How should an entire district begin teaching digital citizenship? To begin with, creativity, flexibility and strong goals are a must.
In “Roadmap to Districtwide Digital Citizenship Adoption,” Theresa Ellington, instructional technology manager at Life Schools Charter School in Texas, explained how she was able to implement a digital citizenship curriculum throughout the Title I district with limited time and no money, and shared lessons learned from the district’s first year using a digital citizenship curriculum.
Life Schools Charter School’s digital citizenship initiative began when they started to notice that many students were posting on social media about their location and other personal details. It was then the district knew that students—especially older ones—needed to be better trained on digital citizenship before entering life after high school.
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Following the district vision, and in search for a free curriculum, Ellington found Common Sense’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum and began from there.
Step 1: Identify Goals and Requirements
Life Schools started small in the first year. First, they identified their desired goals. Then, they figured out what they needed to satisfy for required federal E-rate guidelines.
Step 2: Consider the Timing
They also determined the best timing for the lessons so they wouldn’t interfere with state testing.
Step 3: Find Leaders
After lesson guides for the elementary, middle, and high schools were created, Theresa presented the information to all the principals for input and adjustments. Each of the principals recommended a tech-savvy teacher that could champion digital citizenship on their campus.
Step 4: Champion Flexibility
Reflecting from the district’s first year implementing digital citizenship lessons, her biggest piece of advice was to be flexible. Rather than telling all eight campuses exactly what to do, it was better to provide suggestions, materials, and expectations, but let the schools implement the curriculum in their own ways.
“Each campus is unique, so let them do what works for them,” she said. Also, teachers may need extra support when it comes to things like keeping track of and submitting documentation.
Step 5: Push Awareness…
Another big takeaway was lack of awareness. She found in a school survey that nearly 90 percent of the elementary teachers weren’t aware that the district was teaching digital citizenship, despite the fact that every student was receiving instruction on it.
Step 6: …and PD
For the 2017-2018 school year, Ellington trained all the teachers on the basics of digital citizenship. She also created a system through Google Classroom for them to easily submit materials and documentation electronically.
“It’s also taking (the teachers’) digital learning and their digital literacy up a level,” she said.
Step 7: Work for Student Understanding
Along with working to improve teacher digital literacy, Life Schools is also aiming to increase their digital citizenship content and lessons, and integrate the lessons in the core curriculum so students can have a better understanding of why they need to learn the information.
About the Presenter
Theresa Ellington is the instructional technology manager for Life Schools, an eight-campus charter school district south of Dallas, TX. She is a veteran Texas-certified middle and high school math teacher with 10 years in the classroom and 13 years in education. Theresa’s teaching experience and training includes working with special populations, such as GT/2E students, ELLs, and students with dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. She has a passion for integrating technology and interactive notebooks, as well as implementing innovative data-driven teaching and classroom management methods to inspire students to reach and feel success.
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