Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Clear Plan for Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy

In my role as Director of Educational Technology, I was tasked with answering two questions that were resonating with teachers, site and district administrators, and even parents regarding technology. First, how do we help make sure we are teaching students how to be safe and responsible online? Second, what should they be doing with the technology? In my role as Director of Educational Technology, one of my main tasks for the previous year was to help come up with a plan to answer these questions. I worked with a team of teachers to come up with the plan and we separated these questions into two categories: Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy. Below are details about the process of how we went about constructing solid answers to the questions, developing the plan itself, and how we presented the plan to staff through engaging modules. You can find all of the resources at the RCSD Digital Literacy site.

Educating Myself
I always believe before you start leading a team you have to educate yourself so you can motivate and support a group in turning the vision into a reality. I looked at the scope and sequence from school districts like Long Beach and Capistrano. I am also lucky enough to be able to reach out to members of my PLN to hear their ideas too. I met Tech Leaders in my area like Lucas Machado, Jen Kramer, Bryan Wilke, and Cinnamon Johnsrud. The conversation and ideas shared from them were invaluable. You can see the work Lucas and Jen did for their district, Twin Rivers, here.

The Team
Since there was so much time and thinking that would go into this work, I knew I wanted a group of RCSD teachers to help plan, discuss, and eventually present the plan to our teachers. I wanted two teacher reps per grade level and a rep from every one of our four middle school sites. Our teachers are the ones in the classroom, that could speak what students can do with technology, and that could relate to other teachers when it came time to present. I love putting teachers in leadership positions and what resulted was a team that I felt very lucky to work with.
The RCSD Digital Literacy Team
Digital Citizenship
As a parent, I was familiar with Common Sense Media but didn’t know a lot about Common Sense Education. They have lessons already designed for Digital Citizenship. They band their lessons grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8, as well as high school. Based on these bands, we decided to narrow it down so each grade level has five specific lessons to teach. A similar document was shared with Lucas Machado and we aren’t sure who to give credit to, but here is the version we made for RCSD. Lessons include topics such as how to set powerful passwords, how to be a good citizen, digital footprint and online stereotypes.

When Would Digital Citizenship Lessons Be Taught
For elementary teachers it is pretty straightforward, teach the five lessons throughout your school year. Some teachers taught it within the first two weeks of school, some have said their goal is to teach it within the first trimester, and others said they plan to teach around one per month. For middle school, we had to come up with a slightly different plan. We didn’t want one subject teaching all of the lessons. So every middle school came up with their own plan. Two of the middle schools are teaching it during their intervention period. The other two are having history teach two lessons, and then ELA, Science, Math each teach one lesson.
Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence using Common Sense Media lessons
Digital Literacy
While there was a clear plan for Digital Citizenship, thanks to Common Sense Education, we wanted our own plan for Digital Literacy. We are a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) District. We wanted to make sure that any plans on what students did with technology included Google tools since that is what we use. Of course, the question comes up, what if you are no longer a GAFE district in the future? If for some reason that happens, then we will re-adjust our plan when the time comes.

We started by looking at plans from other districts. Most districts’ digital literacy plans have a scope and sequence. We took that idea and then also looked at what tools our students use from Google. Our team then took time discussing what skill should be taught at which grade level. It was great to hear a 5th-grade teacher on the team say they should teach a certain skill in their grade, only to have a 3rd-grade teacher say that they felt their students could do that and it should start earlier. It truly was a collaborative process of going back and forth to decide our scope and sequence. You can see the sheet here.

While a scope and sequence is a great starting point, we wanted to make sure teachers knew specifically what they would be teaching in their grade level. We also wanted to put it in student-friendly language by using “I Can” statements. The result was a grade-level specific document for each grade level K-8th. Here is an example of the 6th grade Digital Literacy I Can Statements and here is the site where you can see all the PDFs of the "I Can" statements.

We wanted to make sure we were specific with our middle school teachers about what part of the plan they would be responsible for, that way it didn’t all fall on one area. For our middle school teachers, we decided on the following: ELA- documents, History- Slides, Math-Forms and Sheets, and Science-Sites.

Grade-Level Specific I Can Statements
On top of the scope and sequence, as well as the grade-level specific “I Can” statements, we created a project example for each grade level or subject area. We made it clear to teachers that they do not have to do the project for their grade level, instead, We wanted teachers to see that teaching digital literacy did not have to be something separate than what they were already doing, and that it could be tied to current work/activities.

Example of the Digital Literacy "I Can" statements
Presenting to Teachers
In order to get this information out to teachers, we had our Digital Literacy team present to their colleagues. I know so many teachers that are amazing in front of students but when it comes to presenting to teachers they have a tough time with that. Our team members did an amazing job of presenting the plan. For our K-5 members, they presented to their grade level for the entire District. Our 6-8 team members presented at their school site. There is nothing better than teachers learning from other teachers.

Communicating with Parents
We know that communicating with parents and students around Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship is something we will need to do not only at the beginning of this school year because it is new, but we will need to continue educating and communicating with our staff, students, and community. For this school year, every school site sent out the same message to parents. As a team, we created a message that each school site sent out to their families. Communicating the same message was important, but we wanted it to come from the individual sites.

Next Steps
One question we knew that would come is, could this change? And the answer is, of course, everything can change, especially when it comes to technology. We will continue to get feedback from teachers and students on what went well in the plan and what we need to change. Feedback will come through informal conversations as well as a form we will send out to all teachers later in the school year.

While the plan could change in the future, it is great knowing we now have a base to work from. We have a plan for Digital Citizenship for every grade level and this shows students and teachers that we value education around teaching students how to be safe and responsible online. We have specific things students should work on for their grade level when it comes to technology. Thanks to the work of our Digital Literacy teacher leaders and all of the teachers in our District, I am confident that our students will have a better experience with technology as they go through our schools.