The culminating project for Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership Program’s class: Values, Ethics, and Foundations in Digital Education required I interview my administrator regarding a very comprehensive topic: Digital Citizenship. I spent 2 hours with the school district’s Manager of Libraries and Instructional Technology. The goal was twofold. Learn how our district addresses the many themes of digital citizenship and understand how the district will navigate moving forward as technology integration becomes ubiquitous.
Giving attention to all areas, I developed questions based on Ribble’s 9 categories of Digital Citizenship (2013, p. 139) and the ISTE Coaching Standards (2014) around topics I am familiar within the district and areas where I can learn more.
Respect Yourself/Respect Others
Digital Etiquette: electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
- Have you seen a change in digital citizenship or ethical dilemmas since 1:1 or 2:1?
- What are the biggest issues we are seeing as a district in terms of online student conduct? What are some constructive ways that we can scaffold the needs of the hyper-attentive student?
Digital Access: full electronic participation in society.
- How are we supporting families without internet access?
- Is the district being adequately funded to support the development of responsible digital citizens? Where does the funding come from?
Digital Law: electronic responsibility for actions and deeds
- Is the Student Use of Internet and Google Account Services Agreement consistent across the district? Does the school/district have a system to track or manage the permissions?
- What if a parent denies consent for their child to use the internet?
Educate Yourself/Educate Others
Digital Communication: electronic exchange of information.
- Can you give specific examples of how our school/district is promoting responsible and effective digital communication among staff, students, community and the world?
- How does our district/building use technology for collaborative and training purposes? How do you think we could improve on this?
Digital Literacy: process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.
- We have a scope and sequence of basic tech skills K-12 for CCSS & SBA. How are we ensuring the skills are being taught consistently across classrooms, and schools within the district?
- What steps are we taking to ensure Digital Literacy for standardized testing?
- Are we embracing the Flipped Classroom? How are teachers being trained to ensure effective learning?
- What is an example of a culminating project that would demonstrate a student’s digital literacy? What do we want students to be able to produce using digital tools?
Digital Commerce: electronic buying and selling of goods.
- How do we teach students the importance of keeping personal information private?
- How do schools verify that the vendors they use are keeping student data private? vendor’s privacy policies
Protect Yourself/Protect Others
Digital Rights and Responsibility: those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
- Are our students equipped to recognize inappropriate behavior online?
- How are we providing an environment where students feel safe to report issues?
Digital Security: electronic precautions to guarantee safety.
- Is our current privacy and safety filter system adequate?
- Are our students aware of their digital footprint?
Digital Health and Welfare: physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
- Do our students have an understanding of the differences between their online and real lives? How are we delivering that message?
- What is our district doing to educate families of the importance of limiting screen time for non-educational purposes at home? What about the significance of age-appropriate screen time at school?
- Do our 1:1 schools have off-screen times set aside throughout the day?
After the meeting, I took away three major ideas from our thoughtful discussion.
- Equity and access of tools and information are imperative for the success of technology integration and instruction.
- Support and coaching for educators are the foundation for student learning.
- Student learning is collaborative, dynamic, and only just beginning with technology instruction.
Equity and Access
Although most families have internet access on their phones, at home, many students within the district don’t have adequate access to technology that is conducive to reading and responding fully. Thus, the district initiative moving 1:1 (one computer to every one student) will help families with access so students can adequately do school work and communicate with fellow students and teachers. The district does receive more funding than most surrounding school districts for instructional technology due to the community supporting its levies. Through levy fundings we are well equipped for 2:1 (two students to every one computer) classrooms. The technology department works closely with instructional technology to develop an infrastructure that will support 1:1 learning at all schools. Based on school enrollment, each school (not in the 1:1 pilot programs) is provided with enough computers to accommodate 1 computer to every 2 students. The administrator and Technology Teacher Leaders (TTLs) are then required to draft a plan for how the computers will be disseminated including where and which classrooms the computers will be used and how many at each grade level.
The district understands there are many families without internet access even with tools provided. The Manager envisions that in future levies or municipalities receiving grants, wi-fi access could come to all students. In the meantime, the district encourages families on free or reduced lunch to take advantage of area internet service providers reduced internet cost. Equity and access to resources is an issue that our district will continue to strive for all students.
Coaching and Support
Once the infrastructure is in place, coaching and support for educators can effectively begin. Although we receive limited funding for digital citizenship and training, (prior to 2008, the IMD had about $50K more in general funds to use for professional development. That money was cut when everything crashed and schools lost its funding. So far, the funds have not been restored), the Manager feels the district staff has done a great job of creative professional development training. “Due to restrictions on levy funding, we are constrained with the amount of funds we can use for professional development (PD). In order to expand our Peer Coaching program to build a team of coaches in every building (rather than 1 peer coach), we had to cut money for peer coaching hours. This was a hard call – and we are hearing an outcry that schools really value the additional peer coaching time. This is an area we need to work on as we grow and support the program.” Now teachers are trained in many ways: District instructional coaches and instructional tech coaches provide on-site and as-needed training; teachers attend summer institutes, EdCamps, online PD, or in building training during collaborative meeting times or in Professional Learning Communities (PLC). There is also time devoted to learning walk-throughs at 1:1 schools. TTLs are trained and then provide in school training where she notes that the model is “strong and sustainable.”
