We hear from Patrick McGrath, EdTech Strategist at Texthelp over a series of blogs that focus on the elements of a successful vision and plan for an effective technology strategy.
The ‘internet’ has certainly impacted and indeed transformed almost every part of our lives – from shopping to communicating to learning. In classrooms everywhere, we’ve understood the advantages and disadvantages that this access to the world has delivered, and schools around the globe have diligently designed lessons, support and programmes to make students aware of staying safe, understanding risks and balancing any perceived dangers with the huge upsides such access has delivered.
As we plan our technology integration, we’re implementing cloud technology and always on access. We’re providing students with access to a range of digital tools and the world’s information from their desk. We’re providing ways to express learning and to explore their creativity. We’re taking them on journeys to other places using VR. We’re connecting with classrooms around the world and we are assessing and connecting in our classrooms instantly. These are all practical and achievable ways to enable and enhance learning through technology. As we do this, we need to understand one thing – the ‘internet’ as a concept is irrelevant to our students, because for them, life is simply ‘online’. Always.
The digital citizenship to guarantee safety to the students
This online life integrates into every aspect of what our students do, both in and out of the classroom. So, as educators we need to plan something more reaching than e-safety and cyberbullying – important though those are. We need to plan for citizenship – digital citizenship. This needs to encompass vital areas such as safeguarding. But it needs to extend to a huge range of other areas. Why? Because we want our students to be safe. To be responsible. To respect others. To be aware of risks. And to understand.
We shouldn’t just point students to Google – we should teach them how to perform an effective search. We should provide and guide them with tools such as digital highlighters that allow effective research. When we provide opportunities to be expressive, we need to talk about creative commons and ownership of content, discuss the ethics of plagiarism and explain the importance of references. Students need to understand that laws apply on-line, be aware of cyberbullying and understand how social media profiles, even with all their upsides, can stay with them for life and impact future career paths.
We need digital citizenship programmes to prepare students for learning, for life and for work.
For it to be effective it needs three things – first it must be included in every technology plan. It’s no longer optional, it’s essential. Second, it must involve students to gain their insights and experiences – perhaps through peer programmes such as Digital Leaders, eSafety support buddys or external programmes like eCadets.
Third it has to be an integrated part of the overall teaching and learning strategy. Perhaps it’s integrated into traditional citizenship lessons, but with educators everywhere working to deliver ‘21st century skills’, through the ‘four cs’ – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication there’s an opportunity to start talking about the ‘five c’s’ and include citizenship as the new, and essential 5th ‘c’.
Technology in all its forms provides amazing opportunities, but with it comes responsibility. So let’s ensure we plan to create not only the very best learners, but the finest digital citizens.
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