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Community Engagement Project EDUC 6101 ISTE Coaching Standard 4.7 ISTE Coaching Standard 7 ISTE Standard 4.7a ISTE Standard 4.7b ISTE Standard 4.7c ISTE Standard 4.7D

Community Engagement Project

Working in a small rural school district in the Pacific Northwest brings many different challenges and successes when it comes to technology and education. I am blessed to work in a district that is 1-to-1 with Chromebooks. Every single student in my district has a device to use, and middle and high school students can check out a device for the entire school year. One of the challenges that comes with this technology is connectivity. When living and working in a rural community, there is sometimes a lack of digital infrastructure. In large cities, there are often multiple different companies offering internet service at varying speeds and price structures. In rural districts, there are fewer options and, depending on location, there may no options other than satellite hotspots, which do not always provide reliable service. These are just a few of the issues that rural districts must combat daily.

For my digital ethics audit, I decided to focus on three values that are important to me and are the focus of my digital education mission statement: hope, transparency, and respect. I interviewed my administrator, who will be referred to as “School Administrator” to protect privacy and learned a great deal about the policies and philosophies of technology education in our school. I broke down my questions into the four categories of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Digital Citizen Advocate standard for coaches. To view all interview questions, answers and ISTE standards alignment, please see the Appendix.

The first topic that we discussed was civic engagement. When I think of civic engagement, I immediately come to the word civility, which lead me to the word respect. The term respect is used a lot in schools, and I felt it was important to ask how we are activity teaching students to be respectful in their online interactions. With the onset of COVID and learning in online settings students have been launched into digital learning communities. The school that I work at addresses civic engagement and the challenges that come with technology through a course called “Digital Communications and Citizenship”. This course is offered as an elective to 6th and 7th grade students, and it teaches safe practices for social media, internet connectivity, and basic computing skills. While this course is considered an elective, by the end of the 7th grade year, almost every student has taken this course. The challenge of this course being an elective is that not all students are reached. During this class students are also taught what bullying and cyber bullying are and they do a project on this topic. Additionally, students are taught online etiquette.

Respect is essential in all relationships. There are multiple definitions for the word “respect”, for the purposes of this paper I will use the 2nd definition listed: “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Our school is working on defining “respect” and “mutual respect” using multiple strategies: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, the digital communications course, and restorative practices. “We are working on building respect agreements in each class and discussing what respect looks like, feels like, and how each person wants to be treated as an individual” (School Administrator, personal communication, November 1, 2021). This work on respect agreements addresses two ISTE standards. Standard 4.7a “Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities”, and 4.7.b “Partner with educators, leaders, students, and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology” (ISTE, n.d.).  

Our district has also done a lot of work to ensure that we are participating in our local, national, and global online communities. Our school is a WE school which is a charity organization that focuses on service-learning (WE, n.d.). “WE has projects that are based at the school, community, state, national and global levels that we must share, record and create projects for. It is all digitally shared through this organization, which requires respect, citizenship, and charity practices. Some of these projects include the “we scare hunger” food drive, “we walk for water”, and other projects” (School Administrator, personal communication, November 1, 2021). All of the work that our students and staff do for our WE projects is documented digitally and shared online with other WE schools. Our school has been recognized multiple years for our projects and service. This encourages our students, teachers, and families to engage with the greater world around them, both in person and online in a truly positive fashion.

Another important aspect of respect and technology is learning how to foster a culture of respectful online interaction and respectful use of technology. First, “in an effort to balance school and covid protocols we have had to move to some online curriculum, at the same time balancing not exposing students to too much screen time and using traditional teaching approaches” (School Administrator, personal communication, November 1, 2021). Finding balance is important when it comes to technology use, therefore the school has implemented policies regarding the use of personal technology at school. Students can earn reward technology parties for meeting goals and good behavior. However, they are also able to lose these privileges when they are being disrespectful with technology, for instance, using personal devices during class when they should be off and away. There is a three-strikes policy “for cell phone tech violations, tech use during recess and before school is removed until they can respect it again in the next quarter” (School Administrator, personal communication, November 1, 2021). These incentives and consequences are addressed regularly with students throughout the year and with families as well through our student handbook and technology agreements that all families sign at the beginning of the school year. Three months into the new school year and students are responding positively to these policies. They are helping to hold each other accountable for technology use and are enjoying earning technology parties.

