For this module I investigated the question, What online experiences should students have had before they leave high school? The answers I found can be summed up in the word- AGENCY. Meaning, students need to experience capacity to act in a digital environment and feel control over their own behavior.
While George Couros’ post, Crucial Digital Citizenship Conversations never names Agency, it is really all about it. It is also about literacy. He suggests that high school students should leave high school with an About Me page, a digital portfolio, and a professional social network. I can’t agree more. An About Me page isn’t an assignment for school. It can be, but it is also a product that can travel with a student and serve “as a digital cover letter.” The portfolio is another way students can practice their agency. I agree that in this day and age a paper (non-digital) portfolio is going to be left in the dust.
Students are providing live links, short urls, and QR codes to rich examples that highlight their abilities. These formats provide elaboration and evidence that paper cannot. Like their Instagram accounts, students can vet what to include and personalize them.
The third suggestion by Couros is taking part in a professional learning network. He advocates that students should build authentic online networks through social media in topics that interest them. For example, he names Flickr in relation to photography interests. Why wouldn’t we want to encourage this! Being networked and connected makes you feel worth and encouragement. Successful participation provides evidence of digital etiquette and responsible social interaction (ISTE Teacher Standard 4c). Worth and encouragement helps you feel empowered.
How do we help our teachers empower our students to be ethical users of technology? I see an answer in Couros’ article for this also. He stresses that the more we see “digital citizenship” as simply “citizenship” and part of what we do in our world, the closer we will get to realizing that this is all of our responsibility as educators.
He talks about digital citizenship lessons being that task that gets thrown around as someone else’s responsibility. I have seen this happen to librarians. Couros throws it back on everyone, asking if we seek out a certain person to teach manners in school! I think we teach empowerment to our teachers and our students when we, as a district, take the time to establish common expectations, common language, and norms for consistent participation when it comes to all things digital and analog in our schools. This should include the full spectrum, all the way from infrastructure/budgets to equitable access to devices to time provided in the teacher contract for professional development. Teacher are empowered and can pass on this empowerment to students when they have a robust network they can trust, devices and tools that are efficient for what they want to do, and when they are supported in knowing how to effectively use them. In sum, teachers who are empowered feel agency. This results in students who feel empowered and have agency.
One way that my district empowers teachers and promotes connectedness and global awareness is through a culture of allowing it. Some districts restrict teachers from using Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, and other tools. My district supports and encourages teachers to be innovative. I have heard my Director of School Improvement say, “We don’t want to hamstring our innovators.” As teachers become more familiar with tools and students have more access to devices, lessons that involve Twitter chats (my GCT), Skyping, and longer distance collaboration will happen. As lessons continue to become more inquiry-based and student centered I will be encouraging as the district technology coach these options for collaboration and consultation. In fact, the principal at one elementary in my district will be modeling (ISTE Teacher Standard 4d) this for the entire staff by Skyping with New Zealand before the school year ends.
Teacher and student agency is crucial. What is your district doing to empower students to be ready for life after high school? I’d love to hear.
Couros, G. (2016). Crucial “Digital Citizenship” Conversations. The Principal of Change. Retrieved http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6166
International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-teachers
International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-coaches
Meme photos retrieved and modified at https://memegenerator.net