Whether the issue is cyberbullying, plagiarism or simply a shared desire to teach our children the best way to use technology, most schools are incorporating some form of “digital literacy” in their curriculum. But what is the best way to do this? Which programs have a lasting impact on the children, helping them gain new skills and understanding that translates into safe, kinder, more effective online behaviors? Before we select a speaker for a one-time assembly, distribute fliers and literature to parents or recommend filters, it’s important we have good data on which programs work best.
It is possible that the program your school uses may not have been rigorously tested. Ideally, the method and materials should be evaluated for maximum effectiveness. You’d want to test the teachers and the students before implementing the program to get a baseline of everyone’s knowledge of the issue and ability to use safe online techniques. For example, you might test to see if students know how to create a good password, why it’s important and ask how many are using different passwords for each online account. The educational component would then include a module on account security, describe how hackers might access an account without your permission, help the students create complex and unique passwords, even show how a password manager works. Lastly, you’d want to test again, perhaps a few months later, to see if there was a lasting change in students’ password use, as a result of the teaching module.
For these reasons, I’m very excited to share news about a pilot program just launched in the state of Victoria in Australia. The “Growing Up Digital” initiative is the shared project of CyberSafeKids, Common Sense Media and the Victorian Department of Education. Symantec is a proud sponsor of the initiative. Beginning with just 10 schools (including public, private and religious), the program includes a curriculum designed to work in schools from kindergarten through grade 12. The program works as an overlay, to be included in the regular teaching and covers eight key categories: Internet safety, digital footprints and reputation, privacy and security, relationships and communication, info literacy, cyber-bullying, and creative credit and copyright.
Robyn Treyvaud, the founder of CyberSafeKids, said, “Young people have the right and responsibility to feel and be safe in both online and offline spaces. This includes physical, psychological, and content safety as well as a growing awareness of responsibility to self and others in all they do and say. We want to help empower communities to become conscientious digital citizens, and have observed that schools implementing the Common Sense Media program have found the values that underpin it resonate with the values, beliefs and attitudes of their school community.”
Digital literacy is a key element of the so-called “digital citizen”. If you are literate in the online space, you understand how to use the information found online, how to vet sources, how to choose online trading partners, etc. The terminology may be a little awkward and it’s likely completely without meaning to the average 10-year old, but the goal is to develop responsible, ethical, safe and respectful online citizens. We want to teach our young people what it means to be a responsible citizen, both online and off. Teachers need appropriate and tested training to implant these values within the school curriculum. The Growing Up Digital pilot includes rigorous testing to validate the curriculum model. The feedback the project managers will get from the teachers, parents and children in the pilot will help determine the final shape the curriculum will take.