Preparing Our Students for Their Digital Futures

by Brad Lands, Director of Technology

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -John Dewey

It’s not surprising that we currently live in a world that is highly unpredictable and constantly evolving. It’s not surprising that technology seems to be exponentially increasing and global issues seem to be getting more complicated. What is surprising, however, is the fact that we as educators have to prepare our students for a future in which they will become productive and contributing members in this world.

Our role

Gone are the days where educators stand and deliver information and have students memorize basic facts that they might need to use some day. Students can easily perform a quick Google search on a mobile device to find this information. In today’s world, our job is to help our students become creative, critical thinkers who can learn how to access and use the world’s information to help them solve complex problems.

Traditional models of education require students to solve problems for which we know the solutions. One example is providing students with multiple-choice assessments. Alternatively, we as educators need to engage students in curriculum via inquiry-based learning, where students are empowered to ask their own questions and tackle problems for which the solutions are unknown. More importantly, we need to allow our students to struggle with these learning tasks, encourage them to troubleshoot, and praise their efforts when they persevere.

Technology at Langley

How do we do this?

Below are just a few of the inquiry-based projects in which Langley students have taken part this year:

20time Project Elective: In this Middle School elective, students are empowered to choose what they want to learn about, and are strongly encouraged to select challenging topics that have a real purpose outside of the classroom. This course is modeled after Google’s 20% time. Embedded in Google’s corporate culture is the concept of allowing engineers to take on independent projects. This unofficial policy lets them invest 20 percent of their work time on self-led explorations to solve real problems. Throughout Langley’s course, our students simulate this workplace experience by using the power of technology to identify problems, ask meaningful questions, pitch project proposals, develop solutions, present their ideas, and iterate their solutions. In other words, this course is designed to encourage the kind of “moonshot” thinking required to create novel solutions to unsolved problems, thereby helping to prepare students for future-ready innovation.

STEAM Challenge: Earlier this month, Langley fourth-graders engaged in a week-long STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) workshop where they experimented with physical computing. They learned about electricity, circuits, and computer programming by creating their own interactive monster. Students were tasked with sewing a monster out of felt and using electronic components such as LED lights, mini-speakers, a circuit board, and conductive thread in order to program the monster to output light and sound. Moreover, students were able to make their monster unique by choosing different colors, sizes, shapes, and creative code patterns. As they problem-solved and worked together, students not only learned about computer programming, but also developed valuable life skills such as persistence, flexible thinking, and collaboration.

Hour of Code: In celebration of Computer Science Education week, Langley students from all three school divisions completed Hour of Code activities. For many of our Primary and Lower School students, this was their first exposure to computer programming and they really enjoyed it. These computer programming activities varied from basic directional coding, to block coding, to text-based coding in many different computer programming languages. Even though the activities were different for each school division, all students engaged in challenging, critical thinking in order to complete each activity. The best thing about these activities was that there were multiple ways to complete them. Students were able to be creative in their critical thinking in order to solve each of the challenges, demonstrating that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

STEAM Fair: Langley’s first STEAM Fair will be held on Saturday, February 6, 2016. This is a very exciting event for the Langley community because it not only raises awareness about the importance of STEAM education in our world today, but also highlights Langley’s effort and dedication to teach our students to become creative problem-solvers. This family event is open to all students in preschool through grade 8 and will showcase how students interact with STEAM education at Langley. The STEAM Fair will include a display area of student work, open Lego play, technology demonstrations, a STEAM Book Nook, and hands-on activities for families. This is the perfect opportunity for both parents and students to learn, play, think, and have fun while exploring STEAM education at Langley.

So what’s next?

If we want our students to become independent, lifelong learners, then we need to continue to implement these critical learning opportunities at Langley – opportunities that allow our students to be naturally curious and work together to solve complex problems, that allow them to use technology to access information and creatively communicate their understanding, and that value the process more than the product. If we can continue to provide our students with this type of innovative education, then we are on the right track to preparing them for their future in the digital age.

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Building Digital Citizens at Langley

By Brad Lands, Director of Technology

It seems like every day there is a new app, device, or social media site. And somehow, our students always seem to know about it first. It can be extremely difficult and time consuming trying to keep up with all of the latest technology trends and tools that are out there. So, why do we do it? Maybe it’s because we want to stay hip. Or maybe it’s because we want to keep our students safe and protect them from all of the “bad” stuff on the Internet. The truth is, we will never be able to fully protect our students online. There will always be another site to be blocked, and another social media app to be banned. But what we can do is teach our students to become responsible digital citizens who will learn how to safely participate in the norms of appropriate and respectful technology use, regardless of the tool they are using.
The Langley School

So, how do we do this? I think it begins with focusing on the core values that make Langley such a safe and caring community. When we shift the focus from online tools to online behaviors, we can really tap into the foundational root of digital citizenship. However, it is important to remember that in order to build responsible digital citizens at Langley, we must also be digital citizens by modeling our expected behavior when we are online. This responsibility is critical to the growth and development of our students and is shared by our Langley community members and families.

Therefore, it is important to highlight the five core values that are vested in the Langley community and to use a common language that can be shared by both students and adults. Langley’s five core values are an integral part of our students’ success. They are: respect, honesty, kindness, citizenship, and trustworthiness. And they all play a critical role in digital citizenship.

Respect

Respect yourself and others online. Only post positive information about yourself and others. Also, show respect to other people online. This can include respecting other people’s personal information by not sharing anything about them without their permission. Finally, give respect to authors of copyrighted material by asking to use their work for projects and assignments and include attribution to the author or source when using their work.

Honesty

Be honest with yourself and other people online. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult. If someone hurts your feelings online, let them know that your feelings were hurt. If you make a mistake, be honest. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but how we recover from those mistakes is what is most important. Finally, never lie about your age or other personal information online. Always tell the truth!

Kindness

Be kind to others online. Apply the “Golden Rule” by treating people the way that you would like to be treated. Write positive feedback when peer editing. Post friendly comments on social media. Compliment others when you want to share something nice, and give kudos for important accomplishments and celebrations.

Trustworthiness

Students have the ability to do incredible things online, but we have to trust them before we can empower them. Trust that our students will make good decisions online. Trust that they will do the right thing when faced with challenging situations. And trust that they will ask you for help when they don’t know what to do. The more our students feel trusted, the more they will become trustworthy.

Citizenship

Be a citizen both offline and online. This includes using your rights and responsibilities as digital citizens. You have the right to keep your information private, protected, and secured. Always check your privacy settings on social media and be sure to have a safe and secure password for your accounts. You also have the responsibility to report offensive or threatening content and behavior online. Look out for yourself, but also look out for each other. Not just because it is your right and responsibility, but because it is the right thing to do.

As you can see, by focusing on Langley’s five core values, we can reinforce the positive behaviors that we expect our students to use when they are online. And by using a common language, we can have meaningful conversations with our students to help them make informed decisions when using technology. So, the key to building digital citizens at Langley is not by trying to protect them; it’s by empowering them. We need to teach our students to become independent, critical thinkers who use their moral judgment and good character when they are faced with difficult situations on the Internet. Put simply, we need to trust them to use their online power for good. Once we start empowering our students with technology, there is no limit to what they can accomplish!

For more information, view Langley’s video on digital citizenship. Current Langley parents can also access additional resources on our Parent Education page.