There is a difference between students knowing how to use the Internet, social media and digital technology, and knowing how to use it safely and effectively. At Schalmont Middle School, a new sixth-grade digital literacy class is tackling not only the how-tos but also best practices to be sure students understand the digital footprint they leave behind in today’s world.
This innovative class, headed up by teachers Kacie Rea and Ben Beliveau, integrates digital technology and Chromebooks into all the students do.
“The students are very excited to use the technology and have a digital classroom,” Rea said.
The project the students are currently working on centers around cybersecurity and will involve the students educating their fifth-grade peers on how to be safe online and how to avoid scams. They will be integrating Google Docs and Google Slides into the lesson and working on their presentation skills.
“The group collaboration is a big part of the first project,” Rea said, adding she is weaving in lessons on avoiding plagiarism, citing sources and finding reliable sources.
Rea said what sets this class apart is that it’s all about “discovery learning.”
“I don’t tell them what to do,” she said. While she may come up with the concept of the assignment, the hows and whens of it are determined by the students. “They are a little shocked that they have the freedom and choice in what they do with the project. I think they are excited to see where it goes.”
“It’s an exciting program that blends creative ideas, collaboration and project-based learning in a way the students find fun,” Middle School Assistant Principal Scott Ziomek added. “It’s a different environment than they usually have in school.”
Even the classroom furniture is different. Instead of traditional school desks, the students sit in chair desks that are on wheels so they can easily move around the room to work with their peers.
“We treat them like young professionals, and we expect that of them,” Ziomek said. “When you set that bar of expectation, the kids will rise to it.”
Future projects will include using the software Scratch to create characters and animations, and a social networking awareness event.
“What the students have done already this year far exceeds anything
they’ve done in the past,” Ziomek said. “A special thing about this
class is that it is a great equalizer in two ways. The class itself
presents a blank slate. All students start out on the same level. A
student who might not excel in other academic areas may shine in this
environment. Also, by the end of the year, an entire grade will share
the same foundation and common skills that will prepare them for the
rest of their high school career. It will allow them to focus more on
core content in future grades instead of spending time going over the
basics of the technology they will be using.”