While Mount Vernon’s Middle School has embraced collaboration through the 1-1 Chromebook program, teachers, administrators and parents also recognize the importance of digital citizenship, ensuring students make smart online decisions. Specifically this year, seventh and eighth graders are participating in a comprehensive digital citizen program.
Getting things started, students recently took part in a Google Hangout with cyber civics expert, Dr. Marialice Curran. Curran, a former middle school teacher and principal, now teaches at the University of St. Joseph in Connecticut. During the online hangout, she took students through several exercises and answered their questions driving home the premise that an individual’s online activities create digital tattoos (or digital footprints) and that since “today’s students live their lives digitally connected, they need to be educated accordingly.”
As a part of the experience, students did the toothpaste activity, which demonstrated how we create images online (like making the design/picture with toothpaste on paper), but once these images are out there, you cannot get them back, just like one is unable to get toothpaste back into the tube.
During the “hangout” students participated in a panel discussion and asked questions: What is the worst social media site? Can anything posted on social media be traced back to the person who posted it? And can what you post on social media keep you from getting a job? Commenting on the experience, students shared their thoughts:
- “I really liked it but it scared me a little bit. Now I’m going to be more careful.” -Kiki Hale, Class of 2019
- “Really interesting and cool to learn what we can do about it – Jenny Long, Class of 2020
- “It really gave me a new perspective on digital media.” – Anna Kate Pickering Class of 2019
- “I’m definitely going to take it into consideration and be careful about what I post for the sake of my future.” – Kylie Smith-Wolfe, Class of 2020
Wrapping up the discussion, the group read a poem by James W. Foley, which likens the effects of one’s words to dropping a pebble in the water: Just like the pebble creates ripples that swell to waves changing the face of a shoreline, words ripple and swell to change and impact the lives of the people they touch. The poem left students to ponder further questions like…what kinds of pebbles are you dropping? What legacy are you leaving? What impact will you make?
Throughout the semester the seventh and eighth grade will go deeper into their study of digital citizenship, with opportunities for students to earn digital badges demonstrating their commitment to the program.