Kentucky School Advocate
By Matt McCarty
As more students across the state are speeding down the information superhighway, education officials want to make sure they know the rules of the road to help them know when to pump the brakes.
One way districts are doing that is by having students earn their Digital Driver’s License.
“It’s all about digital citizenship,” said Marty Park, chief digital officer for the Kentucky Department of Education. “We know that when students leave our schools at the end of the day, there are a lot of technology and online resources that are integrated into their lives. So this is not just a ‘while students are in the school building’ conversation. This is an as you learn and grow and integrate more into society, which we all know has become more digital, there are a core set of skills that are valuable and that’s what we’re after.”
The Digital Driver’s License is an online course designed to teach students responsible and appropriate use of technology. To earn their license, students have to prove they understand the nine elements of digital citizenship: Digital Etiquette, Digital Access, Digital Law, Digital Literacy, Digital Communication, Digital Commerce, Digital Rights and Responsibilities, Digital Safety, and Digital Health and Welfare. (See sample questions on next page.)
“The DDL is all about getting students and adults engaged in these conversations together and doing or acting out the skills they’ve learned,” Park said. “It’s about all of the amazing things we can do responsibly and respectfully while connected online and also avoiding the pitfalls.”
He notes that 60 to 70 districts in the state have implemented a one-to-one computing program, and many of those students are taking the devices home.
“A high percentage of students have devices at home already. We look at our students as always on(line), they’re always connected, whether it’s something supplied by the school or something supplied at home,” Park said. “So those skills are extremely valuable.”
KDE worked with the University of Kentucky to develop the online Digital Driver’s License test.
“It’s definitely not just about a test, it’s about educating,” said Dr. Gerry Swan, an associate professor of instructional design and assistant dean of program assessment at UK.
“God knows I’m scared to death of teenage drivers, but you want to make sure they get on the road with some basics, that they’re reducing the chance of a catastrophic incident and same thing here,” Swan said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it reduces the risk and avoids potential problems.
“That’s just a piece. I think we’ve never tried to sell this as an end-all solution, but it’s a piece of something. If you don’t know that you’re about to run into a problem, you can’t even choose to make a different choice.”
Park and Swan said they are constantly fine-tuning the content. This summer they brought in 20 students from the iLead Academy to give input.
“They were able to help guide us and ask better questions,” Park said.
Boyle County has been using the Digital Driver’s License since the program began in 2011.
“We wanted a good way to make sure the whole concept of being a good digital citizen was in front of our kids,” said Susan Taylor, technology director for Boyle County Schools. “We all know at the end of the day when students leave our walls they go out and they’re on any number of networks that aren’t filtered and they need to have those skills behind them to know what’s right and what’s wrong and what they should and shouldn’t share, all the elements of the digital citizenship.”
Boyle County is in the second year of its one-to-one rollout. Taylor said the Digital Driver’s License usage among students has spiked because passing the test is mandatory before a student can take the device home.
In addition to being safe and keeping personal information protected, Taylor said she wants students to be aware of their digital footprint.
“Once you put something out there, it is out there. Getting those ideas emblazoned in their little brains. It’s a difficult thing sometimes for our adults to really grasp that concept that you can’t un-ring a bell and you can’t un-ring what’s been put on the internet. Even though you think it’s gone, it’s out there,” she said.
When students at Boyle County are in school, filters make sure they aren’t going to inappropriate websites. Taylor hopes by earning their DDL, students will know what to avoid when outside of the school filters.
“I want to empower our students and my own children to know what’s the right thing and what’s the wrong thing and what should you do if any of these things should occur. It gives them those tools in their tool belt.”
Preparing for the future
Floyd County Schools is in the third year of its one-to-one initiative.
“We knew giving that type of access to students, we needed to supplement the access with knowledge of what they were getting and how to behave and how to react to certain situations that may happen online or with technology,” said Courtney DeRossett, Floyd County’s technology innovation coordinator.
Students in Floyd County are required to take the Digital Driver’s License in the fifth and ninth grades. For all other grade levels above fifth, students must renew their license by retaking the parts of the test associated with their grade level.
DeRossett said schools are encouraged to randomly check the history of students’ devices and to revoke a license if they find the student has been to a website that isn’t appropriate.
“The students know at any point their device could be subject to a history check. They cannot say, ‘Well, we didn’t know we were not supposed to do that,’ because they, with that license, have proven that they are well aware of what they can and cannot do,” DeRossett said.
Floyd County gives professional development credit to teachers who have completed the Digital Driver’s License. By next year district administrators want all teachers in grades 5-12 to have taken it because all students in those grades will have a device.
The district also requires parents to attend training before their child can take the device home.
“Digital education and safety is a focus for our district to better prepare our students for the future,” Floyd County school board Chairman Jeff Stumbo said. “We want to make sure that they have every opportunity to explore what they need to explore and how to do it safely. That’s our main focus.
“We try to educate them on how to communicate properly online, bring awareness to cyberbullying and how to prevent cyberbullying and how to seek help if they need to, foster good online habits, and basically to inform students on how to prevent hacking into their accounts.”
Sample questions from the Digital Driver's License test
1. You took a picture of a classmate falling down in gym class and then posted his name and picture to your Facebook. All of your friends added how funny the picture was. Is there anything wrong with this? If so, what is it?
A. The posting of the name and picture was okay and no one should have issues.
B. Posting the picture without the name would have been better.
C. Taking a picture of a classmate at any time, is not OK.
D. Before posting, you should consider what this could do to the person in the picture and talk with them before posting.
2. When is it fine to use media (images, audio, video) you find online for one of your projects or to manipulate and re-post?
B. If I ask the original creator.
C. If the media has share permissions.
D. Anytime at school I need to.
E. B, C, & D can all be correct.
3. One of your friends at school tells you that she is chatting online with a new friend. She plans to meet this new friend next week at the park downtown. Which of the following would be the best advice for her?
A. She should not meet this person unless a parent or adult is with her.
B. The park is not the best place to meet; the mall would be better since there are more people.
C. Keep her password safe; don’t give it to her new friend.
D. She should make sure no one knows she’s meeting an online friend.
E. She doesn’t need advice.
Answers: 1-D; 2-E; 3-A