Surprisingly, my school has had 1:1 laptops from 1st grade onwards since its inception, 7 years ago, but has never had a digital citizenship curriculum or common agreements around the responsible use of the internet. I think it’s wrong that we have given students access to a digital environment, but have not taught them the skills necessary to successfully consume, contribute, and create online.
As I have gathered resources to build a K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum, I kept thinking back to those few teachers who don’t even feel comfortable letting their kids use the computers, let alone teaching lessons on how to interact and create an authentic, purposeful audience online. What I have realized is that our classroom management training, procedures, and expectations are outdated. Those teachers who are reluctant about technology, are the ones desperately clinging to control, rather than embracing what learning looks like today. Then it hit me that along with a Digital Citizenship curriculum, we need a common understanding of effective 21st century classroom management strategies.
Annoyingly, I could not find many resources devoted to this topic, and the suggestions that came from searching ‘classroom management strategies’ were very outdated and suggested primarily reactive (and creativity crushing) ways to insist kids raised their hands before talking, stayed in their seats, finished their homework, etc. All very authoritative methods that provide very win-lose situations for kids who are already struggling with big questions like “Why do I have to learn this,” “How will this ever help me,” and “Why do I have to come to school anyway?!” Talk about a recipe for behavior problems.
Managing 21st Century Classrooms, written by Jane Bluestein, wrote that ‘uncooperative student behavior’ is one of the biggest reasons cited for teachers who leave the profession! I found this almost hilarious because I wager that ‘uncooperative teacher behavior’ is one of the biggest reasons kids mentally, sometimes even physically, check out of school.
Remember Logan LaPlante’s Tedx “Hackschooling Makes me Happy”? This is why students are pushing back. Teachers are so entrenched in what they have to cover, they miss what the students want and need for their futures. Check out one of the comments by ItsHawkable to Logan’s talk that got 199 likes: School teaches nothing, its about passing not learning. I am 14 years old and I am a developer for minecraft mods and plugins and general java applications (Which is funny cause he mentions it in the video). Without focusing on school, I learned Java fluently in 3 months and I hope to one day go on to become a software engineer, and school hasn’t taught me a damn thing about my profession. I want to go to college where I can focus on my studies, where I can focus one what I love and want to do for the rest of my life.
Clearly, kids still need teachers and school. The revolution, as Derek Muller explains, needs to be the way teachers connect to students and make school relevant again. He also explains that, “Luckily, the fundamental role of a teacher is not to deliver information. It is to guide the student in the social process of learning.” Don’t be afraid of coaching; our kids should be expected to achieve more and dream bigger than us! So teach how, but then get out of the way.
Now we’re back to the issue and need to teach digital citizenship and responsible, powerful ways to use the internet to learn and make connections. I worked with our librarian on this project and we decided in Grades K-2 to simply build on the Scope and Sequence provided by Common Sense Media and building in extra resources we knew of, such as videos from BrainPop and free tools for research and citations. In grades 3-5, as kids become a bit more independent, teachers will utilize a blended approach using lessons from the scope and sequence, in addition to the Digital Passport program. In middle school and high school, the advisory teachers have 3 choices (or even better – a combo that lasts through the year): they can use the Digital Bytes program, the scope and sequence lessons (see here for HS plans so far), or join the globally collaborative projects through Flat Connections called Digitween and Digiteen.
Now that I am nearing completion of these units, I will shift my attention to the changes that need to happen in classroom management in order to facilitate 21st century learning. Several teachers at my school are comfortable with this shift and have embraced new ways of teaching, which may be a good place to start. If a think tank can be convened around the topic of 21st century classroom management agreements, then maybe we can begin to show all teachers win-win strategies so that students and teachers alike don’t feel the temptation to leave school.