Preparing Students to Use Digital Tools this School Year

August 18, 2016   |   By Alicia Barnes

Guest post by Dana Sparkman, PhD faculty at Capella University

At the end of May, I visited with a teacher friend of mine at a local elementary school. After the usual discussion of the frantic end-of-school-year pace, she talked about some of her students. She’d had a very challenging year, a class full of students with a very wide range of learning needs. She worried that her students would “backtrack” a good deal over the summer.

One way for students to continue learning over the summer is through technology, but this time is often unsupervised and lacking specific learning goals. With the start of a new school year just around the bend, it's the perfect opportunity to get students back in the groove of learning and also remind them how to use digital tools responsibly and in a targeted way to support their learning. I suggested to my friend that she look at the collections on BloomBoard, and use them as a model for creating collections for her own students as they head back to the classroom this year.

As a faculty member at Capella University, I have created a half-dozen or so collections on BloomBoard for the purpose of enhancing the professional learning of teachers. Our goal is to enable teachers to use technology to develop students who perform well academically, think critically, and consume information wisely. These collections can be used by individual teachers and professional learning communities to improve their instructional practice using technology and digital tools. 

Some of the collections on BloomBoard are related to a significant theme in the Education Innovation and Technology Program at Capella University – digital citizenship. We want teachers to be able to support students in the safe use of technology as a learning tool. Digital citizenship, then, is a main focus as we prepare students to use technology and digital tools both inside and outside of school.

Students’ Use of Digital Tools

Teachers should always be thinking of how to prepare students for the appropriate use of technology, specifically the 3 C’s: cyber ethics, cyber safety, and cyber security. It's helpful to spend some time early on teaching students how to use digital tools safely and responsibly, especially how to keep their personal information safe. The start of the school year is a good time to revisit those topics, as students may have had less supervision with their technology devices in the summer than they did in the classroom.

One topic that teachers often do not focus on in depth is digital health. We want students to maintain good health practices while using digital devices and online resources. They should be aware of the time that they spend on devices, as too much time can cause physical problems like eye strain and muscular soreness. As teachers, we have an opportunity to talk to students about appropriate ergonomic practices to help support their body while they engage in digital work.

As always, also remind them about the importance of digital etiquette. Students should be mindful of the differences between appropriate and inappropriate communication with others and how to interact in a positive way. Cyberbullying is a real concern among school-age students, so teachers should provide students with appropriate strategies for dealing with this, should it occur.

I was hopeful that my friend would find the professional development collections on BloomBoard helpful to her in her own learning. And I hoped she might even use them as a model for creating collections for her own students to investigate. She did better than that. She shared the professional development collections with her grade-level colleagues, and they collaborated to create mini-collections for their students on a variety of topics, across subject areas. Their students will be using these collections to review content that they learned with the goal of maintaining the knowledge and skills they have already mastered.

Would this be a way to prepare your students to use digital tools this school year?

Digital Safety Resource Collections from Capella University

Capella University has 19 collections of resources across many topics on BloomBoard. For more on digital safety specifically, check out Capella University's Digital Safety resource collections, authored by Dana Sparkman:



And check out Capella University's online course on Digital Citizenship.

About Capella University:

Capella Education Company is an educational services company that provides access to high-quality education through online postsecondary degree programs and job-ready skills offerings needed in today’s market. Capella’s portfolio of companies is dedicated to closing the skills gap by placing adults on the most direct path between learning and employment.

About Dana Sparkman:

Dana Sparkman has 11 years of classroom experience and has been a faculty member at Capella since 2010. During that time, she has mentored doctoral learners, taught doctoral and master's level courses in the School of Education, and engaged in course development for a number of graduate courses. Recently, she has worked on course development in the Education Innovation and Technology programs. For more, check our Capella University's blog post, "10 Questions with Faculty Member Dana Sparkman, PhD."

Explore Capella's Collections 

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