Digital Curriculum Update


When introducing students, teacher and administration to the concepts of digital literacy and footprinting, there are few insights that I have gleaned from my experiences.

Overcoming Digital Natives’ Complacency: This is a concept first created by U.S. author Marc Prensky in 2001 is emerging as the globe’s dominant demographic, while the “digital immigrant,” becomes a relic of a previous time. (CNN) The use of digital technology is so ubiquitous that many feel they are either experts or have found a niche of behaviour that is safe, secure and relatively passive. However, this is neither relevant nor true. Our online behaviour is more and more a product of external forces than of internal ones. Our behaviour is being guided by forces much larger than just our interests, and this alone is worth looking into…

From a Scientific American article, research is supporting the idea that digital natives are experiences learned helplessness when it comes to academic perseverance: “In our experience, if students are not able to find answers to an Internet search in the first few results pages, they say “I can’t find it,” instead of adjusting their search, or reexamining the results in depth.”

Strategy: I am not a fan of the ‘shock & awe’ approach to spark attention to this issue; however, exposing students to google analytics, and how facebook makes money can make them think about their behaviours and how they are being monitored.

What we did at my school was to try and overcome the attitude, of “what do they know, they’re just teachers!” by bringing in an expert with a hands-on approach. Chris Vollum is an engaging speaker that appeals to the varied experiences of our student body in terms of online behaviour. I was inspired to have him in after viewing “In Real Life” which asks the larger question of “what is being online doing to our teens?” It inspired me because, while the documentary itself is expansive, it does ask basic questions like “what is the cloud?” and “where does my information go?”, and “how do I set my privacy settings properly?”

This is just the kind of thing that Chris Vollum tackles. Some students have reported “The biggest take away from the presentation is to be responsible for what you post, and think before you post it to make sure it wont ruin your reputation. I didn’t change any of my settings on social media because I am already fully private.” Just knowing that you are on the right track with your settings is an important step forward. Another student wrote, “It really helps to have someone talking to you about it that has had experience with it or knows a lot about the subject.” This reflection ended with “Be careful what you post!”

In the classroom, the same Scientific American article inspires us, as teachers, to “…to help students develop the skills to problem solve independently and collaboratively use 21st-century skills while not relying on technology to do all of the thinking for them.”

2) Getting Teachers OnBoard: Many of us are working with younger colleagues who are of the digital native generation, or at the very least are comfortable with their online behaviour and are very active; however, I find that there is a disconnect between its importance and priority in our own lives, and the importance and priority that it has in our classrooms. The NTCE article “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait” they state that, just as English teachers must model good writing to teach good writing, teachers must demonstrate and encourage students to take smart risks and engage in the digital literacies, and become part of the larger conversation.

Strategies: In an article from Connected Learning Today, Sarah Almeda explains “Why Do Teens Hate School”. In this article she highlights that teens feel that their voices are not taken seriously because of the digital languages that they speak. Specifically, she says that teens feel aknowledged when, the school embraces the 21st century culture: “You’ve may have heard of the awesome things happening in our library. Our Makerspace, for lack of a better term, is the bomb-diggity. We’re prying apart computers, printing 3D renovation plans, making toothbrush robots—yet my favorite part of the library and Ms. Fleming’s open door and encouraging Twitter.

I think that we, at my school, are on the right track towards promoting a safe and informed approach to the ever-changing digital environment, but the above two points are the at the forefront of my journey at this moment.  What is at the forefront of your digital literacy/footprinting/education?



3 thoughts on “Digital Curriculum Update

  1. Garth – this is a fantastic post. Great quote: “Our online behaviour is more and more a product of external forces than of internal ones.” You are doing such important work – I need to look into the issues you have raised myself, and see what I can do with my students. Thanks for this.

  2. Garth,

    I’m really grateful for the work that you are doing and how you are pushing forward the knowledge of digital responsibility in our classrooms.

    Although it is not entirely connected to everything you are writing about here, I wanted to make sure that you have seen this bit by Louis CK on Conan. A tad blunt in places, but he actually really hits the point home about how hard it can be for young people to see the effects of their actions when a phone is between them and the person they might be impacting.

    Hope you get a giggle out it!

  3. Garth I just told you this in person but will post it here for you to read again later…
    I like that you bring up how teachers need to model intentional use of technology and digital citizenship. This made me think of the touchy subject of social media, and the connections there between teachers and students. I always encourage parents to engage with their children on social networks just as they would in real-life networks, and teachers should probably engage via those channels in similar ways (digital connections that are equally appropriate/professional to our real-world connections).
    Much to think about here!

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