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Living in a digital world requires technical skill, cybercitizenship

2014 August 13
by HISD Communications

“Digital transformation” is one of the keys to HISD’s vision of changing the way we teach and how our children learn in a more personalized way. Last year, as part of our PowerUp one-to-one initiative, we put 18,000 laptop computers in the hands of high school students on 11 campuses, and we’re adding another 21 campuses this year, with the remainder following next year.

But we’re not just teaching youngsters about machines and coding: they’re learning just as much about the responsibility that comes with the freedom that the digital age allows. And we’ve taken a major step in our efforts this week with the launch of a vast cybersafety website, aimed equally at students, parents, and educators.

You’ll find loads of fascinating information about great apps, learning programs, and social media, plus helpful items such as a family agreement to have your children understand and commit to proper use of these wonderful tools. You’ll also find that some of the issues this website addresses are uncomfortable — cyberbullying, sexting, child predators online, plagiarism, identity theft — but the information is critical to protect and guide our children.

That combination of wonder and dread defines the dilemma posed by our digital age — how do we encourage intellectual exploration while emphasizing responsibility? There were concerns when we launched PowerUp that we were giving young people too much freedom to run amok in cyberspace. I have a different view.

Our students are growing up and will live the rest of their lives in a digital world – or some futuristic version of it. They need to understand its power and how to use it responsibly, and they need to do that now, in our schools and in their homes.

What is much worse than a few students figuring out how to get around firewalls or tweeting in class —and suffering the consequences — is what will happen if HISD sends thousands of young people into the world ignorant of digital citizenship, who are left to make their misjudgments and mistakes as adults when poor decisions could cost them a livelihood and reputation, or even land them in prison.

Instilling cybercitizenship into our youngsters is part of our role as educators and parents, and this new cybersafety site is a way for all of us to learn together.

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