By Jamie Andrus, Learning Support Specialist
When Eastside Prep expanded its 1:1 computer program to the Middle School, it was to provide experience with the freedom and responsibility that comes with owning a laptop before entering Upper School. Middle School offers a safe space to make and learn from mistakes, and when it comes to managing technology use, there are plenty of opportunities to make them. The same tools that allow students to create, communicate, and collaborate can also lead to distraction and drama. Parents and teachers alike know that attempting to police computer use is frustrating and often ineffective, and yet, students need guidance in navigating their devices and online engagement. This year, some Middle School advisories, starting with fifth grade winter trimester, will begin using Common Sense Education’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum. This resource gives students the coaching they need while keeping them at the center of the conversation.
Guiding students to be good citizens is not new to EPS—it is at the core of our mission and vision—but digital citizenship is more complicated. Staying safe and creating a supportive community online requires specific skills and ways of thinking. The Digital Citizenship Curriculum authored by Common Sense Education takes a dispositional approach. Lessons ask students to reflect on the thinking and behavior that shapes whether and how people use their knowledge. The curriculum engages students in six content areas: media balance and well-being; privacy and security, digital footprint and identity; relationships and communication; cyberbullying, digital drama, and hate speech; and news and media literacy. Students will also make connections between the Digital Citizenship Curriculum and their social-emotional learning activities, as well as equity, inclusion, and compassionate leadership programming.
As students progress through Middle School, they are asked to consider what goes into building a community and how they can be leaders within that community. Students reflect on their spheres of influence: their families, their school, their cities, state, and country, and the world—including the digital world. Our goal in introducing the Digital Citizenship Curriculum is not only to support the safe and responsible use of technology but to inspire students to make a positive impact online and a better digital world.