The American School Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to taking a whole-community approach to preparing its students to use the immense power of digital media to explore, create, connect, and learn, while limiting the perils that exist in the online realm, such as plagiarism, loss of privacy, and cyberbullying. Therefore, we are proud to announce that we are kicking-off the 2018-19 school year with an official recognition as a Common Sense District for our work on digital citizenship. This is an international recognition which must be renewed again during the 2019-20 school year.
Tracey Bryan, Digital Literacy Coach for The Center for Teaching Excellence shares the great news, but first thing first, let’s get our bearings. What is Digital Citizenship? And is it the same as Connected Citizens? Tracey explains, “Digital Citizenship refers to how people interact with one another through digital means. This could be on social media, through email or using devices. Connected Citizens is the name for ASF's comprehensive, digital citizenship program, which includes curricular aspects as well as teacher training, parent support through the PA as well as a communications strategy. We selected Connected Citizens because it represents ASFs goal of educating global citizens for a changing world. We know that today more than ever global citizens are connected.”
Even though it sounds relatively new, the school’s involvement with state-of-the-art technology is not new. As Tracey Bryan describes:
“My first job at ASF was as an elementary computer teacher in 1997. We were already promoting digital citizenship at that time through teaching students to cite references for online resources, protect their passwords, and use technology in responsible ways.”
Obviously over the last twenty years the access and volume of digital resources has increased exponentially and ASF has constantly strived to keep up with these changes in order to best prepare our students for their futures. When the ISTE technology standards were first introduced in 1998, ASF began implementing them in computer classes across campus. We still look to the ISTE framework to guide our efforts.
Today, the CTE works directly with division leadership and teachers to match Common Core standards and the IB framework to the Common Sense Scope and sequence. “We selected Common Sense media as the program we are following because it is a K-12, bilingual program which has elements for students, teachers and families. The CTE supports teacher training in Digital Literacy resources, as well as providing information for the communications department to publish and offering parent coffees and trainings which support the Citizens program at home as well. A big aspect of digital citizenship is privacy, we work closely with the communications office privacy liaisons to ensure we are following current laws in Mexico. In addition, we collaborate counselors across campus to support emotional needs related to the use of technology and devices: for example: how to share safely online, prevention of cyberbullying and developing a positive digital footprint. When someone "googles" an ASF student when thinking about potentially hiring them or admitting them into college not only do we hope that they will not find negative information that hinders them from getting into college or getting a job, we hope that what they find will be something positive that sets our students apart from other candidates”, concludes Tracey.
Besides the CTE, other areas of the school are contributing to the program. The Communications department is posting updates for parents on social media and has created a print and poster campaign across the school. In addition, students have been given stickers to put on their devices to remind them to be good digital citizens.
So how is this impacting students? Chris Muller, former CTE Coordinator and current Upper School Dean of Students, and Tracey Bryan worked on a pilot program with grade 5 students during the 2016-17 school year. She created and taught the lessons to all grade 5 students and Chris compiled all of the data in a research project he was working on. Here is a link to the study findings. As teachers prepare the lessons for their students, they too are learning about the changing needs related to digital citizenship and specific topics such as privacy laws in Mexico.
Over the past six years, numerous parent coffees and training sessions have been offered. ASF was the first school in Mexico to host a screening of the documentary Screenagers which addresses many issues related to digital citizenship and device addiction. Over 1000 community members attended one of the screenings. Last spring, Dr. William Rankin was invited to speak to all ASF community members on how technology changes affect our students.
Parents can attend coffees and training sessions offered across the divisions, and they can use the resources provided by Common Sense media to help their children make healthy media choices at home. One of parents’ favorite features of the website is the section that rates movies and video games for age appropriateness.
The work that was done by over 50 teachers on campus to promote this effort and teach the Common Sense Media curriculum across the LS, MS and US divisions allowed ASF to be recognized as a Common Sense Media Certified District. “It is important for the school to have a clear plan for implementing digital citizenship throughout the curriculum. The pace at which technology is changing and the amount of access our student have to digital resources makes this program utterly important to a modern education,” adds Tracey.
During the school year, the CTE will be working closely with each division to determine how to best implement the curriculum for each age range of students and continue to look for the most-up-to-date resources to share with the entire community.