Digital Citizenship is at the top of the school technology buzz words list. Most can’t argue the importance, however few can define and even fewer do much with teaching a skill for safe school usage. Parents and teachers see the landscape changing, with a definite need to empower our children with safe tools of technology. Then all gets a bit gray, with some concerned about not doing enough and others believing that we are introducing a scary world to students. Both views may be accurate, but it doesn't mean we ignore the value of educating the power of the web.
My approach has changed in the last couple years. I always try to build a classroom learning community, where we support and lookout for each other. Students are encouraged to control themselves, that’s one person they can control, to make the choice that fits the situation. That sounds all good in a perfect classroom to the critics, but I am seeing progress. I’m trying to find a balance between the direct delivery instruction that must happen and sharing the learning through technology. No more talking or messing around, its time to start being proactive with education and using the internet.
I started my key phrase of our Community Firewall upon our return from winter break. In my world, 6th graders seem to come to the new year after their break with new devices as gifts. New smartphones and tablets are the norm. What I find interesting is how much safe use emphasis is put on the students when school kicks off in August, yet very little discussion of safe use use after Christmas. It almost feels like; “since we talked about it already, we are fine”. They are middle school students and for whatever reason adults forget what they were like back then. Now put a powerful piece of technology front and center for kids to drive.
The Community Firewall approach has two layer. The most obvious is promoting appropriate technology use. Students are encouraged to make the right choice online, just like they have been asked to be a good school citizen. However, in a community we support and look out for each other. If a student is doing what they are suppose to be doing, but their neighbor isn't, in regards to technology, tap that classmate in a caring manner to help redirect. If a student doesn't feel comfortable doing that, then I encourage them to tell me.
Well we are into the 2nd school week since winter break and I am seeing progress. Just today I heard three students remind a neighbor what the classroom task was, as there were clearly some digital distractions in play. What was amazing to me is little to no push back from the technology wanderer. There is almost a look of relief, being reminded by a fellow classmate and not the teachers.
Our Community Firewall aligns nicely with our districts digital citizenship awareness month of January. I applaud our school leaders being proactive like this in the middle of the school year. Like anything the school district rolls out there is always some staff push back, putting more on our plates. New technology discussion needs to happen, just like reinforcing those school soft skills that are so important to academic success.
The early reviews are good for empowering students to own their web, use it wisely and look out for each other. I really appreciate teaching 6th graders and their first year in middle school. If we do this job right, the class of 2021 will carry their education internet to graduation where technology is their life tool. Building a good Community Firewall habit is a must, for this generation can and will embrace it.