During the past month I have encountered many materials that have deepened my understanding of how to teach digital citizenship in the K-8 environment. The biggest take-away from this course has been the hidden tone of moral and ethical behavior that lies at the core of the digital citizenship education movement. With the separation of church and state, teaching students how to do “the right thing” is challenging without some point of reference, such as is found in religion. This course has provided many useful threads on which to build a message which can be conveyed to anyone, regardless of faith orientation. This matters to me because creating a kinder, happier world, in person and online cannot happen unless the message is heard universally and adhered to by everyone, not only those in my Catholic school.
The course has helped me formalize a process for bringing digital citizenship inline with the intention of our school. Part of my role is to develop methods for connecting the digital world in which our students live with the spiritual lessons they are learning. I am excited to have something concrete yet malleable, the nine elements of digital citizenship (Ribble 2015), that can be molded to fit into every grade level of the school. Many curricula are available to teach fundamental digital citizenship skills, but they are mostly about the what of digital citizenship, not the why. Teachers need to have a strong grasp of the underpinning digital citizenship curriculum has to the school’s Catholic education and identity. Teachers need to connect the dots for children, and sometimes for themselves.
Applying New Knowledge
My favorite assignment was the mantra. I have been mentally struggling with creating a visual component to complement the digital citizenship theme which I will introduced school-wide in the 2017-2018 school year. Going back a few classes I developed a three-year Technology Integration Plan unlike those I created in the past. Creating the plan is one of my job duties and the current plan so happened to coincide with the timing of a Lamar course about developing professional learning environments. The new plan, which focuses entirely on the professional development of staff, has three technology related themes over three years: year 1; development of technology skills, year 2; technology integration through lessons building, and year 3; connecting technology to the mission of the school to educate the whole child physically, emotionally, academically, and spiritually. The plan was formally adopted by the school in February, 2017.
Digital citizenship falls into years two and three of the Technology Integration Plan. This course has greatly helped me add to it meaningful substance. Beginning with the elements of digital citizenship, followed by the three principles (Ribble 2015) – in elementary and middle school, respectively – along with a mantra, I can move forward in preparing the school to connect the reasoning (the why) with the lessons (what) throughout the school. I am particularly excited to help middle school students make use of the Catholic Beatitudes (Gospel lessons of behavior) in their real lives. The connection will give them a clear picture of where to find the “rules” for behaving like Christians digitally, in their personal and academic lives.
Helping Others Succeed at Lamar University
Although I have found value in the many facets of this course, I believe future students should be given a heads-up about the purpose of all the hoops they must jump through in order to be successful in class. The busy-work, multiple essays, quizzes, and an overwhelming number of resources can get in the way of the message being taught. I have recommended ways the course might be redesigned through the course survey. Supposing all elements stay the same, I would recommend re-positioning if not eliminating the quizzes because hunting for answers serves no purpose to professionals when the questions are irrelevant to one’s work. That said, I would recommend the quizzes be the first assignment, from which students will become aware of what they don’t know, in hopes of discovering the answers along the way.
Also, after reducing the number of weekly assignments, I believe students might appreciate having more information about ways to organize information so they, themselves can become better digital citizens. For example, something as simple as creating a spreadsheet with 10 images, defining the author, web locations, CC attribution, and the specific instructions left by the author for citing, and the actual citation they would post is a valuable lesson to learn. In doing so Lamar students would have practice and be able to teach others to do the same thing; a skill that is very worth while as a digital citizen. The spreadsheet could be included in the Capstone submission.
We each take away different pearls of wisdom from this program. When I speak about my experience in Lamar’s DDL program typically I am sharing stories about my interactions with fellow students and instructors. I am extremely impressed with Dr. Ybarra. She has brought a humanistic approach to the class and encourages her students to remember the human side of teaching as well as the dryer, data driven goals we each try to meet. Several other instructors and designers of the program set the tone that the COVA (choice, ownership, voice, authentic experience) learning method has a place in education, and although the course requirements were not Dr. Ybarra’s to alter, her personal approach to coaching learners helped make the rigidness of the course format less of an issue. I would recommend to future students that they enter each course with an open mind and a clear goal of becoming a better learner and educator. That is what has helped me.
Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education