Digital literacy yields test gains, better behavior
Test scores have improved and online bullying incidents have been virtually eliminated at a California school that added weekly digital literacy instruction to its curriculum five years ago.
In response to an online bullying incident in 2010, parent Diana Garber and Journey School, a public K8 charter with 400 students in California’s Capistrano USD, created the Cyber Civics curriculum for the middle school grades.
In the first two years after implementing Cyber Civics, the school’s Academic Performance Index score grew from 766 to 878—the highest in the school’s history, says Shaheer Faltas, the charter’s outgoing executive director. Only three incidents of poor digital behavior or online bullying have been reported since 2010, and none have occurred in the last two years, he adds.
“We as educators need to remember that teaching the whole child is paramount, and in the 21st century, digital literacy has to be a component,” Faltas says.
The Cyber Civics curriculum comprises separate programs for grades 6 through 8. In grade 6, students focus on digital citizenship and using technology responsibly. One lesson is about how inappropriate posts can damage future employment prospects, Faltas says.
In grade 7, students are taught to find, retrieve, analyze and use online information to support writing and research projects. And in grade 8, the focus is on media literacy—or how students can think critically to evaluate media messages. Students also learn skills that help them with the written and visual portions of a final project.
The goal is for students to continue behaving responsibly online in high school, in college and in their careers, Faltas says. “Equipping students with these lessons at this age will help guide them through the digital age effectively and ethically,” he says.
Today, more than 20 schools in five states teach the Cyber Civics curriculum.