Best Practices in Public Education Across Canada: Lester B. Pearson School Board’s Digital Citizenship Project

How do school boards and districts define digital citizenship? What does it mean to be a responsible digital citizen? How do boards and districts infuse the concept of digital citizenship into the school community and the curriculum?

These are questions that the Lester B. Pearson School Board, an English school board located in the Montréal region, is addressing as they implement a digital citizenship project and framework in their schools and in their community. One of the first school boards in Canada to introduce such a project, it is remarkable in its implementation in that it involves all members of the school community. The board has also reached beyond its schools into the community with this initiative.

Digital Citizenship can be defined as a concept which helps school communities to understand what students should know, in order to use to use technology appropriately. Digital citizenship is a way to prepare students for a society full of technology.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board’s framework is based on Ribble & Bailey’s 2007 book “Digital Citizenship in Schools.” (International Society for Technology in Education). The authors identify nine elements of digital citizenship: digital access, digital commerce, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness and digital security. Each of these nine elements form general guidelines for school communities-with the goal of understanding roles and responsibilities in a digital society.

The CSBA asked Tanya Avrith, Educational Technology Teacher, and Michael Chechile, Director of Educational Services at Lester B. Pearson School Board about the implementation of the school board’s digital citizenship project:

CSBA: How do you define digital citizenship? In your opinion, what does it mean to be a “responsible digital citizen?

LBPSB: Digital Citizenship provides a framework for all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, administrators, policy makers) to deal with the appropriate use of technology. A “responsible digital citizen” understands that there is a code of conduct when using technology. They respect that the technology has boundaries and understand that with the rights they have to use it, comes responsibilities to use it appropriately.

CSBA: In order to implement a digital citizenship initiative, what changes are being made to the technology policy at LBPSB?

LBPSB: A  revised policy is in the final stages of consultation and adoption. The title is APPROPRIATE USE OF DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGIES.

CSBA:  Your project is based on Ribble and Bailey’s book “Digital Citizenship in Schools,” in which nine elements have been identified. Can you give a specific example of how some of these elements will be put into practice across the LBPSB community? (with students, parents, teachers, administrators and board members?)

LBPSB: In terms of digital rights and responsibilities, students, teachers, administrators and school commissioners met from the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year in a board sub-committee to put together a charter of student rights and responsibilities. Students will be expected to go over and sign this charter at the beginning of every school year as a framework to guide the appropriate use of technology within the schools.

The elements are not stand-alone, they overlap in many ways. Therefore, we decided to approach digital citizenship by addressing the teachable topics relating to the program within the curriculum.

CSBA: How will digital citizenship be infused into the curriculum?

LBPSB: We knew that this question would be key in order for the program to work and be successful therefore we created a pedagogical steering committee that included students, administrators, pedagogical consultants and teachers. We addressed how we could teach the elements within the curriculum but it became evident that we needed to develop a stand alone program that would not feel like an “add-on” for teachers within their curriculum. We then developed a sub-committee of both elementary and high school teachers and developed a curriculum map that breaks down the nine elements into teachable topics. We took each topic and addressed what the students should know by the end of each cycle. For example, within media literacy, we addressed what students at every cycle (from elementary to high school) should know about plagiarism and copyright. We broke the curriculum map into three categories (borrowed from Bailey and Ribble), student behavior, student life and student learning and academic performance. Every topic within every level then provides teachers with online resources and lesson plans. It is very important for us to make sure that teachers who are implementing the program do not feel like this is an “add-on.” Therefore, we looked at every topic and created links to the Québec Education Program within various subject areas where we felt the program fit into the curriculum. All of this information will be hosted on the digital citizenship program website that will be launched in the Fall and will be open for sharing and collaboration.

CSBA: How will the digital citizenship project integrate actions to address cyber-bullying?

LBPSB: The digital citizenship curriculum map includes topics directly relating to cyber-bullying. We are also looking at holding workshops for both teachers and parents in the 2011-2012 school year that will directly address issues relating to cyber-bullying.

CSBA: What does the professional development plan look like in order to implement the digital citizenship project?

LBPSB: It has been a major focus of our board since the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year to get all the stakeholders to understand the digital citizenship program. We held information sessions for parents that dealt with the elements as well as issues that directly address Internet safety. Every school in the board has a teacher representative who attended regular meetings/training sessions on different aspects of digital citizenship so that they could bring the information back to their schools. We have held information and activity sessions with our central students committees/leadership students. We also held workshops for administrators and board members including the educational services and social services departments. Recently we held two open town hall meetings to the community at large that were broadcast live on our boards website. We recognize for this initiative to work all stakeholders have to be on board and understand what digital citizenship means.

For the 2011-2012 school year we have hired a digital citizenship program consultant who will continue to provide workshops to the multiple stakeholders. The program consultant will be required to be an active figure in the schools and provide workshops on how to integrate the digital citizenship project curriculum into their subject areas. Parents will also be provided with a series of workshops in October of 2011 throughout the board so that they understand how to continue implementing the appropriate use of technology for their children at home. We have also applied for grants through MELS to continue creating learning and evaluation scenarios with teams of elementary and high school teachers to implement the curriculum maps directly into their subject areas. We will be updating and our digital curriculum project website regularly with resources for teachers and students and will continue to build a culture of learning that promotes digital citizenship education.

Lester B. Pearson school board will present “Digital Engagement and Transparency – 21st Century Community Outreach” on July 8th and 9th at the CSBA Congress 2011 in Ottawa.

For additional resources in the area of digital citizenship, see:

Define the line

Definir la frontière

Digital Citizenship: Focus questions for implementation

Digital Citizenship: Addressing Appropriate Technology Behaviour

5 consideration for digital age learners

Passport to Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship: State of NSW, Australia