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WPS middle schools earn digital citizenship certification

WPS middle schools earn digital citizenship certification

Marshall Middle School earns Common Sense Media certificationWPS middle schools participating in the Verizon Innovative Learning Initiative (VILS) are earning digital citizenship certification through a partnership with Common Sense Media.

When the pandemic hit, the district quickly made the move to provide technology to every student in the district. It made it difficult to provide all the necessary support that normally would have been offered in the classroom over a period of time.

“We decided to come up with a three-year plan, partnering with Common Sense Media, to create a digital literacy and digital citizenship program,” said Rob Dickson, chief technology officer for the district. “That helps us make sure we’re doing all the necessary instruction and preparation for teachers in a high-technology environment.”

To receive Common Sense Media certification, a percentage of teachers in each school went through a certification process. Students had to participate in digital literacy lessons and a family engagement opportunity was offered as well. So far, six of the 12 VILS schools have completed the certification.

The plan is for the VILS schools to receive certification in year one and to cascade the program to the rest of the district’s schools in year two and three.

Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that provides advice and helpful tools for parents and schools in an effort to make the digital world work better for all kids. They support schools with digital citizenship curriculum that prepares students with lifelong habits and skills, supports teachers with training and recognition, and engages families and communities with helpful tips and tools. ​

Among the topics the certification addresses are:

  • Screen balance: When is it appropriate to be working on classwork and when is it OK to take a break.
  • How to navigate a device to find accurate information online
  • Helping teachers see a device as a way for students to become creators and not just consumers of information
  • Social emotional health with device use. How can we help students make better choices when engaging online?

“We think that kids know how to use technology,” said Dickson. “But they are all at different levels. You can’t expect a student to use technology responsibly without teaching them the proper skills to do it.”

Dyane Smokorowski, the district’s digital literacy and citizenship coordinator, says that digital literacy is key to helping students successfully navigate an ever-changing digital world.

“Providing students with digital citizenship training equips them with the knowledge, skills, and resources to succeed as lifetime users and learners in a digital world,” said Smokorowski. “This also helps them learn to navigate responsibly and confidently within a digital environment so they develop as leaders who will leave meaningful impacts in the lives of others.”