At the Journey School in Aliso Viejo, Calif., technology does not play a role in the classroom until students enter the 6th grade—and even then the emphasis is not on gadgets but on civics. The Orange County Register reports that the K-8 charter school, founded in 2000 by a group of parents, implements the “Waldorf” approach to education, meaning computers take a back seat to hands-on physical and art-based activities such as music, storytelling, gardening, and knitting. Even so, the school’s “Cyber Civics” program teaches middle school students about safe and proper online behavior.
Shaheer Faltas, an administrator at the 300-student school, told the Register that cyber-bullying and sexting have not been problems at Journey partly because of the lessons taught through the Cyber Civics program. “As the children mature we recognize that, as they get into middle school, we want them to use these tools that we have for the good and for their learning,” said Faltas. “We don’t think they need a lot of instruction in how you use Excel or Microsoft Word—what they need to know is what is the appropriate use of these resources.”
The Cyber Civics program has students learn about digital citizenship in the 6th grade, while 7th grade focuses on information and research literacy. Eighth graders learn about media literacy and work on a project that requires them to conduct research and correctly cite information online. Students also learn how to dissect computers in their last year to get a closer look at how they work.
Diana Graber, the cyber civics teacher at Journey, explained that some of the exercises she implements in class are designed to get students to think twice before they post something on a public site. “It’s almost like safe sex,” said Graber. “You teach them how to be safe before they go out there, so that hopefully they’ll understand what can happen with private information if you’re not careful.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.