Today, February 11, is Safer Internet Day, part of an international campaign to raise awareness about safe and responsible Internet use among youth. It’s also a snow day for Randolph students, faculty, and staff. Twenty years ago, I would have spent a snow day watching TV or playing outside. But thanks to technology, today’s snow day was much more productive.
This year, the Safer Internet Day campaign has included an invitation to youth to share “one good thing” that the Internet has allowed them to contribute to positively benefit the world. Students from across the U.S. shared Tweets, emails, and videos describing the value they found in responsible use of the Internet. You can view some of the submissions here. Examples of “good things” students shared included online and distance learning, collaborating with peers, and supporting friends.
Sixth grader Craig Scully-Clemmons, a member of the Middle School Tech Club, created a stop-motion animation describing his “good thing,” which was staying in touch with old friends and finding new ones.
Across the dozens of video and text submissions for Safer Internet Day, there is one unifying theme: connections.
And that idea brings us back to my snow day. Even though icy roads kept me home today, I was able to work on a few projects, check the weather, share snow pictures with family and help a colleague with a problem. The Internet allowed me to do all those things while curled up on the couch with my cats and daughter napping beside me. So, my “one good thing” is staying connected on a snow day, or on any day, with a colleague across town or with friends across the country.
The “One Good Thing” campaign is a departure from the more mainstream view of digital citizenship.
Where most curricula teach what not to do on the Internet, this campaign focuses on the benefit we can get from its use. It’s tempting to focus on cyberbullying or predators or protecting our privacy and identities. But digital citizenship is about more than defensive actions. It’s about being an active and positive citizen in the broader digital world. It’s about participating and creating, not just consuming.
Just as citizens of a political country have responsibilities to vote and pay taxes, a good digital citizen has a responsibility to contribute to the conversation.
Many of our students have a natural desire to participate as digital citizens already. They may be sharing fashion photos via Instagram or uploading Minecraft how-to videos onto YouTube. We, as educators, have a responsibility to encourage and facilitate that impulse.
We’ve made real efforts in the last few years to try and live up to that responsibility and to help our students create a positive digital footprint. Students in all three divisions blog and have the opportunity to participate in technology courses. We have made investments in expanding the 1:1 program and introducing iPads in the Lower and Middle Schools. Our students tweet and post Instagram updates about school trips. Randolph students have competed in robotics competitions and presented at TEDxHuntsville. They have produced news footage for publication through RNN and are contributing to the design of the digital and print versions of our viewbook.
Throughout the School and across disciplines, teachers are finding new ways to allow students to use technology to collaborate and produce content.
Each of these steps moves us closer to equipping Randolph students to participate in the wider digital community. When future employers or college admissions offices “google” one of our students will they find an active, positive digital citizen or a passive observer of the conversation? Will our students take advantage of the opportunities that the Internet and technology provide? In many ways, they already are good digital citizens and, as a School, we are working to help them become better ones.