Our rainy, Pacific Northwest community school district surrounds Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and serves about 19,000 students in grades pre-K through 12 who come to school from homes where about 100 languages are spoken. Students log into their school-provided personal devices throughout their school day and conduct research to support projects on topics of their choosing, with access to the wide world of internet resources. While refreshing our strategic plan in 2017, we determined that project-based learning, where students are given voice and choice in their pursuits, is a critical part of our plan to help students develop digital and media literacy to prepare them for college, career, and the future they choose. We are approaching our work around project-based learning by first building a strong foundation of digital citizenship. As responsible and safe digital citizens, students will be able to identify high-quality resources to participate in project-based learning.
Our goal is that students will graduate with the problem-solving and critical thinking skills necessary to live and work responsibly in a digital world. Project-based learning requires students to use multiple digital resources, so ensuring that students have equitable opportunities to access technology and show mastery of learning standards is a critical part of our work. The ability to navigate the vast space of the internet, and ultimately create powerful content, is a critical skill set for future-ready graduates. Graduating students proficient in digital citizenship is therefore a key priority.
To support teachers in their work, we formed a personalized learning cohort—a cross-district team of teachers representing nearly every school, meant to build capacity among a group of teacher leaders in the realm of technology integration and personalized learning pedagogy. The first step, we determined, was to build district-wide understanding of and capacity around digital media literacy. Investing in people is always the best way to get that done.
Through the personalized learning cohort, lead teachers work to carry out the Highline Public Schools personalized learning vision in their classrooms and support scaling the work in each school. Our Canvas Course includes a range of artifacts to support them. Getting to personalized learning, we know, is only possible through system-wide investments in teachers. The personalized learning cohort was our answer to that call, and digital citizenship is the first block to tackle.