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Headshot Young Girl

Hannah Dyksen


United States

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In the last few years, especially since the pandemic, I"ve seen many school districts, including my own, implement initiatives regarding social and emotional learning and student leadership. For example, we have implemented the Leader in Me program and have a 'League of Leaders' of high school students that visit their former elementary schools to build positive relationships with younger students and inspire them to reach their goals. These initiatives have brought about beneficial changes in our schools, such as student organized and led assemblies that uplift their peers' successes. At the same time, we have seen an increase in students becoming addicted to and distracted by their phones, breaking their school technology use agreements in a variety of ways, and lacking in digital literacy and online communication skills. Creating an environment where student leaders model positive behaviors and habits INCLUDES how they act when they go online, not separate from it, so there is a disconnect that needs to be addressed. As Richard Culatta (CEO of ISTE/ASCD) says in his powerful book 'Digital for Good,' we need to create a positive 'digital culture' that is focused on the 'dos' and not the 'don'ts' of digital citizenship. We have to bring a conscience to the digital worlds of our students just like we do in other areas of their lives. For students, the digital world is just as integral a part of their lives as the physical one, and they best understand the pressures, trends, and concerns of their peers. This means there are great opportunities to involve students in the process of creating a positive digital culture. In contrast, we tend towards teaching digital citizenship skills in isolation, and constantly tell students what they can't do online versus giving them opportunities to practice becoming a positive, healthy digital citizen.

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