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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.