One area that has been heavily addressed during COVID has been the effect that media consumption is having on students. The school has noticed many effects on the students including lack of time management skills, lack of commitment to schoolwork and inability to retain the information being taught to them. It is also impacting their interpersonal skills and communication skills (School Administrator, personal communication, November 1, 2021). The effect on school work and retention has been seen in test data and benchmark testing and is one of the many things we are working to address this year. The school has been combating these issues with our restorative practices Character Connections program, crucial conversations, the digital communications and citizenship course, and our SEL curriculum. One of the most important things that we also focus on is teaching our students vital critical thinking and analysis skills.

Critical thinking skills go hand in hand with media literacy skills, which are essential in our online world. Hitchcock (2018) defines critical thinking as “careful goal-directed thinking,” this directly connects to ISTE standard 4.7.c is “Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions” (ISTE, n.d.). As educators we teach these critical thinking skills in a variety of ways. In ELA and social studies classes, we teach students to evaluate online sources and how to determine if information is credible. One way that we accomplish this as a school is to work collaboratively across subjects, “we collaborate and determine what are the safest and best resources for students. We also meet and decide what we don’t want our students on” (School Administrator, personal communication, November 1, 2021). We also do website evaluation lessons with students regularly.  Additionally, critical professional development is offered to teachers through curriculum training and their curriculum guides.

Another topic for discussion with students is how the data we collect on them is used. ISTE standard 4.7.d is to “Empower educators, leaders, and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect” (ISTE, n.d.). One of the ways that this is addressed is through transparency with students and families. Our district follows the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. We are very transparent in the data that we data that we collect on students. “We publish it on our statewide report card and our district website and school website. We send letters to parents; we are very transparent with our data. School district data is widely available, not by student name but by larger demographic groups” (School Administrator, private communication, November 1, 2021). When it comes to data collection, especially student data, it is very important to be transparent with all stakeholders in how that data is being used and how students are being protected from privacy violations.

Finally, the district makes every effort to teach students how to protect their digital footprint. As 11–14-year-old students, they do not always understand the permanency of information posted online. Through the digital communications and citizenship course and the SEL curriculums that we use, we teach them the importance of protecting their personal data and creating lasting digital profiles. Teachers also model safe practices when using online tools in the classroom (School Administrator, private communication, November 1, 2021). In order to stay on top of the constant evolution of digital technologies for the classroom and to make sure that our teachers are up to date on current best practices, the district also offers regular training for teachers. Each year we have in-house, teacher-led training to address technology practices. These trainings are conducted by our Google Certified teacher and are required at the start of each year.

Upon the completion of the ethical audit and interview, I took some time reflect on all that I have learned. I had three main takeaways. First, in an ever-evolving technological landscape, my district has been on the cutting edge; early adopters of 1-to-1 devices, years before the beginning of the global pandemic. Second, the district takes teacher training and education very seriously, investing the time and capital into making sure that teachers can effectively teach students in a digital world. Third, they are hyper communicative with students and families, ensuring that all stakeholders are educated on expectations and rules as well as letting students have a say in developing common definitions and social norms, such as respect. While there is always room for growth, overall, the district has done a commendable job implementing technology in a way that encourages hope, respect and transparency.

References

Hitchcock, D. (2018). Critical Thinking. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-thinking/#DefiCritThin

ISTE. (n.d.). International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE standards for coaches. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved October 30, 2021, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches 

Meriam-Webster. (n.d.). Respect. In Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respect

School Administrator. (November 5, 2021). Personal communication.

