UCS adopts digital citizenship program

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 20, 2013

Gone are the days when a student’s classroom citizenship was limited to not speaking out of turn and refraining from bringing chewing gum to class.

With the increasing amount of time spent learning on the Internet, students are exposed to more facets of society and levels of information, and that forces teachers and administrators to respond accordingly.

“The youngsters who are in our schools right now are familiar with digital devices, and (digital) access is a microcosm for our community,” UCS Superintendent Christine Johns said.

“We, as a district, recognize our students are able to leverage smart devices in the classrooms, and there is a responsibility that goes with using this technology. Parents are in agreement that they could use some help in understanding things such as cyber bullying and a digital footprint.”

According to a letter to parents Johns posted on www.drchristinejohns.wordpress.com Feb. 5, the district is looking to do just that by instituting a digital citizenship program that focuses on “skills that make our students good digital citizens” and helps “make a distinction between the ‘real’ world and the ‘virtual’ one.”

“We are dealing with (kindergarten) through high schoolers,” said UCS Director of Secondary Programs Joyce Arbaugh.

“Our emphasis on Internet safety in elementary (school) focuses on interaction. But into junior and senior high school, it gets more into cyber bullying or cruelty, and how do you stand up to and face it?”

Johns noted in her letter that to teach lessons like that, as well as those dealing with how “temporary errors in judgment when using mobile devices can cause permanent damage to reputations,” the program will use informational sheets, workshops and videos that will air on district TV stations and websites.

“From time to time, whether it was a situation that occurred at a football game or something in the community, there are matters that we have to react to, and we want kids to know they need to make responsible decisions,” Johns said.

For more information on the digital citizenship program, visit www.uticak12.org.