Our lives are more intertwined with technology than ever before. From even the most menial of tasks like ordering food, right up to running a business; the internet is now an omnipresent player in everything we do.
The pervasive nature of technology has influenced the way children play, socialise, connect and, most especially, learn. The immense impact of online tools on children’s lives highlights the crucial need for them to be tech-savvy and comfortable navigating online.
When managed in the right way, the Internet poses untold benefits both in school and in later life. Employers are increasingly looking for candidates who can identify and understand the latest tools that allow them to operate efficiently. Those students who pick up the technical know-how to use the internet at a young age will streamline their professional habits and maximise productivity.
For these reasons, schools are catching on to the power of the web and are increasingly incorporating it in the learning process. Gone are the days of confiscating phones and using the whiteboard; instead, schools are starting to reap the benefits of engaging students’ technological interests, helping them learn, communicate and collaborate in the most effective way.
But while the growing presence of technology provides a wealth of perks, it also comes with many pitfalls to which children are particularly susceptible. The great responsibility that comes with internet access can often be fraught with confusion for a younger generation struggling to understand modern phenomena, including things like cyberbullying and digital footprints.
Dwight School Seoul (DSS) understands the balance between necessity and responsibility, placing a strong importance on teaching students about online presence. As a Common Sense certified school for Digital Citizenship, DSS prepares students to use the power of digital media to explore, create, connect and learn, while limiting the dangers of the online realm.
“We’re honoured to be recognized as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified School,” says the School’s Head, Mr Kevin Skeoch. “By preparing our students to use technology safely and responsibly, we are providing them unlimited opportunities to maximise and personalise their learning.”
Using innovative and research-based resources, created in collaboration with the Good Play Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Common Sense Education’s pioneering programme teaches students, educators and parents alike the tangible skills related to internet safety.
DSS embraces the need for classroom tech and views it as a means of aiding the overall learning process. To ensure students remain current and up-to-date with all the latest advances, giving them a competitive edge over students worldwide, students from grade 4 and up must supply their own portable computer.
iMac computer labs and in-class iPads are utilised by all students across the school, starting with the Early Childhood Division (age 3-5). Computer integrated learning is woven throughout the curriculum to get kids engaging with technology early on.
The Digital Citizenship programme optimises this tech-integration, teaching students how to harness the internet to benefit their studies using tools for information search and analysis.
An abundance of resources available over the internet but not everything is authentic. Digital citizenship teaches students how to seek, select and streamline information, as well as how to choose real and authentic sources.
The practical use of the internet is also teamed with learning to use it responsibly. With colleges and employers now using social media and online presence to judge prospective students and employees, it’s essential students learn to create online personas that project a positive self image.
“We want students to think about their online presence and behaviour not as a digital footprint, but as a tattoo: no amount of scrubbing will wash away the effects of a wrong decision. It will be extremely difficult to remove, and will always leave traces,” says DSS’s Whole School IT Integration Specialist, Frank Vink.
The Digital Citizenship programme stresses the importance of this ‘digital tattoo’, while also tackling issues like plagiarism, loss of privacy and cyberbullying.
Recognising that the web is extremely prevalent in children’s lives, emphasis is placed on giving students the tools to make their own responsible online decisions. As parents and teachers can’t always regulate online activity, students are encouraged to question why they should or should not follow through, fostering informed and independent decision-making skills.
These digital courses run from Kindergarten to High School-level, where digital citizenship lessons are integrated within the curriculum and the subject matter progresses in line with age group sensitivities. As students enter their teens and use of social media becomes increasingly prolific, positive and realistic self-image is central to the curriculum taught in Physical and Health Education at DSS.
Parent sessions are also provided to encourage dialogue about the dangers of digital media, engaging caregivers in the collaborative process of responsible usership.
In today’s connected world, the ability to harness the immense power of the internet is an essential life skill. The best place to start this education is in the classroom setting, where students are receptive to the lessons conveyed and can be equipped with the skills needed to combat hazards before they arise.
On top of this, computers in the classroom often increase student engagement level in the activity, lesson or assignment. As many students are genuinely passionate about contemporary technology, there’s often an increased focus on the project at hand and this can be a vital tool for maintaining student interest in the topic learned.
Blending this innate enthusiasm with the responsible use of the tools will prove to benefit students for the rest of their lives.