottleib Day School in Jacksonville, Florida, Vinnie Vrotny, the Director of Academic Technology at Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, Devorah Heitner an educational consult, and Mike Kirchberg, a parent at the Sacred Heart Schools of Chicago.

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

One of the key elements with the digital world is taking advantage of teaching opportunities – students will make mistakes and it’s important to use them as a chance to redirect and guide them appropriately. For example, commenting on other student blogs requires thought and productivity. Students write their own commenting policy for their blog, e.g. “do not use text talk,” “be kind not rude.” These types of lessons can help them when they go out and comment on other peoples’ blogs. Not only do students need direction on this, so do teachers. They promote concepts of digital footprints.

Another key element is that there is a lot of fear for access (what will kids find) and the mistakes that they make. she highlights Carl Hooker’sTwo-Eyes, Two-Feet App;” you must walk around the room and see what your students are doing. You cannot leave them to their own devices. Additionally, you have to address parental concerns – will their students’ content be global, local, or entirely private. Additionally, it’s important to include formal and informal parent conversations in the form of connect coffee houses and evening workshops. Parent involvement and knowledge is an important piece of the picture. Overall, it’s about building a community. This aids in building a common language and promoting kindness and compassion among the students.

Vinnie Vrotney, the Director of Academic Technology, discusses his role as both a Director of Academic Technology as well as a parent who struggles with this content. Quest Academy focuses on PK-8th. Quest focuses on gifted children and also focuses on important personality traits such as respect, responsibility, generosity, gratitude, self-discipline, honesty, etc. These character traits are important for students to grow not only academically, but socially as well as emotionally. Quest promotes personal growth and development that demonstrate leadership. All of students’ actions go back to Quest’s Character Traits.

One way that they do this is through Design Thinking that emphasize: empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing. So the first step on this path is empathy – even within courses such as design and engineer. They also hae a citizenship program (no longer digital citizenship) and moved away from a “though shalt not” model. Instead, they focus on “mindfulness of attention.”

Vinnie also highlights the important role of parents – empowering parents to learn about content/apps, that they need to be open to what their kids are doing, and that they need to learn to say yes or no. The digital world can eliminate the personal connection and vulnerability. As such, adults need to model for children effective behavior.

Devorah Heitner, of Raising Digital Natives, whose job it is to teach educators and parents about social media and activities. Schools need resources for students, teachers, and parents. She likes to combine their educational goals with their citizenship goals and ultimately how they can use content that they create and share online. So it’s not just using the internet as a mirror, but as a way to improve the world around them. Additionally, it is important to foster a safe community so that students can approach adults when they come across something that makes them uncomfortable. Additionally, promote mentoring among students – older students can help to guide younger students.

Think about what skill you would like to see the children have, social and emotional skills, uncomfortable face to face conversations, and how to interact with the world around them in a myriad of ways. We need to get around the fear factor and prepare for what we will do when students make mistakes. It is important to encourage accountability and integrity with online content – be recognized for who you are. It’s also important to recognize that anonymity can breed poor choices and behavior.

It’s important to teach children to be kind online as well as in person.