Feet Firmly on Granite, Heads Turned Toward The Cloud
Digital citizenship, digital legacy and digital literacy. These three competencies are the foundation of the digital technology program at IPS. It is designed to reflect, and get ahead of, how information exchange in the world is evolving: socially, in education, in the workplace, and in the way data is stored. The world is going online in ways we are not even aware of and students need to be digitally agile to respond to the future.
Technology teacher Christian MacInnis helps students understand that digital citizenship “is a package of skills that mirror how we define normal citizenship: like being an active player and a positive contributor to a community. By its nature the Internet is a new space for true democracy. We have had critical thinking tools for hundreds of years, now we are applying them to a digital model; we are teaching critical thinking skills within a digital learning space.”
Encouraging a conscious approach to digital legacy is now a part of encouraging youth to cultivate their humanity in the middle school years. Anonymity as we understand doesn’t happen on the Internet and a positive digital legacy – the impression and footprint you leave online – is consistently emphasized throughout the curriculum. Students understand how to safely navigate the online realm. They are asked to consider how the unlimited potential of the highly interactive and content-rich Internet is affecting education, communication, authorship, and ownership.
Digital literacy begins with the ability to use hardware in combination with a deliberate use of useful software. Digital access points include Chromebooks, iPads, desktop PCs, iMacs. There are LCD projectors in each classroom. All students and staff use Google Apps for Education, including Google Classroom and Google Drive, and they effectively act as the school’s “digital backbone” for the majority of the school pedagogy. Students produce YouTube tutorials and learn through teaching this year. Google Classroom acts as a social gathering place.
All IPS students maintain an E-portfolio – a Google Sites page that is a platform to showcase their best work to parents and other students. Students are learning to self-assess their work then curate it to tell the story of their unique creativity, skills and talent. They publish the portfolio, connect with others and exchange feedback. Managing e-portfolios provides important self-awareness and online competencies needed to navigate the workplace and higher academics, skills like building an online profile, crafting a resume, curating a creative portfolio for university admission, or showcasing work to apply for grant funding for research.
Teachers switch gears quickly between paper and digital content reaching for technology to solve problems and model that practice for students. Along with Classroom and Drive, teachers are using new tools for assignment distribution and tracking (Doctopus & Remind); data collection through Google Forms; regular correspondence through email; and tracking (internal Teacher Dashboard web portal).
As an island school, we rely on technology to help deliver quality feedback to families on the mainland. Half of our parents elect to conference with faculty through Skype and Google Hangouts. Parents get news and information about IPS via Facebook, Twitter, a Flickr feed and regular e-newsletters.