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What Works: Digital citizenship implementation
March 13, 2023
The following article is part of a series produced by nonprofit Common Sense Education.
If you ask any school leader what makes for an engaging learning experience, most would say that a healthy school culture is critical to student success. They might highlight a “positive” culture when students are collaborating with others — or that they need to “reset” their school culture when student suspension rates rise.
And while we live in a 24/7 connected world, school leaders often forget to acknowledge how their students’ online habits shape their learning.
Amid the push for tech integration and improving online security, it can be tempting to minimize the role that digital citizenship skills play in creating a healthy school culture.
How can school districts adopt tech initiatives that complement the digital realities their students face every day and enhance their school experience?
As part of our ongoing collaborative series on digital citizenship, What Works, we’re highlighting school and district leaders who are redefining digital citizenship practice.
In this interview, ACSA member David Miyashiro, Ed.D., Ph.D., shares how to adopt comprehensive digital citizenship policies that are both sustainable and engaging for all stakeholders.
With over 17 years in school leadership roles, Miyashiro has revolutionized learning practices and has helped shape the way schools create healthy learning environments. Over the last nine years he has served as the superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District.
The following interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Miyashiro. Can we start by having you share a little about Cajon Valley? Cajon Valley Union School District has 28 schools and over 17,000 students. We have an incredibly diverse population, with over 50 languages spoken in a 65-square-mile area. And we are crushing it!
Tell us about your tech initiatives. How do you incorporate digital citizenship? We started our one-to-one initiative in 2014 and have been using Common Sense Media for digital citizenship resources for all end users, which includes all employees and all students.
It’s been part of our culture and fabric. Everyone knows that at the start of the year — it’s what we do.
What do you mean by, “It’s what we do?” What does that look like for your staff? As an employee, there are certain things that we must do each year.
We have to be trained on mandated reporting. We have to do blood-borne pathogens, really exciting stuff about what you can and can’t do in terms of clean-up.
Digital citizenship is another one of those “must do’s.” It’s just part of the school year.
We need to remind everybody about not just the classroom safety, but data security, data privacy, data interoperability, and all the other skills needed to create an inclusive and safe environment for our students, their families and our community.
But how did you convince people that this is something important? Our chief technology officer, Jon Guertin, is one of the best CTOs in the country, and he brought data privacy, data security, data interoperability to us before they were even relevant in schools.
He then combined the idea that students should learn to be safe online, as that was a primary parent concern. So we want to make sure that we have the tools and resources for our students to understand what they should and should not do online.
You need strong IT advocates to champion your efforts. What does this look like in the classroom? One of the things that I think makes us special and unique is inviting teachers to use digital resources outside of our buildings to create an inclusive environment in the classroom. Our TEDx Literacy Programs, for example, are programs that both contribute to and augment the safe and rich experience our students have when they’re online.
Your TEDx event is such a great example on how to model digital citizenship skills. Is digital citizenship well received by teachers? How have they reacted? Early in our development of transforming to a digital district, everything was done by committee, and with lots of input from our stakeholders.
We regularly asked our teachers, classified employees and our management teams to be involved in everything related to digital citizenship.
We start by bringing them into the process by sharing questions like, “Here are some of the things that we’re thinking about trying on — can you give us some input? What do you think?”
As you might imagine, we get some really rich and robust feedback from our community.
Share more about your process with teachers. Do you put them together in a room and say, “Here is a presentation on digital citizenship, and this is why you all should do it”? My job is to make everybody happy. So if I can create teacher happiness, parent happiness, student happiness, then I can be successful. It’s not always possible, but that is the goal. You can only make people happy and engaged by understanding what their wants and needs are. It takes time to listen.
We ask all teachers to incorporate Common Sense Media activities into our school activities and student expectations.
Digital citizenship skills are super important and should be reinforced every year. As we continue to integrate new technologies, we ask teachers to address safety and online expectations.
“Imagine when a district that has students from over 50 different languages and cultural norms starts to understand and respect and value each person in the classroom ...”
— David Miyashiro, Superintendent, Cajon Valley Union School District, on building community in-person and in digital spaces
Do you feel like your district is proactive? When we first started our TEDx Literacy Program, we had an annual TEDx event where our best speaker ideas got elevated onstage into a TED Talk.
Originally, we believed the goal centered on the belief that student ideas were worth spreading.
But we quickly realized that when you have every classroom of kids in a circle tell their unique story, who they are, what their cultures are, what their beliefs are, what they eat at home, etc., then you have a recipe to build a strong community.
Imagine when a district that has students from over 50 different languages and cultural norms starts to understand and respect and value each person in the classroom — that bleeds into the digital space. Students start to say, “Hey, we respect every individual. We don’t target and bully people. We don’t unfriend our friends.”
These things happen because teachers take the time in the classroom to build community so that when kids are online and engaging, they are reminded of who their peers are.
That’s it right there! Your digital citizenship program values all and acknowledges students’ online identities. What would you say to an ACSA member who’s saying, how do I get started? Stakeholder engagement and being transparent about your digital goals is important. Start by creating a team that is looking out for the safety of your students online. You need to have an IT department that understands cybersecurity, data privacy, data security and tech tools. You also need to ensure that each of these tools have wraparound support to ensure our kids are safe both in person and online.
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Additional Resources
For more information on Cajon Valley Union School District's digital citizenship program, please visit the following resources:
  • TEdx Cajon Literacy Program
  • Cajon Valley Digital Citizenship
David Miyashiro’s top tips for digital citizenship
  • Standardize your practice.
  • Trust your team.
  • Listen to your stakeholders’ needs.
  • Set the expectation at the start of the year.
  • Create a strong classroom community.
  • Offer wraparound services for your tech tools.