What teachers learn and how they learn supports the foundation for their students to learn with technology. From the beginning of technology use, the district relays a consistent message at student and staff trainings, that digital citizenship is “important, relevant, and the forefront of our thinking.” Teachers want to know how to use Hapara, a platform where teachers can view students online work in real time. It is meant as a tool for students and teachers to share work, see edits and drafts, and look for student learning. In the beginning it is definitely used as a tool to check that students are using technology mindfully and ethically. “Teachers want to make sure they don’t “lose control” of their classroom. That they can manage users. It goes back to being a first year teacher–they don’t want that feeling of not knowing what they are doing or losing control of the classroom. Because of digital citizenship teaching, there is great learning, great conversation, and follow-up. Teachers are worried that attention won’t be paid to them. But they are learning new strategies. We want to get to a place for more informative feedback. There are always ongoing struggles and ongoing success.”
Teachers learn using technology with some principals using twitter, all schools using Google Docs, shared Google calendars, and scores of other technology tools to assess, communicate, collaborate, and show learning. Teachers learn technology through the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) where teachers learn technology as that of enhancer to that of transformative. A question for the district is how to facilitate the SAMR model effectively across the district to all staff.
Financing professional development is always a hurdle and as we move 1:1, we need more of an accountability system for teachers who aren’t using technology with all students. We need teachers paired with strong support. We need to find creative ways to give each building funds to engage in professional development training to support their own instructional technology needs. What I hear is organic in nature. The district provides the experts and support for the needs of individuals and schools.
Because we have an effective infrastructure and productive instructional coaching models to follow, we can educate our students properly. The Manager’s proud moment within her role is seeing the take off of Google Apps for Education (GAfE). Google Apps for Education is the fastest rate of adoption and use than anything I’ve seen in education, ever. Students with students and students with teachers are collaborating more than ever. GAfE makes it easier for students to peer review and for teachers and students to provide comments. Teachers tell the Manager that they love GAfE because it allows them to provide immediate feedback; formative assessment is more effective, homework is turned in and there is less lost homework.
With major focus on student achievement on state and national standards based assessments, I wondered how technology supports effective test-taking and critical thinking. How are we ensuring the skills are being taught consistently across classrooms, and schools within the district? “There is not a strong accountability system. But expectation of Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) with basic tech skills makes teachers accountable. We have some effective measures in place for writing: Apps like Dualless, on-line curriculum assessments, keyboarding programs, on-line databases and other resources like Scholastic News to read, highlight, take notes, plus GAfE to prepare students. But we can always do more.”
Because students spend more time online, I wanted to know if we have effective measures in place for students to feel safe online. My administrator listed different ways we are promoting ethical and proper use of technology. Counselors are brought in to teach cyber-bullying lessons, librarians teach digital citizenship lessons, students in 1:1 schools have a day long training in digital citizenship. All students under the age of 13 are required by the district to sign a GAfE user agreement. “Currently, we don’t have a district system to track signatures but we have a plan in place if there are parental concerns.” I asked what would happen if there is inappropriate student use. “Students may have any number of consequences up to being suspended for intentional vandalism but because tech is so integral to the classroom now, removing student access to tech is akin to removing library and textbooks from them if they misbehave. It’s not helpful to the learning process. Therefore we need to find other systems that still allow them to participate in class. We need freedom for kids to make responsible choices.” Recognizing inappropriate online behavior is a learning process for students. But also, we must ask staff the same question. As of the day of the interview, “We are 16 days without a phishing incident caused by staff opening up inappropriate emails.” (She stood up from her desk and walked over to the Help Desk where a big sign at the entrance shows the number of days without incident.) Students and teachers alike need critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
I wanted to know if we are using technology as effectively as could be. How are teachers being trained to ensure effective learning? “Professional development has to be about a change in pedagogy – moving from lecture to student centered classrooms. Blended learning, using technology, can help facilitate that shift. We want teachers to get away from lecture, whether it be in the classroom or a lecture video for homework. We could be more accountable with digital citizenship. Teachers and students are using technology in powerful ways but we are still hit and miss.” We want and expect good pedagogy regardless of technology. We don’t fully know students 1:1 habits as it’s a new initiative but the stories my administrator hears is that, with technology, there’s more sharing and collaborating. Students are communicating more often and effectively, there’s more editing, and it’s motivating.
Finally, I wanted to know where, generally speaking, there is room for improvement across the district with technology. Although her answer didn’t surprise me, it did make me stop to think that she is on to something. “Once schools are 1:1, teachers will finally make the shift to using technology fully and effectively. Truthfully, it’s not until 1:1 when they feel they “have to” use technology intentionally and purposefully. With 2:1, it’s still a station model or workshop model and not fully integrated until it’s a 1:1 model. What if someone asked us to only have our laptops ½ the day or 2.5 days a week?Would we use email as much? Would we use Google docs? No, we’d use the telephone or paper/pencil or textbooks. Teachers come to rely on 1:1 and having immediate access to make it useful regular learning. 2:1 is still half time non-computers. 1:1 will make learning easier.” While 1:1 may make learning easier, we need to be mindful in our continuing delivery. We have a strong foundation to ensure technology will function effectively. We continue to be mindful that students are engaged, using tools responsibly, all the while thinking critically and meeting standards. While teachers learn with technology, we continue to encourage experimentation, collaboration, and communication.
Badura, C. (2013, February 25). The digital citizenship survival kit [online blog image]. Retrieved from http://www.craigbadura.com/2013/02/the-digital-citizenship-survival-kit.html
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2014). ISTE standards for coaches. Arlington, VA: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_iste_standards-c_pdf.pdf
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.