Digital Readiness Project: Study of a Public Middle School

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Recently, I had the opportunity to interview my principal about the digital readiness of our middle school. The goal was to discover how my institution is ensuring that technology is being used wisely for teaching and learning. The infographic that follows is a visual representation of my findings.  Mike Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, the ISTE Digital Citizenship Standard 5, and some informal interviews with colleagues guided the construction of the interview questions that follow.

Principal Interview Questions:

  1. Digital Literacy – What should be taken into consideration when developing a plan for technology or digital professional learning at our middle school?
  2. Digital Access – What are the challenges to implementing a one-to-one computer to student ratio in our school district and precisely this middle school?
  3. Digital Etiquette – When it comes to netiquette (etiquette on the Internet, social media, email, etc.) for middle school student where is this directly taught at our middle school? In the best case scenario, what would it look like? How would you like parents to get involved in netiquette?
  4. Digital Law – When we think about cyber bullying and how hard it is to track and keep ahead of in today’s student culture.  How do you and the rest of the administrative team deal with cases of cyberbullying at our school?
  5. Digital Communication – How do you see students learning and comprehending foundational technology knowledge? (examples typing, emailing, document creating and saving) Is there a specific class they all take? Does this come at home or elementary school?
  6. Digital Rights and Responsibilities, Health and Wellness, and Security – How can I best leverage the teachers at IMS to improve their own digital literacy? You know this population so well and how to approach them, so they buy into guidance without feeling frustrated?

Three separate themes ultimately emerged from the interview and makeup remaining blocks of the infographic: technology curriculum, access via funding, and levels of inquiry for parent-student collaboration on etiquette on the net.

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Overall from this interview, I got a better sense of my principal’s perception of his staff and how they can adapt to new pieces of information. He clearly realizes that they are easy to reject new ideas if the materials presented do not demonstrate a quick and easy to learn the solution. Therefore, I need to explain clearly and precisely the need for students to learn digital citizenship and not fear, we need to show and embrace responsible and meaningful technology use for students. After the interview, I processed the information we talking about and then I sent him a link to my website and went over the ideas I have for funding, and planning for the future of IMS students. I focused in on the planning for the future part, and it will certainly lead to future conversations. He has already organized me into a new PLC group for creating tech-related professional development.

I think my principal should seek to leverage all funding available to the school, and we should be a middle school in our district which accesses all possible CTE funding from the state. His ability to leverage additional technology funding from the state could show a clear indication of his commitment to providing access to technology. I also think my principal should utilize the PTA a bit more to help with information on technology use for parents and students. He informed me that the district had already started a campaigned aimed at giving the parents and community enough information about what is going on with their children when it comes to technology. He told me that the district has already sponsored a couple of screenings of a documentary called “Screenagers” for parents. I interviewed some of our staff that also have students in our district, and they said it was eye-opening in regards to how young people are using social media and technology.

The nature of adolescents was a common theme of our discussion. I asked how we prepare teenagers, who are still maturing, to be responsible online. We sometimes refer to them as “mushy brains” because they make such illogical decisions sometimes. He explained that the expectation for all our young people to be mature and responsible during the school day is unrealistic, and, as a result, having this same hope for the way they act in their online is not being logical. Rather, he believes that students and parents need to have the tools in their hands as they learn, not after.

Parental involvement was another important facet of the school’s tech plan as he saw it. Parent education is offered, but rarely utilized, and parents who show up are those that tend not to need the extra lessons.  Those parents who he has spoken to in meetings say they already possess necessary skills to monitor their child. However, my principal noted that he then speaks to similar parents who are unaware of their child’s improper use of technology. Specifically, he believes that parents should be more involved with their child’s use of social media.

I went into this interview with the knowledge that our school appears to have some advanced technology implementation, especially when it comes to our video broadcasting capabilities.  There is a class of students who makes a video for the daily announcements every single day. Throughout the school day, there are other varied opportunities for students to interact with digital tools and obtain necessary skills. My administration supports educators in their experimentation with technology.  He is a bit more experimental and forgiving than the rest of the district.  From my perspective, this district is pretty conservative when it comes to financial decisions and technology.

These students who utilize the technology offered, especially the highly motivated few who make the newscast every single day could be in charge of creating curriculum.  I think using these kids to talk about Digital Citizenship, Cyberbullying, and Netiquette would be an excellent way to take it off the plate of the homeroom teachers.  These students also know what is going within social media.  I think that at first it would have to be structured inquiry but eventually, students would participate in the free inquiry, where they would lead the discussion and push to educate the students and staff about digital literacy.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). ISTE standards: teachers. Retrieved December 5, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-T_PDF.pdf.

Ribble, Mark. Digital Citizenship: Using Technology Appropriately. (2014). Retrieved December 5, 2016, from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html.

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