The Digital Readiness of a Suburban Seattle Area Elementary School
I was able to interview my principal about the state of technology in our elementary school and more specifically how we are teaching digital citizenship. As a district we’ve had some training in regard to digital citizenship that was distributed to schools through teacher leaders. I led that training about two years ago. However, staff turnover, the adoption of new curriculum, plus school and district professional development in other areas have made it difficult to sustain, or even return to the progress that was initially made in our approach to digital citizenship after the first training. I see this interview with my administrator as a way to get us thinking about this need as a school. We can evaluate where we are currently and figure out the next steps moving forward in order to focus on the digital citizenship needs of our students. Here are the questions that I asked my administrator during the interview.
- Do all students in our school have equal access to technology? If so, how do we define equal access?
- How does our school account for students who do not have access to technology at home?
- Do staff and students use our BYOD network?
2. Are students taught appropriate ways to communicate using technology?
- Do you think that technology can allow for a deeper understanding in learning?
- Have you seen any evidence of technology being used that way in classrooms?
3. Is teaching students to use different technology tools in the classroom something that is practiced in our school?
- Is appropriate as well as inappropriate use taught and discussed?
- Is technology use monitored in a similar way by teachers?
Our district requires Staff and Students to follow an administrative procedure that makes up the responsible use procedure for technology in our district.
The RUP Covers: Rules, guidelines and personal recommendations for the acceptable use of technology within the district. Some topics covered include responsible use, digital citizenship, COPPA and terms and conditions of internet tools, responsible use by students staff and guests, network privacy, internet safety, use of social media personally and professionally, copyright and ownership of work as well as unacceptable use and preventative measures.
4. Are students and teachers aware of the administrative policy and the technology RUP that has been adopted by the school district?
5. What are some ways that teachers model appropriate use of technology?
- Do they model appropriate use of social media? How so?
6. Do staff and students practice acceptable use of digital resources?
- Do you think there are any issues with copyright violations or plagiarism?
7. Are students taught to protect their technology and their personal information when using technology?
The questions covered a broad range of topics. I’d like to focus in on a few and share some thoughts for what we can do moving forward. The answers to the first three questions show that there is a vast range in the amount of technology that students use in the classroom in our school as well as a range in how technology is used by teachers. After debriefing my interview with my administrator we decided that there are three areas of focus for our school going forward.
The first is improved digital access at school. Our school has a number of technology resources available. It is not a 1:1 school, however we do have a 3:1 ratio of students per device and our district is rolling out a BYOD network in order to allow students to use personal devices which will allow us to achieve closer to a 1:1 ratio in many classes. In order to improve access teachers need to be made aware of the capabilities of our network and the purpose of BYOD in improving access. Additionally my principal identified the need to develop a scope and sequence for technology instruction K-5 in our school. That way each classroom teacher and the librarian, who integrates technology instruction into her instruction across grade levels, would have some guidelines identifying what are the skills we are responsibly for teaching across grade levels to develop the digital literacy of students over their time in elementary school. We also discussed the idea of focusing on teaching appropriate use of social media in upper grades, or possibly incorporating social media into the classroom environment so students can understand the powerful way we can collaborate on a global scale through social media. This would also give students a firm foundation for using social media personally as they begin to create accounts, usually this seems to happen as early as upper elementary level for many students.
Another commitment our school will make to technology instruction is providing some guidelines for the entire staff on best practices for monitoring technology use in classrooms. This could be incorporated into the K-5 digital literacy scope and sequence as well as reviewed yearly to provide new staff members with a refresher on how to best monitor student use as well as how to incorporate technology into instruction. Additionally this would allow new staff members to connect with grade level partners who could support the integration of technology into instruction at the beginning of the year.
We also discussed the idea of our school leadership team developing a school wide presentation for teachers to show to students at the beginning of every school year that outlines the expectations for the use of technology during the school year. Creating this presentation would strengthen our commitment to instruction with technology across grade levels as well as help students to understand the appropriate use of technology at and away from school. I think that this presentation could even lead to further discussions around moral and ethical use which seems to be an area of need for many technology users, especially youth. Another idea we discussed was having our district technology leader provide some training at a PTA meeting each year to help parents understand how students may be using social media and some things that they can do to help guide their students to use social media responsibly.
These are the areas of focus for our school in regard to digital readiness and digital citizenship. From my discussions with my principal as well as my interaction with staff members as a technology teacher leader in my school these next steps seems to constitute a reasonable plan to support our staff and students in moving forward for the next 1-2 years. Then we would be able to consider and develop a more robust integration of digital citizenship into each classroom so that all students would leave our elementary school with a firm foundation in digital citizenship to help them to be engaged ethical technology users in the larger society.