Teachers as Digital Mentors


The importance of digital citizenship education can't be overstated given the amount of time we spend online. Not only in schools but just in life. Maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, but every year I become more and more dependent on technology to meet my daily needs. In China, it's been my lifeline for translation, finding my way around, paying for EVERYTHING, and of course, keeping in touch with my husband and my family while the borders remain closed. In schools, technology is woven into the fabric of teaching and learning, and like me, teachers and students have come to rely on devices to get through their days. And while I think we can all agree that teaching digital citizenship is important, it's less clear who, when and how we should be teaching it. Each year I grapple with this as the sole tech coach for an elementary campus, but this year, I've managed to build in professional development checkpoints throughout the year, so we can start aligning in our efforts to develop a proactive approach to digital citizenship. One of these checkpoints happened a couple of weeks ago at an early release day where I got a nice 45-minute block with the whole staff.

Screen time check-in

Being the inquiry educator I am, I always like to start a PD session or workshop with something a little provocative. For this one, I decided to get a little vulnerable and share my average daily screen time (almost 8 hours!!!) with a little anecdote about how I've become far more mindless in my scrolling with the absence of my husband and all the time I spend alone at home. I invited everyone to look at their own screen time on their phones and do a mental evaluation of that time. I then shared about my work with a colleague who is doing some training for positivity-coaching and how she's been working with me to help me reach a WOOP goal around my screen time. I am happy to report I've decreased my daily average by about 40% in the last couple of months. Anyway, after looking at our collective screen time, we jumped into a chat about how, whether we like it or not, we are digital mentors for our students. This was a great segway into our session on digital citizenship education and how we could become more united in our preventative and reactive measures as a school.


Digital Citizenship- Everyone's job

I shared the 6 pillars from Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship curriculum and asked teachers to do a quick audit of the lessons or conversations they've had with students this year. Then, to think more broadly, I asked them to look for ways different stakeholders could support this work. Great ideas were generated during this portion of the session, and it provided me with some valuable data to revisit when thinking about the next steps and goals for our department. Additionally, I think it illuminated just how collective this work is, and how we all have to be playing an active role. And that while ideally, we want our work to be preventative, we also have to be prepared for how we will address issues when they come up.


This led us to the next segment called, 'A Student Did WHAT?'. These were scenario cards that I made based on real incidents that have happened recently in our school community. The aim here was to give teachers the space and time to share strategies with each other about how they have or would address these things. Much like a role-playing game, teachers were able to see these situations through others' perspectives, reflect on their practices and offer suggestions to colleagues as parents and educators. The feedback we received from this session was that teachers appreciated the opportunity to have focused conversations, so that was nice to hear.


To conclude the session, I (re)shared some resources for embedding digital citizenship into the classroom instruction through morning meetings, stand-alone lessons, and as an add-on across content areas. And finally, I invited them to earn their Common Sense Educator badge and continue collaboration with me throughout the year to show their commitment to this work. I am especially excited about March when I'm planning to rally teachers, admin and parents to participate in #MediaMentorMonth. If you haven't seen this, definitely check it out. It was developed by some of the most inspiring educators I know, and the idea behind it is exactly what it says- being a mentor in this digital age.


Our next check-in is after the holiday break, so I'll keep you posted on the progress here. In the meantime, I'll be looking to revise our school's student-family Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to make it more accessible with icons and translations, as well as planning our next parent coffee in the springtime. I'd love to hear what you're doing to promote and teach digital citizenship and mentorship in your context. And as always, if you want to collaborate on something in this realm, I'm always looking for joining forces with other passionate educators!!

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