Web access, but responsibility?
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 17, 2014

Some 95 percent of fifth- through 12th-grade pupils say they have Internet access at home, and 91 percent say they can get on a laptop or tablet to use it, according to a West Branch Community Schools survey released this week to Board of Education.
However, only 10 percent of those pupils report being “highly knowledgeable” about “digital citizenship skills.”

So what are digital citizenship skills? The principals think an unclear definition of that term may have skewed the results of the survey question. In this case, the school is referring to using responsible behavior: legal use of online content, establishing a presence online, online safety, cyberbullying prevention, and more.

“Are we having a digital citizenship problem or issues?” Board member Mike Colbert asked. “10 percent would suggest we have a lot of problems.”

But Middle School Principal Sara Oswald and High School Principal Michelle Lukavsky said actual behavior online does not suggest that 90 percent of pupils misbehave.

“Maybe 10 percent of students have an Acceptable Use Policy violation,” Oswald said, referring to the policy that guides online behavior.

Lukavsky said she thinks more than 10 percent of high school students misbehave online, but not all of them get caught.

“I was thinking that was really low,” she said. “Not because they’re terrible people or terrible digital citizens, but I think it’s happening more than we’re aware because it’s so easy.”

Lukavsky said all of her teachers try to teach digital citizenship; Oswald wondered if all the teachers are using the term “digital citizenship” so pupils could understand the term and give better answers on the survey.

Oswald noted that many teachers do not feel comfortable teaching formal digital citizenship. Lukavsky agreed.

“They think they need a lesson plan, or a PowerPoint on it,” Lukavsky said. “They just need to talk about it. I know the English teachers are talking about plagiarism.”

Other findings in the survey:

Access at school

• 86 percent of teachers can get devices for their students when needed more than half the time

• 62 percent of teachers report high quality Internet speed

• 93 percent of teachers have access to a computer for their own use all the time at school

• 83 percent of teachers report a typical student-to-computer ratio of 2:1 or 1:1

Access at home

• 95 percent of teachers have access to the Internet at home

• 95 percent of teachers have access to a Web-enabled device at home, and 54 percent of them share it

• 95 percent of students have access to the Internet at home

• 91 percent of students have access to a device at home, and 72 percent of them share it. Board member Mike Owen said that “shared” figure “seems high to me.” Oswald said that perhaps students taking the survey thought the question referred to computers or tablets other than the ones they were issued through the school. High School junior and school board student representative Jill Exline said she thought the same thing when she took the survey.

21st Century Learning

• 69 percent of students said they are asked to collaborate online with classmates at least monthly

• 29 percent of students are asked to write online at least monthly

• 43 percent of students are asked to identify and solve authentic problems using technology at least monthly

• 47 percent of teachers ask their students to complete online assessments at least monthly

• 65 percent of teachers spend less than 3 hours per year teaching digital citizenship

• 78 percent of teachers who use assistive technology use it with students at least monthly


• 42 percent report finding foundational computer skills, like sending e-mail and creating spreadsheets, easy to perform

• 57 percent say they readily utilize online skills for contributing to and collaborating on the Internet

• 46 percent say they have the ability to record and edit video and perform other multimedia tasks easily

• 65 percent agree that using online technology enhances learning and daily life. Oswald was skeptical, saying she thinks that number should be higher. “I would like to take computers from that other 35 percent and see how they do,” she said.

• 53 percent said they can solve their own technology problems

• 83 percent said they learn new technologies easily.

Some 485 pupils took the survey, according to the report. It did not state how many teachers took the survey.

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