It seems fitting to me that Digital Citizenship Week falls within Connected Educator Month. There are two reasons I feel this way. First, a week is not enough time…neither is a month for that matter. And second, digital citizenship has to first be experienced, understood, and modeled by the educator if lessons are really going to have any authenticity. Blending DC Week into Connected Educator month extends the focus and provides relevance-win, win.
For the last two years, I have spent considerable energy designing professional growth activities for Indiana educators with the intent of helping educators grow their personal learning networks and showcasing Connected Educators during October. For any momentum to take hold requires more than one month out of the year.
Year-round efforts of digital leaders and the support of ed tech advocates, such as integrationists and coaches, are evident in small pools. Over the summer, we enjoy a surge of their energy as regional conferences fill the #INeLearn Twitterstream. Hashtags spill over to the new school year as increasing number of school corporations turn to social media to communicate with their communities. But with teachers resuming their normal school day routines, the amount of time and energy needed to connect begins to dry up. By second semester, a few crazies still pull out their gear and continue their connections, but like those of us who watch Polar Plunges in awe and disbelief-their colleagues just shake their heads and think, better you than me.
Mirror that pattern to Digital Citizenship Education. Planning and implementing a fun-filled, high-energy week can bring the media into your building, provide an opportunity to engage with parents, and get students and teachers alike talking the same language–at least a few key phrases. Yet, without a plan for ongoing focus, once the week is over and the materials are packed away until next year, the connection will be broken. In 50 weeks, you will essentially begin all over again. In the meantime, Digital Citizenship will be relinquished to disciplinary actions rather than cause for celebration. My goal is to help others make Digital Citizenship Week the impetus to a year-round dialogue about digital literacies and responsibilities.
I’ll be working with a group of secondary media specialists tomorrow and they have already expressed interest in becoming Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Schools. One aspect that I value in this certification program is that there is an emphasis on being Connected Educators. The project lead is expected to join a Common Sense Education community-either with EdWeb or through Edmodo. They are even provided a prompt to get them engaged in dialogue, “Share what inspired your school to implement digital citizenship and literacy and to become certified.” As project leads in these global communities, they are encouraged “to discuss best practices and interesting research as well as to troubleshoot challenges.”
Beyond becoming connected themselves, the project leads are expected to foster a network in their building where peers can share successes and discuss obstacles. Common Sense Education provides a variety of resources for project leads to use in facilitating faculty training and for developing an instructional plan. Interestingly enough, the Common Sense recommendation is to consolidate the core lessons into a tight schedule rather than spreading it out over the course of a year. What better time than during the week of October 18-24 to launch this effort? If you choose to roll out the plan to three grade levels or more, this only requires 2 1/2 hours of instructional time. Check out this handy guide provided by Common Sense Education.
The real work of the community, in my mind, is to support each other in continuing the momentum beyond October. I’m going to commit to being a better member of the EdWeb Digital Citizenship Community and am wondering if there would be value in starting a community specifically for Indiana educators.