RSS receives national digital award

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools received national recognition for digital education at the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education conference in Denver, Co.

Andrew Smith, Rowan-Salisbury director of digital innovation, said that during the June conference the school system was awarded a Digital Content and Curriculum Achievement Award, presented by the Center for Digital Education, for its “digital citizenship” curriculum.

Becoming a digital citizen is about teaching students how to live and interact with digital platforms in a safe, healthy way. The system’s curriculum, which consists of age-appropriate lessons introduced every two weeks, teaches students about copyright, cyber-bullying and proper internet etiquette, how to self-identify and maintain a healthy self-image despite the pitfalls of social media and about internet safety and privacy, among other topics.

Smith said teachers and technology facilitators came up with the program shortly after the one-to-one initiative was introduced. Once students had the devices, Smith said, teachers quickly noticed a problem:

“Parents and students really didn’t know the pitfalls or how to navigate the pitfalls of technology,” he said.

The school system felt they had a “moral obligation” and responsibility to teach students how to navigate safely through a world dependent on technology. The lessons align with core curriculum and, just like regular learning, concepts build on each other as a student ages.

“Basically as the student progresses through RSS they get an increasingly more relevant and I would say real life curriculum,” Smith said.

Younger students may learn more about maintaining a positive self-image while online or how to protect their privacy, while older students may learn how to stay safe and successfully navigate social media.

“What we teach a first grader about internet safety is very different from what we teacher a 12th grader,” Smith said.

As far as Smith, and other system staff have been able to determine, Rowan-Salisbury Schools is the only district in the nation that staggers digital citizenship lessons by grade.

The curriculum, including the age-appropriate lessons, took a lot of work to create and implement, and Smith said that when he saw the award application, he decided to “put (RSS’s) name in the hat.”

Rowan-Salisbury and 11 other districts nationwide were presented with the award.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.