When I speak about my job to people I meet outside of Avenues, they often can’t believe that we introduce classroom technology at such an early age. I get questions anywhere from “Is it healthy for children to be using iPads that young?” to “How do they learn to write?” to “Don’t kids these days get enough time outside of school on technology?” to “How are students taught to interact with others, either while using technology or while unplugged?”
Well, figuring out the answers to those questions is a large part of my job. It is possibly the most important part of my job. And this past year, we’ve upped our efforts to not only answer all of these questions, but revolutionize yet again the way we answer them. We are accomplishing this through our digital citizenship curriculum. Digital citizenship is an effort to explicitly teach students how to act responsibly, safely and respectfully in our digital world. This year, we began an effort to both explicitly teach these skills to our Lower Division grades at the start of the year and also weave these concepts throughout all we do for the rest of the school year.
First grade is the first time students truly begin to independently create using technology. Students all have their own iPads, and I work closely with teachers to support their learning on these devices, whether helping students tell stories through code in ScratchJR or creating a digital shared book in Book Creator about how community members serve our larger organization. We designed our digital citizenship curriculum to address themes we knew would support student learning in 1st grade and that would also set the stage for subsequent grades. The structure of these introductory lessons was identical from week to week and grade to grade – four lessons per grade, each 30–45 minutes in length and each ending with students earning a mastery badge to add to a digital citizenship certificate.
To develop this curriculum, our technology integration team used Common Sense Media’s published curriculum as a guide to ensure we covered key topics during certain developmental stages, were comprehensive in our scope and repeated themes that are most important or become more complicated as students get older. As you can see below, their scope and sequence is quite comprehensive.
First grade’s central topics were respecting technology, internet safety and information literacy. The first lesson had students discussing how to treat their iPads with respect andasking students to generate their own lists of expectations. Students thought of rules such as keeping food away from their iPad, keeping its case on and telling a teacher if something was wrong. In the past, we’ve always given students these rules, and so this reversed process of having students generate their own rules will likely and hopefully have a greater impact.
For the next two lessons, students focused on how to stay safe while using the internet. They spoke about how they are part of a “digital neighborhood” in the same way they’re part of a real one, and then they discussed how similar rules apply – don’t go places without an adult, only talk to people you know and if you feel uncomfortable you should tell a trusted adult. They then dove into exploring specific situations and thinking deeply about when would be appropriate to get help from a trusted adult.
Last, students focused on how the internet can be a great place to learn new information. They explored various educational websites together, learning about how information can be organized online and establishing the basis for further digital literacy investigations through both library and classroom research projects.
Once students had earned all four badges at the end of those lessons, each class held a ceremony to pledge to be Avenues digital citizens. While none of these lessons is comprehensive, we believe this is merely the start of a multi-year education that will ensure we graduate students who are at ease beyond their digital borders.