As I listened to Scott McLeod’s TEDx Talk about empowered young people my mind immediately went to Nate. At the age of 5 years old, Nate Butkus turned his passion for science (I mean it had been his “favourite topic since [he] was 3!) into a podcast in order to share this passion with the world! The Show About Science has been running for four years now, and Nate is still creating new episodes. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s definitely worth a listen! His episodes feature interviews with scientists and experts from around the world. He has even branched out and has recently created a new podcast about politics.
“Our aim is for every student to be a responsible, global digital citizen who can safely and confidently navigate online social spaces and use digital tools to enhance their own learning and contribute to the learning of others.”International School of Düsseldorf – Policy 6.5 Digital Network Acceptable Use
In our Elementary School, our students are all provided with an iPad that is theirs for the school year. Prior to handing these out at the beginning of the year, we engage students in digital citizenship discussions. Respect and protect yourself, other people, and intellectual property. These are our school’s guiding statements when it comes to digital citizenship.
For the past couple of years in Grade 5 we have engaged students in these discussions using a set of five prompting questions:
- How do we look after iPads?
- How do we protect ourselves online?
- How should we interact with others online?
- How do we use technology responsibly?
- Why do we need to think carefully about our ‘Digital Footprint’?
Using the bus stop method described below, students think about and respond to these questions.
We then engage in discussions as a class and decide on a set of agreements for the year which students are expected to sign and agree to follow. These discussions are great, but I admit that we do not do a great job of revisiting these discussions throughout the year unless particular issues arise.
So, while I’ve talked about the digital citizenship bit, how do we encourage students to “use digital tools to enhance their own learning and contribute to the learning of others”?
Our Acceptable Use Policy also states the following:
“We believe that technology empowers students to take ownership of their own learning journey. Digital platforms enable truly personalised, differentiated learning experiences for every student.”International School of Düsseldorf – Policy 6.5 Digital Network Acceptable Use
Technology is definitely embedded into the teaching and learning at our school. Not only do students use it to access resources and tools to support their learning, but they are using the tools available to become creators as well. Many of our units have been opened up to allow for students to engage in personal inquiries that are relevant and engaging to them.
In his TEDx Talk, McLeod states that students are curious, enthusiastic, confident, passionate, disciplined, critical thinkers, self-directed, and problem solvers. I agree with this statement. At our school, students have access to lots of technology, and the freedom to access the online tools needed to support their learning.
In our discussions with students at the beginning of the year, we empower our students to make choices that respect and protect themselves, others, and intellectual property. When unsure about something they come across online, students know to show an adult. We do not restrict access to sites.
An area we are continuing to develop is how to create an authentic audience for our students. With so many rules in place to protect our students’ privacy, it can be difficult sometimes to find these forums for sharing. Many times students have created content (videos, tutorials, etc.) that we are unable to share due to privacy rules. This is an area I would like to continue to explore, as there have got to be ways to share this content while still protecting the privacy of our students.
Let them be amazing.
We spend so much time trying to ensure our students are using technology safely and appropriately that I’ve realized we sometimes get in the way and stop the good learning from happening. So to conclude my post, I thought I’d share some great advice from Scott McLeod. “Give [our students] something meaningful to work on. Give them powerful devices and access. Get out of their way. And let them be amazing.”
…and maybe we’ll end up with a few more Nates in the world.