Cyberbullying among adolescents can be tough on kids and has even led to tragedies nationwide. Appropriate use of the Internet is, therefore, a very serious issue.
To help kids navigate the sometimes-treacherous World Wide Web, the Milwaukee Jewish Day School and Bader Hillel Academy have been including digital literacy in their curricula.
One of the ways Milwaukee Jewish Day School deals with digital literacy is by blogging. Students in grades fifth through eighth have blogs. The purpose of the blogs, according to Aaron Lippman, head of school, is to introduce the students to online interaction, to document what they learn, and then reflect on it.
“We teach our students to become digitally literate so that when they’re posting online, [their posts] align with empathy, wonder and tikkun olam,” said Lippman. “When students are posting online, we’re teaching them to be thoughtful about what they put out there.”
Ryan Miller, assistant principal for Bader Hillel Academy, said “conversations about cyberbullying run parallel to classroom etiquette. Appropriate behavior in the classroom translates into the cyber world.”
Learning how to research
The wealth of information on the Internet has made research easier, but it’s a double-edged sword. For every legitimate source on the Web, there are many others with agendas that are designed to appear like legitimate sources. It’s critical for students to know how to conduct proper searches to find authoritative websites.
“For some of our very first lessons we teach students how to discern between reliable and unreliable websites,” said Miller, who added that students in grades third through eighth get their own Chromebook computer to use at school. “We have them pay attention to whether a website is a dot org, dot com or dot edu. We have them investigate the credentials [of a website], cross check a website with other sources, and even check to see if a website is up to date.”
Lippman said MJDS teaches students how to refine Internet searches.
“For our fifth to eighth graders we use Google search operators,” he said.
Google search operators are special characters and commands that extend the capabilities of regular text searches.
“It’s as simple as [Googling the phrase] ‘Are dogs better than cats?’” said Lippman. “Google reads it as ‘I like dogs.’ Google Operators will narrow the search and refine it.”
Another way Milwaukee Jewish Day School teaches digital literacy is by getting students to extend their research beyond the American perspective.
“If I ask a sixth-grade student in social studies to learn about the Iranian Revolution [of 1979], the student would engage American [Internet] servers,” said Lippman. “But another thing they can do is access Iranian servers. Kids can then compare the Iranian perspective and American perspective and then use scholarly articles and get unfiltered facts and draw their own conclusions.”