Education coming full circle
Not many people have the experience of teaching in the school district where they grew up and received their education, but Lucy Whelan has the rare opportunity to do so. As a product of the Johnson City School District in Tennessee, Lucy is now a second-grade teacher at Woodland Elementary, having taught third grade for the first two years. In addition to teaching, Lucy is a student at Milligan University, where she is a doctoral candidate in education, tying in her experience with education and desire to ….become a decision-maker in improving students’ lives.
“It’s been a big shift from third grade,” Lucy notes. “But I’ve enjoyed second grade a lot. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know my students, and all of the concepts taught in second grade are incredibly useful and practical in real life.”
Lucy is fortunate to teach in a supportive and hands-on school district. Through a Teacher-Leader Program, Lucy, among other educators, can learn how to use and maximize technology in the classroom and train other teachers. “That’s where I learned how to use Hāpara in the classroom effectively,” she explains.” And learned that it’s so much more than a platform for monitoring.”
“We all believe that technology is something students must learn,” she continues. “Even if our state standards don’t say it, it’s a life skill they have to learn. And a skill that they need to learn how to use appropriately and effectively. They’re exposed to so many things online, so they need to learn how to be safe while using it.”
Going into third grade, Lucy explains how frequently they use technology and why it was vital for her to teach her learners good digital citizenship. To start the digital citizenship conversation on appropriate online behavior, she used Hāpara Card Talks with learners.
Welcome to Ms. Whelan’s third grade class
“Lucky” is the word that Lucy uses to describe her feeling of being in a school district that works so hard to support both its educators and learners. The students themselves amplify that sentiment for her. They’re intelligent in their own unique ways, insightful, supportive and kind to one another.
“My goal is always to have a classroom environment where students feel like they’re a part of a community and belong.” Lucy teaches this behavior through modeling, extra support and constant encouragement — actions she’s been able to use Hāpara to help carry out. Following in her footsteps, Lucy’s learners cheer on one another and even go out of their way to help each other online and in Google Classroom. These actions help build a sense of community in the classroom while also instilling independence in learners and creating feelings of pride in their work.
Using Hāpara Cards Talks
In creating a supportive and open classroom, Lucy turned to Hāpara Card Talks. This deck of cards features 52 digital citizenship conversation starter questions for educators to use with their learners.
For example, student questions include “What are some healthy habits in terms of the use of technology and the internet?” and “What is something you wish your parents knew about the internet?” The cards are a fun way to engage learners and have them share their experiences with technology. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for educators to guide learning around safe online habits and what it means to be a good digital citizen.
Understanding the relationship between learners and technology
At the beginning of the school year, during the morning meeting, Lucy introduced the Hāpara Card Talks to her third graders. She started by playing a short video and explaining digital citizenship, and together, the class made anchor charts before opening it up to a discussion. When Lucy began using the cards, she noticed a shift in her learners’ use of technology.
“Initially, I could tell they loved the technology piece in the classroom, but they weren’t always using it appropriately. Now, they’re more comfortable with and feel a greater responsibility when using technology.” This digital citizenship conversation helped set the expectations around using Chromebooks responsibly both in the classroom and at home.
For learners to genuinely understand a new concept, such as digital citizenship, educators need to link it to something they already know or are familiar with. Lucy does this using the Hāpara Card Talks by first asking learners, “How do you use technology at home?” This inquiry opens up the floor for learners to compare their technology use in school and at home, making real-life connections. At school, she explains to them that technology should be used for daily tasks, work and assignments. While there are fun occasions such as recess or free time where they can play games or listen to music, it shouldn’t happen every day in class.
Lucy goes on to ask, “How do your parents monitor the technology at home?” This question provides helpful insight for educators to understand which learners to work with closely so they know how to use technology safely and as a tool. It also allows educators to explain to learners that in cases where they find something inappropriate online, they should notify parents or a trusted adult. While some learners shared that their parents watch them and give them a specific amount of time online, others have free rein and parents don’t know what their children are doing.
“Being able to have those types of conversations with specific students was helpful to them and me,” Lucy explains. “It created more openness and honesty. It also allowed me to get a glimpse into their life at home so that I can bring that piece of their personal lives and teach them how to use it outside of school.”
Opening up the digital citizenship conversation
One particularly memorable prompt in Lucy’s class was, “What are some things you wished you knew about technology?”
“That was an amazing conversation because they had so many questions about technology that we could go through,” she notes. Together, they made a list of things the students wanted to learn about technology, allowing them to safely explore the topic through a guided digital citizenship conversation. Though Lucy headed the conversation and learning process, the students felt free to ask questions, share ideas and talk about their personal experiences with technology.
“It was probably the most positive experience that we had as a class,” she says. “Anytime that students get to explore something they’re curious about and talk through it — with enough guidance — it’s always an extremely valuable conversation. I love to see how their minds work and the process of how they think through things and solve things. So I value that opportunity as an educator a lot as well.”
Good digital citizenship as defined by educator and learners
Lucy defines good digital citizenship as “A learner having a piece of technology in front of them and using it appropriately. By that, I mean looking at what you have in front of you, doing the work you’re supposed to do, and working on expanding your knowledge.”
Learners must be able to expand upon or build their knowledge on a new topic. They also must recognize inappropriate online behavior in class or at home and when to share with an adult or take a break. Additionally, Lucy focuses on kindness in the classroom. Using technology during school, she models positive messages and sends them to learners. This action helps show them it’s a tool that learners can use for good. Ultimately, Lucy wants her learners to recognize that they should be as responsible with their technology and actions in the digital world as they are in the real world.
For educators getting started with Hāpara Card Talks
Lucy uses the Hāpara Card Talks at the beginning of the year to set the tone of digital citizenship and the expectations around learners using technology to work online. For younger learners, one of her suggestions for getting the conversation started with the cards is to use them during the morning meeting. Lucy can prompt the class with a question or choose a learner to read it aloud and share their ideas. “This allows the student to have ownership,” she explains. “Then, they can talk about it with their class and guide the conversation. Anytime where the students can guide and lead a conversation is way more valuable than when a teacher leads a conversation.”