There are few other technologies that have offered individuals the opportunity both for great harm and great good at the same time, than computers and the Internet. Never before have we had to grapple with both the perceived anonymity of being able to post rude, insensitive or harmful comments about a friend and at the same time being able to participate politely with total strangers in a vibrant online community of people who share common interests. Technology, in spite of its ubiquitousness and ability to blur the lines between our online and “real” lives, is just a tool and we cannot forget that what we do online has moral and ethical significance (James, 2014). The internet won’t make bad choices for us. It’s up to individuals to make the decisions that will allow them to live happily, in balance and at peace with their digital lives.
Rheingold suggests that mindfulness is one way to develop the attention needed to become aware of the effect of technology on our digital lives and the self control needed to manage that attention. (Rheingold 2012) Developing that attention in youth to think, evaluate the consequences and consider the dignity of others before posting something may help educators be able to guide today’s youth toward more ethical uses of the tools they encounter each day.
My mission as a digital education leader is to guide the district in the development of a collaborative vision and plan for educational technology (ISTE, 2011) that will encourage our staff and students to navigate more mindfully, deeply, imaginatively and more comfortably through the changing digital landscape. That vision would address the needs for access both in devices and quality instruction, to use technology as a tool to enhance good instructional practice and give students choices in their learning, to help them be strategic users of information and healthy skeptics of what they see online, and to instill a sense of agency and empowerment that will allow staff and students to adapt to changing technology with confidence.
Equitable Access is not just about providing students with access to devices and internet in and out of school, it’s about giving them equal access to high quality instruction (NETP, 2016) that includes purposeful technology integration that promotes choice, creativity, and exposure to experiences that only technology can make possible. (ISTE 5a)
Purpose – No tool is effective if not used with purpose. We need our staff and students to be aware of the capabilities of educational technology so they can choose the right tool (device, website, software, etc.) to meet the needs of their learning.
Digital Mindfulness – There a number of layers to digital mindfulness. Our staff and students need to be informed and thoughtful digital citizens, they need to be strategic in how they evaluate and use the information they find on the web, and be taught how to be healthy skeptics with active “crap detectors” (Rheingold, 2012) about what they read and use on the internet.
As they are developing their personal and digital identities they also need to hone their attention skills and make mindful decisions about safety, respect and the dignity of themselves and others online. (ISTE 5b)
Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship (Ribble, 2013) will help inform my work developing training for staff this spring around these topics and then over the course of the following year we’ll create a comprehensive digital citizenship plan to ensure all students and staff are active digital citizens.
Producers, Consumers & Contributors – Many of us are experts at consuming technology but not many of us can say with confidence that we are producing and creating content that we are eager to share publicly as part of our digital footprint. My goal is for our students and staff to develop positive digital identities that reflect their skills, interests and passions. They should become informed digital citizens and understand the ways in which they need to balance the openness of their identities in order to participate as producers of content and their rights to privacy.
Our students can be contributors and participants in the wider world. Whether that’s posting to a blog, starting a campaign for a cause they are passionate about, participating in crowdsourced research, starting a business, creating an app, posting a video or music, they have things to say and we can help give them the resources and support to help them or even just celebrate the work they do on their own time. The bottom line is helping them understand that they can participate, make change and contribute positively to the world. (ISTE 5c)
Agency – The pace of change in technology is never going to slow down long enough for staff and students to keep ahead of it. I believe I can help them best by teaching transferable skills such as troubleshooting, finding and using help menus and tutorial videos, advanced search skills. In addition, they need the confidence to use tools in new and innovative ways and give them enough control over their learning environment to encourage responsibility, and to build human capacity within buildings to provide leadership and support for one another.
- Ribble, M., & Northern Miller, T. (2013). Educational Leadership In and Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137-145.
- Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart : How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, chapter 1: “Attention! Why and How to Control Your Mind’s Most Powerful Instrument.”
- Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart : How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, chapter 2: “Crap Detection 101: How to Find What You Need to Know, and How to Decide If It’s True,” 77-109
- Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education. (2016, January). Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/12/NETP16.pdf
- James, C., & Jenkins, H. (2014). Disconnected : Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge, US: The MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com