Middle school is an academic time of change. Middle school students are called to begin more in-depth learning and to the application of critical thinking. These skills also extend to a more sophisticated usage of something that’s increasingly important in young students’ lives: technology. The average age of a student receiving a phone is 10 years old. Likewise, 64% of children have access to the internet with their own computer or tablet — and that was before the pandemic. Much of students’ daily lives, from learning to social interactions, moved online after schools closed due to the pandemic. With Covid cases on the rise once more, students may spend more and more of their time online. With technology now central to students’ academic and social lives, teaching responsible technology use in middle schools is more important than ever. Moreover, teaching responsible technology use enhances student safety. There are two main focuses of learning technology: to use it professionally and understand the dangers of the internet. Word processing skills and digital citizenship are just two primary points to teach.
Word Processing Skills
It is never too early to learn word processing skills. These skills include being able to use and understand programs such as Excel and PowerPoint. These skills prepare students to be able to function in college and even in their later careers. Examples of teaching activities include creating a newsletter or letting students explore Microsoft Word on their own.
Digital citizenship is defined as the “responsible use of technology by anyone who uses computers, the Internet, and digital devices to engage with society on any level.” Students need to be aware of how the internet works as well as the potential dangers that lie within it. Teaching digital citizenship includes an understanding of empathy and user data. The top dangers online include cyberbullying and inappropriate content.
Faculty and Staff Education
Although teaching digital citizenship and word processing skills covers many bases, students still face many dangers online. As schools are responsible for protecting vulnerable students, school staff must learn and understand how to spot and prevent digital dangers. This enhances their teaching ability and helps them prevent danger in the digital classroom. The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education offers links to numerous resources about cybersafety and teaching digital citizenship. There are also multiple online safety training programs for faculty and staff.
Screen monitoring software also serves as a tool to teach responsible technology use. LearnSafe, for instance, monitors school computers for at-risk behavior, including cyberbullying, threats of violence, and pornography. Knowing that LearnSafe is installed on school computers makes students more aware of their digital behavior. That awareness is a crucial step towards learning to become a more responsible digital citizen. Also, LearnSafe can detect predatory grooming as well as mentions of suicidal ideation and self-harm. Therefore, administrators can step in, helping vulnerable students get the help they need. LearnSafe doesn’t just teach students to be better digital citizens — it also saves students lives.