Students at Hyer Elementary School saw a new face when they returned to school in August. Posters of “Norma Jean,” an animated girl who helps students learn how to be good citizens online, now adorn most classrooms.
“It’s a tangible way to teach digital citizenship,” Principal Jeremy Gilbert said. “We felt we needed to be a little more intentional.”
The posters highlight the five tenets of using electronic devices responsibly: how to protect private information, respect yourself and others, stay safe online, stand up to cyber bullying, and balance your time. Classes receive a badge to put on their poster when they master each of these five lessons.
Gilbert also plans to recognize a Hyer digital citizen of the month to honor a deserving student.
Texas Academic Code requires all public schools to teach digital citizenship, but local districts are given autonomy to develop lessons that best meet their students’ needs. These initiatives are part of Highland Park ISD’s approach to helping kids make good decisions about what they share online and whom they share it with.
At the beginning of the school year, Hyer campus instructional technologist Norma Olson gave students a 30-minute lesson on how to navigate proper conduct online, focusing on an age-appropriate topic for each grade. Kindergarteners learned about taking care of their devices and protecting their personal information. Older students learned more about safety and appropriate online conduct.
Students of all ages are also taught to be conscious about their digital footprint.
“We really want these kids to have a great foundation on these skills when they leave Hyer,” Olson said.
Teachers are responsible for incorporating digital citizenship lessons into their classes throughout the semester. All faculty members were trained this summer on the most effective way to present the lessons.
“The landscape in the classroom has changed dramatically,” Gilbert said. “The way the classrooms are equipped now versus where they were even five years ago are completely different, so we’ve got to continue to train our teachers and shape our expectations.”
Hyer students have access to an assortment of iPads and Chromebooks in each classroom. Gilbert said they are valuable tools in the classroom if used correctly. The challenge is to ensure rules are in place to avoid overuse. For example, students are not allowed to use devices during rainy day recess or when substitutes are filling in for regular teachers. Hyer also has a vetting process in place to ensure the iPad apps used are instructionally appropriate for K-4 students.
“The kids come in knowing how to use these devices,” HPISD Director of Instructional Technology Lisa Ham said. “It’s the appropriate use of the device in the classroom that we want to be sure they understand.”
According to Gilbert, initial parent response to the initiatives have been overwhelmingly positive. Students’ progress will be posted on report cards for parents to monitor. Links to online resources will also be available for parents to continue the lesson at home.
“It’s a partnership between us and the parents,” Gilbert said.