A digital education leader bridges what teachers and students do in the classroom and what is possible. They are there to help support learning by providing tools that allow for an equal voice of the students, better feedback for students and staff, and more unique experiences that help to create lasting memories for students to truly ground their education in wonder, joy, and meaning. They do this by ensuring that teachers have the best tools available, with models of using them for deep and purposeful work and the training they need to use the tools with skill and care. These three ideas can be boiled down to equity of access, respect, and responsibility.
Technology can connect students from remote areas to experiences, places, and people they would not be able to reach without it. The transformative ability of technology to level the playing field is phenomenal, and therefore the need for equitable access to technological resources is paramount. “Students who do not have sufficient access to digital learning resources cannot fully participate in remote learning. In effect, students who lack such access are barred from the virtual classroom. This divide between those who have access and those who do not occurs in both urban and rural areas of the country and reflects historical structural biases, ableism, inequalities, and prejudices.” (Digital Equity for students and educators, 2020, p. 2). The issue of equity of access to technology and devices is connected to equity writ large. Getting devices into the hands of all students means that a much larger audience can hear all student’s voices. ISTE standard 7a states that educational technology leaders should “Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.” With the power of technology, it becomes possible to affect change on issues the students are passionate about, which will impact their lives and the lives of the community. Of course, to reach a wider audience, they need to be given meaningful tasks and shown how to engage with the world in a way that will resonate with their audience.
Students need examples and models of respectful communication online and must be encouraged to practice this skill in the classroom. ISTE Standard 7b states that educational technology leaders “partner with educators, leaders, students, and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.” By engaging students in meaningful online activities where students practice having these respectful conversations online, educators can better guide them into building positive digital footprints. Educators are encouraged to teach their students to carefully “curate their digital profiles” (ISTE standards for coaches, 7d). Teens and Pre-Teens are more online than ever and curate their digital portraits daily (Rideout et al., 2022). They are also consuming more social media content than ever before and using the images they see as a baseline for their self-image. The discussion around digital footprints must include a conversation about being genuine and safe for themselves and those around them. Floridi states, “… there is no inconsistency between a society so concerned about privacy rights and the success of services such as Facebook. We use and expose information about ourselves to become less informationally anonymous.” (2010, p. xxvi). Floridi argues that the data and information we share about ourselves help form our relationships with others and ourselves, but that assumes that we are knowing participants in the transaction of services for data. Educators must guide students to manage their data and privacy with care and thoughtfulness. Digital literacy skills, internet tracking, two-factor authentication, and algorithmic search results are all parts of the story of taking care of our data online.
Students should also be able to responsibly navigate the internet to evaluate and use reliable information to make decisions online. ISTE Standard 4.7.c says that educational technology leaders should “support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.” Rheingold (2012) recommends “principals of media consumption,” which guides readers to use five strategies to determine if their sources are credible (pp. 95 – 96). Students and staff use the internet to share their ideas and gain more information from those who also share online. Being able to separate fact from fiction is not only a skill taught inside the classroom in English, Science, and History classes but also a lifelong skill that students will need for years to come.
Our role as educational technology leaders is to give our staff and students the tools they need to learn about our world and use their unique voices to share with and impact their communities positively. That’s why we must start with the foundational ethics of equal access to resources, respectful online communication, and responsible internet use.
Floridi, L. (2010). Information : A very short introduction. [eBook edition]. Oxford University Press. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/lib/spu/reader.action?docID=737413&ppg=4
International Society for Technology in Education. (2020). ISTE standards: Coaches. ISTE. https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-coaches
Miklikowska, M., Tilton-Weaver, L., & Burk, W. J. (2022). With a Little Help From My Empathic Friends: The Role of Peers in the Development of Empathy in Adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 58(6), 1156–1162. https://doi-org.ezproxy.spu.edu/10.1037/dev0001347
Public Policy Associates, Incorporated. (n.d.). NEA – Nea Home. Digital Equity for Students and Educators. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.nea.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/NEA%20Report%20-%20Digital%20Equity%20for%20Students%20and%20Educators.pdf
Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart : How to Thrive Online, MIT Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/spu/detail.action?docID=3339401.
Rideout, V., Peebles, A., Mann, S., & Robb, M. B. (2022). Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2021. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/report/8-18-census-integrated-report-final-web_0.pdf
Ticona, J., & Wellmon, C. (2015). Uneasy in Digital Zion. The Hedgehog Review, Spring, 58-71. https://chadwellmon.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/ticonawellmon_hi.pdf