WE. (n.d.). WE schools. WE. https://www.we.org/en-US/our-work/we-schools/

Appendix

Digital Ethics Audit – Interview Questions

Coaches model digital citizenship and support educators and students in recognizing the responsibilities and opportunities inherent in living in a digital world. Coaches:

Standard 7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

Questions:

  1. How are we teaching students to be respectful in their online interactions?
    1. In 6th grade we have a web-based class called digital communications and citizenship – which teaches safe practices for social media, internet connectivity, and basic skills. During this class students are also taught what bullying and cyber bullying are and they do a project on it. Students are also taught online etiquette.
  2. Are we working with students to define the meaning of the terms “respect” and “mutual respect” when working in an online community?
    1. Part of it is our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum with our social agreements as well as our digital citizenship class. We are working on building respect agreements in each class and discussing what respect looks like, how it feels and how each person wants to be treated as an individual. We also work on it in our restorative practices initiatives.
  3. How are we encouraging students and modeling positive participation in our local, national, and global online communities?
    1. Being part of we.org which is a WE school initiative of service learning our school has projects that are based at the school, community, state, national and global levels that we must share, record and create projects for. It is all digitally shared through this organization, which requires respect, citizenship, and practices. Some of these projects include “we scare hunger” food drive, “we walk for water”, and other projects.

Standard 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students, and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

Questions:

  1. How are we currently partnering with families and students to foster a culture of respectful online interactions?
    1. We have tech parties which students earn through with good behavior, this is an incentive for being to class on time and being prepared, it is also for good behavior and appropriate use of technology when in class. We have a 3 strikes rule for when they aren’t using their tech appropriately.  When this middle school hits three cell phone tech violations, tech use during recess and before school is removed until they can respect it again in the next quarter. In an effort to balance school and covid protocols we have had to move to some online curriculum, at the same time balancing not exposing students to too much screen time and use traditional teaching approaches.
  2. We teach a digital communications class, but it does not reach all students, what can we do to make sure we are addressing these issues with all our students and the greater school community?
    1. In the handbook and three times a year we review appropriate use of technology with policy measures and protocols with the students. Appropriate use of technology is also discussed in every class. We also use Securly to help monitor student computers to ensure that they are using technology appropriately and safely.
  3. With all the technology our students are inundated with, how are we helping them sift through it all and still have hope?
    1. Part of it is the digital communications class, but part of it is in our character strong training. We talk about safe relationships and boundaries and social media. In our ELA and history classes we teach them credibility and authenticity of websites.
  4. Are we helping our students to understand the impact that their media consumption is having on them?
    1. The impacts would be time management, they lack time management and lack commitment to their schoolwork and retention of their schoolwork. It impacts interpersonal skills and how to communicate with people one on one, instead kids feel empowered to say something behind a screen they would never say directly. We are combatting this with Character Connections, crucial conversations, digital communications classes and SEL curriculum.

Standard 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

Questions:

  1. What are our current educational practices for teaching students to critically examine online media sources?
    1. Digital communications and our ELA classes. We have to teach students in ELA and other classes what things are credible and what are not, and we give them the skills to do this.
  2. As a district, how do we decide what online media sources to use in the classroom?
    1. I think every department determines what are the credible resources collaboratively. We collaborate and determine what are the safest and best resources for students. We also meet and decide what we don’t want our students on.
  3. Have we, or do we, offer any training for educators on how to teach these strategies to students?
    1. Through curriculum training, we have brought in our curriculum companies to conduct training with the teachers and their curriculum teacher guides also provide training.

Standard 7d: Empower educators, leaders, and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect. (ISTE, n.d.).

Questions:

  1. How can we be transparent in education technology with students, families, and teachers when it comes to student data and the usage of that data
    1. We publish it on our statewide report card and our district website and school website. We send letters to parents; we are very transparent with our data. School district data is widely available, not by student name but by larger demographic groups.
  2. Do we currently teach students about the need to protect their personal data and the importance of creating a digital online profile that will likely follow them for the rest of their lives?
    1. This is done in our digital citizenship classes and as part of our SEL curriculum. We also talk about it as teachers and model safe practices whenever we are on the internet.
  3. If so, how are we doing this? If this is only done in the digital communications class, how do we plan to roll it out so that all students in the school benefit from this instruction? (See answer above)
  4. If not, is this something the district plans to address in the future? (n/a)
  5. How are we educating teachers on these topics so they can, in turn, educate their students?
    1. We have in-house training each year, teacher-led training to address technology practices. This is conducted by our Google Certified teacher and is required.

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