Wednesday / May 29

Leaders: Be The Lead Digital Citizen

“Computer systems are changing the basic structure of education by providing a ready means for self-directed learning.  Disparities in computer skills can create disparities in educational development.” –Albert Bandura

It is no longer acceptable for any educator to say, “I’m not good with computers.” Neither teacher nor leader can be technophobes. Teaching digital citizenship cannot be considered a lesson or a unit; it has become, even without policy or regulation, part of the fabric of the learning environment. Remember when a leader’s concern might be a teacher photocopying material without copyright permissions? Sometimes a library-media specialist would notice these copies in the office or copying room and educate the guilty party…but it was a personal communication and the world was unaware. Now behaviors are visible beyond the rooms of a school.

Educators as well as students can fall into two groups. One group is the actively engaged: gamers, communicators, Facebookers, Instagramers, posters of videos in YouTube, contributors in forums, Tweeters. The other group remains off the grid except, perhaps, for email, texting along with word documents and power points. Leaders and teachers have the same responsibility to both groups of students and to each other, no matter which group they fall into themselves.

So, what does it mean to be a citizen of this digital world? Is it not our role to make every student ready for the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that associate with citizenship of all kinds? Citizenship is citizenship whether it is a national identity or a world without identifiable borders. The digital world holds a larger and far more dangerous set of consequences. It is easier to cut and paste, or share, but also easier to discover…all kinds of things and people. Young students have a world that none of us ever did. Where are the lessons and who is responsible for leading them into it? Often they are leading us, with skills but undeveloped awareness, values, and ethics.

The superintendent is the lead ethicist in the district, modeling good citizenship, crediting sources, sharing and modeling core community and district values in meetings, memos, and interactions. The lead ethicist in the school building is the principal. And the practitioner ethicists are the teachers. Digital literacy is literacy. No educator can be illiterate. Without the adults being digitally literate, we cannot engender digital ethics in the students.

One avoidable mistake is the uninformed bias that educators may communicate to their faculties and students. By dismissing social media, contributing or editing crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia, gaming, the multi-faceted use of a smartphone, or tablet, a distance is created between the students and the educators. It allows for students to have a separate world, not a safe thing for many. And, for those students who are not active in the digital world and are being left behind, it reinforces learning gaps and teaches restraint about exploring unknown worlds. Educators do not have to become experts, but cannot be the blockers who attempt to control access to what is free and widely available. Our obligation is to be knowledgeable enough to use technology where it expands our capacity to lead and serve our learners and to teach and model how to be responsible citizens of this digital world.

As instructional leaders, educators can close the gap between two domains of the digital world. One domain of the world students enter is unsupervised, outside of the school day, and the other is part of their learning within the school day.  Teaching the use of technology as an appropriate learning, research, and sharing tool bridges the gap between these two and builds responsible citizenship.

Whether it’s Minecraft or duct tape wallets, the kid-passions that seem like fads, if not totally unproductive, can alternatively be seen as mediums for experiencing the virtuous cycle of curiosity: discovering, trying, failing and growing. (

The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), dedicated to empowering connected learners in a connected world, has developed sets of standards for students and teachers. Here they explain the top three challenges to teaching digital citizenship.

Our responsibility to each other and to the students in our charge is to learn, know, and model good citizenship, and that includes digital citizenship. Modeling and teaching ethics, digital or otherwise, is essential to the teaching and learning relationship. There is no question that our students are now living in or will be living in a world in which their ability to make ethical decisions are extended into the digital world. We must use technology to teach and or reinforce content, for research, and for discovery, while helping students understand both the value and the danger the medium holds for all of us. In order to do that superintendents, principals, and teachers all must refrain from hesitation and open themselves to learning, knowing, and modeling. It is no longer acceptable for any educator to say, “I’m not good with computers.” It’s simply not good for the children.

Quote - Berkowicz and Myers

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Jill Berkowicz, Ed.D. has spent her 30-year career in education focusing on issues of equity and best practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and technology, as they affect the development of all learners in the K-12 system. In her leadership roles as a principal and director of curriculum, instruction, and technology, equal access to quality teaching was the foundation of her work. Presently, Jill is an adjunct professor at SUNY New Paltz in the Educational Leadership program. She provides ongoing professional development for teachers and principals. Her work is dedicated to developing schools’ capacity to improve the teaching and learning environment through technology, high-stakes portfolios, and rigorous learning experiences. She serves on the board of New York ASCD and as the Educational Consultant for their digital newsletter. Jill brings energy, passion for innovation and collaboration to all her work. Jill is co-author, with Ann Myers, of Leadership 360, a blog published by Education Week. Jill lives in the Hudson Valley of New York with her partner Bob Santoro.

Ann Myers, Ed.D, is Professor Emerita at Sage Colleges where she was Founding Director of the Sage Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and of the Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung Center of the Promotion of Mental Health and School Safety. Prior to her career in higher education, she was District Superintendent at Questar III BOCES, a regional educational organization in Upstate New York. She is a national facilitator affiliated with the Center for Courage and Renewal. She leads Circle of Trust® retreats, leadership development programs and strategic planning for school districts and nonprofit organizations. Ann was a consultant for the Metro Nashville Public Schools on the trust building project. She is the founding chair of New York State Association for Women in Administration and remains on the board for that organization. To all of this work, Ann brings a unique mix of intelligence, wisdom, and intuition. She brought us to understand the nature of an edge walker, called to innovation and exploration and to reflection and growth for herself and others. Ann is co-author with Jill Berkowicz, of Leadership 360, a blog published by Education Week. Ann lives between the Adirondacks in New York State and the gulf coast of Florida with her husband Ed Hallenbeck and her golden retriever.

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