The Digital Driver’s License is helping students navigate the hazards of the Internet.
Every new driver takes a test before ever taking the wheel. With so much at stake, it would be reckless not to. So it’s something of a mystery why, in the age of increased attention on cyberbullying and online predators, schools aren’t doing more to prep students for the inevitable realities of the Internet.
Too often, digital citizenship topics like student safety and proper research methods are reduced to brief lectures that get wedged between keyboarding and software tutorials in catchall computer courses. Sometimes the digital component to the lessons is missing altogether. But with BYOD and 1-to-1 programs blossoming around the country, the subject is at least getting a second look from educators.
According to Marty Park, chief digital officer at Kentucky’s Department of Education, 21st century topics require 21st century teaching methods. “We can either take the approach of ‘we have to sit people down and say the same things or watch the same PSA video,’ or we can take a different approach and try to really engage in the online space where students want to be.”
Park is a pioneer of the latter approach. Three years ago, with input from twenty or so K-12 educators, Park first applied the driver’s ed model to digital citizenship when he co-designed the Digital Driver’s License as part of the OTIS initiative at the University of Kentucky. The Digital Driver’s License, which was partly inspired by Mike Ribble and Gerard Bailey’s ISTE publication Digital Citizenship in Schools, is an online tool that takes students through a series of hypothetical, real-world scenarios related to digital literacy and safety. The tool has been designed to encourage independence and caution among digital learners, much the same way a driver’s ed course prepares drivers for the dangers of the road.
In 2011, the program debuted in a handful of local Kentucky classrooms. Since then, more than 600 districts (and about 60,000 students) have discovered it. Park said that the tool has reached not only traditional school districts, but also home-schooled students and adult learners. “We try to take a really proactive approach, but also a performance angle, and try and look at scenarios that not just students, but that we all find ourselves in,” Park said.
Today the Digital Driver’s License, or DDL as it’s commonly known, features about eight scenarios, tailored by age level, that cover topics including what constitutes copyright violation and how to stay safe online. Each student registers individually and then progresses through background material related to a given scenario, which might include a video or examining a given situation. When a student feels confident she has mastered a topic, she can take a “prove it” quiz that puts her knowledge to the test. A passing score is 80 percent or greater. Scores, answer resets and attempts are logged for educators, who can follow each student’s progress in an admin toolbar. Educators can further specify which scenarios will be required to earn a DDL.
Designed as an open educational resource — and thus free from the beginning — the DDL stresses more than just engagement and relevance for students; it’s also about flexibility of use and self-directed learning. “We wanted schools and districts to be able to use whatever they wanted, however they wanted to, and we’re seeing a lot of different types of implementation,” said Park. “The idea is that the student or the learner really owns their own path.”
This article appeared on the Journal on May 7 2014 and was written by Stephen Noonoo.