It is well known that those students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) are more likely to have less access to technology in their homes. They do have some access in school for testing and other programs but the technology gap for these students is still very wide.
Concurrent with these challenges is a potentially huge opportunity. A growing number of ELL families are investing in a smart phone as the “family computer,” and just as ELL students are often translators for the family’s English language transactions, so too do they serve as the family’s “digital” translators—helping parents navigate the online world for real-world needs.
The ELL student’s role as cyber guide for his family makes it more critical than ever to fully support ELL students in learning 21st century digital citizenship skills. ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) provide benchmarks for learning, teaching, and leading in the digital age. The NETS standard for digital citizenship calls for students to “understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.” Further, the NETS for students (PDF) outline that digital citizens should be able to
- Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
- Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
- Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
- Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.
From this standard, it is clear that to keep students safe and digital communities healthy, all students need to learn an additional language: the language of digital citizenship.
After struggling with how to best teach digital citizenship to ELL students in our respective school districts in California, we collaboratively created and now curate the Digital ID Project. This free collaborative wiki is designed to provide educators and students with the tools and resources they need to maintain a healthy digital identity.
Our digital citizenship pedagogy has four focal points: eliminating cyberbullying, building awareness of your digital footprint, understanding intellectual property rights, and protecting online privacy. As we constructed curriculum around these topics, one of the first gaps that emerged was language. So, we created a glossary of digital citizenship terms with more than 50 words related to participating in online environments, such as upstander, bystander, phishing, Creative Commons, and sexting. Each word features a student-friendly definition in both text and audio and is translated into multiple languages to make it more accessible for ELLs. We’ve also cross-referenced short, engaging videos that explain each vocabulary word and concept, making this a great tool for independent or “flipped” learning. A collection of Spanish-language resources includes informative videos and guides and is part of our ongoing curation of tools particularly targeted to ELL parents.