Integrating Technology in Students’ Lives and Coursework

We often hear how difficult the process of change is, yet there is one innovation that has caused vast changes in so many facets of life in a relatively short period of time. Of course that innovation is technology. If we think about it, technology has changed just about everything we do, from communication to transportation to medicine to education. While our classrooms are being transformed by such technologies as laptops, SmartBoards, LCD projectors, document cameras, and special software applications, technology use at home also poses a challenge for all of us in terms of educating our students for the sake of their own safety, privacy and ethical conduct.

In recent years we have had the opportunity to offer both increased and more integrated uses of technology in school. For example, the newly updated eighth grade technology course is set up to provide students with guided practice in using the internet through the use of Google. Google provides experience in website design, blogging, digital images, and document sharing and collaboration. An essential part of this class curriculum focuses on the legal and ethical behavior of our students. The course of study introduces the program by stating, “In order for students to understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology, and practice legal and ethical behavior, they need to be versed in information that guides them in understanding their role in society as we continue in the digital age. Students need to become leaders in digital citizenship in order to share, collaborate, and participate in the ever-changing digital world. Ethical values as well as safety and security are critical to lifelong learning in our digital society.”

The new Broadcasting Leadership course, offered in the seventh grade, is an example of how technology has been integrated into a course to further our aim to develop good character and leadership qualities. Pupils delve into five units of character education and use technology tools to create iMovie presentations to respond to the following prompts:

  • What do you stand for?
  • How tolerant are you?
  • Social awareness.
  • What makes a great leader?
  • I am a leader.

As you can see, technology and character education, as well as research, writing and public speaking, is richly integrated. Beyond these thematic units, however, specific topics that are discussed in classes include plagiarism, privacy, respect for the work of others, and how words are used to convey thoughts. Students are also introduced to a new way of licensing their work by using Creative Commons, where students can copyright their work but give others the opportunity to distribute their work, copy, or create new work based on their original ideas as long as they receive credit.

Of course, kids today – known as “digital natives” because they have grown up in the culture and comfort zone of technology – are off and running using technology outside of school and for non-academic purposes. While technology is a “natural” part of their lives, it can be a danger zone with online predators, scam artists, and damaging exchanges between or about peers. Millburn Middle School has a great resource in Detective Ed de la Fuente who recently spoke at the October P.T.O. meeting. Detective Ed also comes to school to speak to all of our students regarding safety on the internet and student-on-student bullying and harassment topics.

This “Digital Era” has fundamentally changed the way we live and do business. Our students are living a life different from the one we lived when we were their age, but they require the same guidance, structures, and supervision. Our common goal is to find ways to integrate technology in their lives that keeps them safe, law-abiding, and productive individuals while challenging themselves to define who they are and the leaders they aspire to be.

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