Today’s blog is a post by my colleague Heather Barnard, a Digital Learning Leader at my school in Singapore, Stamford American International School. I am inspired by what Heather has achieved by leading our 2800 student school to become a Common Sense Certified School with an emphasis on safe learning for all. It is a pleasure to work with her on a daily basis to lead and drive change and innovation.
Digital media is evolving at a rapid rate, whether we’re ready for it or not. One minute, we are in awe of how easy it is to seek out extraordinary learning opportunities in the virtual world, but the next minute, we’re faced with the dilemma of possibly posing risks for our students. Our students are creating, texting, analyzing, synthesizing and internalizing information at a rapid rate, inside and out of the classroom. We’re now, more than ever, responsible for teaching topics such as internet safety, copyright laws, and cyber-bullying.
As a Digital Learning Leader, I work with my team to help teachers and parents understand the opportunities and challenges of using technology in the classroom, as well as at home. As a 1:1 device school, our goal for students is to harness the power of technology for learning in a safe and responsible way. But in order to be a community, we need to help the message stay consistent at home, so we involve our parents in the learning as well. In order to have a cohesive culture of digital citizenship, we needed to start with a foundational understanding of the issues students are faced with these days.
To help us begin establishing a culture of awareness surrounding digital citizenship, we turned to one of the best resources out there, Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media offers an educator and school certification program, acknowledging teachers, staff, and students as part of the conversation surrounding digital citizenship. Common Sense also offers an amazing bank of information for parents, keeping the messages consistent and providing parents answers to anything from screen time to potentially harmful apps. As a Digital Learning team, we took the Common Sense Media scope and sequence, mapped it out across our school, KG2-Grade 12, making sure the teachers, students, and parents would continually grow in their understanding of digital literacy and digital citizenship throughout their time in the school.
The first step was to provide professional development sessions for the teaching and support staff in our community. This included lessons, statistics, and information provided by Common Sense, as well as our own school culture, mission, and vision, as we take safeguarding very seriously. Teachers were presented with the information and tools provided by Common Sense to then take back to their classrooms (with support as needed by our Digital Learning team) in order to complete step two, teaching or creating lessons based on the Common Sense guidelines.
It was amazing to see how the teachers worked together in completing lessons; specialists were invited into homeroom classrooms, the support department wrote lessons for their students and everybody worked together, keeping our students as the WHY behind what we’re doing. Simultaneously, our school counselors and Digital Learning department have been leading parent information sessions throughout the year on social media, how to manage devices at home and what parents need to be aware of while their children are online.
The process of certification is not a quick process, taking our school two months to do it correctly and with genuine integration, nor is it a one and done lesson. Our school will now be using the scope and sequence we’ve adapted from Common Sense to continue teaching concepts throughout the year, as part of our digital learning curriculum. We’re proud to say we are now a Common Sense School at Stamford American International School.