Whose Responsibility?

Some questions related to online safety are quite straightforward.  When we ask, “Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?” the clear answer is “It’s the responsibility of everyone involved.”  It is the responsibility other students, siblings, parents, teachers, tech coordinators, librarians, principals, heads of school, mainstream media, celebrities, lawmakers, politicians, non-profit groups, and more.

A much more difficult, and interesting, question is how to break down this general responsibility among all the different groups so that we are not all trying to do the same thing, and so we can teach digital citizenship as a coherent curriculum rather than a haphazard piecemeal.

This is a question with which we are currently struggling at UNIS Hanoi.  Currently in the middle and high schools we:

Pottery debris on the beach by John Lucas CC

While all of these actions and activities are helpful, they often feel more like haphazard piecemeal rather than coherent curriculum. As we continue to open up the internet infrastructure at UNIS to student owned devices, we will also be opening up many potentially teachable moments if we are aware and ready for them. A starting place for this is looking at potential topics and approaches for the different roles at the school.

Orientation: For the MS students, I run orientation sessions focused on our Responsible Use Agreement (RUA).  During my first year at UNIS, we did this by reading over the RUA together and talking about how it related to them.  This year I mixed it up a bit by creating role-play situations that illustrated the different principles of the RUA.  Ideally, this would be followed up by revisiting those role-play situations later in the year during Advisory.

Advisory Program:  Although Advisory lessons are less frequent and formal than regular classes, they provide an opportunity to address topics and skills that don’t directly relate to academic classes.  The typing unit that our G06 student currently do is one example, but it would be great if we could do more.

  • Information Management – the ability to sift through, manage, and organize a virtually limitless supply of data is a major challenge, and many of our students are overwhelmed by the number of files they get through email, Google Docs, Haiku LMS, etc.
  • Zen presentations – in addition to managing data, students need to be able to present it clearly and articulately. We need to be teaching them to create clean, minimalist presentations that enhance their ideas rather than distract.
  • Cyberbullying and sexting – although we touch on these ideas in MS orientation, we need to come back to them in HS so that students can think through the issues with new depth and complexity.

Teachers: Many of the issues related to digital life are are subset of related subjects.  A great example of this is our current G08 unit on Citizenship, which begins by looking at the history of Citizenship in a broad sense and culminates by looking at modern digital citizenship.  Drawing from Gerald Bailey and Mike Ribble’s “Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship”, some possibilities of other curricular connections could be:

  • an Economics unit that investigates how online purchasing has affected markets
  • an Model UN scenario that looks at the ‘Digital Divide’ and what the UN can do about it
  • a TOK unit about how digital technologies have affected the way that people transmit knowledge and learn
  • a Humanities unit related to Social Contract theory about the rights and privileges of digital technology and how they relate to modern day responsibilities
  • an Ethics unit about copyright, fair use, and the modern debate regarding openness of information versus protecting intellectual property

Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. Taken by Omar Kamel CC

Librarian: The role of libraries and librarians in a world of Google is an ongoing debate at UNIS and most other schools.  Our librarians see themselves as teacher/librarians who have a role in working with both students and teachers to help them find, manage, use, and cite resources and information. A few roles include:

  • helping teachers use TurnItIn.com to ensure students originality of content
  • helping students access all of the databases to which we subscribe, as well as free services
  • help both students and teachers understand proper ways to cite different types of sources, as well as how to use tools like EasyBib and NoodleTools which can help them manage citations

Tech Coordinator:  My role in this is to help support all of the teachers so that they are aware of new tools that come along and what issues are most important to focus on.  In addition, I think the role of the Tech Coordinator is to gather information about students’ perceptions, knowledge, skills, and habits regarding technology. It is not enough to simply teach the material; we need to see what effect our teaching has on kids. This can include:

  • an annual survey to gather student perception data regarding technology use
  • analytics of website traffic on the school network and on student owned machines to check for unhealthy patterns or behaviours
  • continual updating of tech curriculum content and tools to ensure that it is up-to-date and relevant to student needs

Counselors and Learning Support:  When problems relating to digital life occur, as they inevitably will, the counselors and learning support need to be able to support students to overcome these challenges.  Sometimes these issues arise from looking at tech use analytics, while more often they come when a teacher, parent or counselor notices a problem and suspects a connection to tech use. When issues are identified, we need to make individualized action plans to address the particular concerns of the case.

Parents:  Last year in particular our tech team spent a great deal of time setting up tech training sessions for parents.  Most of these sessions were related to social media, privacy, digital distraction, and other issues that commonly arise at home.  Perhaps the most difficult part of the sessions, though, was getting parents to come. Although they asked for these sessions and expressed interest in them, most of the sessions were attended by 2-6 parents (out of the 1000-2000 total parent/guardians).  To address this issue, last year we built a Tech Connect website with information targeted to parents to give those who missed the live session a chance to access the material.

Students: This is perhaps one of the most important, and most overlooked, ways of teaching students good digital etiquette and safety. Ideally, we find ways of having older students teach younger students about the potential dangers, as well as the potential, of digital tools and social media. This is definitely one that I need to think through a bit more.