Building Inclusive Communities of Schools through Implementation of Digital Citizenship and Restorative Practices

Building Inclusive Communities of Schools through Implementation of Digital Citizenship and Restorative Practices

By: Allison Jonas, Maria Magnanimo-Toledo and Ed Zurita

In our post COVID-19 era how can we implement a student centered model that promotes equity and the acceleration of student learning? Through the implementation of Digital Citizenship and Restorative Practices, we have the opportunity to provide all students the Social Emotional supports that will foster diversity, equity and inclusion in L.A. Unified. This approach can ensure that we meet our student-centered instructional priorities and transform our schools by building inclusive communities of schools.

A CULTURE OF POSITIVE BEHAVIOR SUPPORT AND INTERVENTION

Whether online or offline, Digital Citizenship instruction can be included in the school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) plan at every school. In 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District adopted the Discipline Foundation Policy that resulted from a Board Resolution directive. The District’s Discipline Foundation Policy represents a proactive approach that promotes appropriate student behavior and increased learning among all district schools while allowing individual sites the freedom to tailor programs to the needs of their school communities. Based on this policy, all schools are now encouraged to include Digital Citizenship as part of their proactive approach. Digital Citizenship instruction can be integrated into any classroom or lesson, any time and any day of the week. This should not end in the classroom. Students can be digital citizens at home, at school and in their communities.

Each year, the Instructional Technology Initiative (ITI) supports schools in showcasing their commitment to digital citizenship during the month of October. This year, L.A. Unified will be celebrating Digital Citizenship week during the week of October 18-22, 2021. Digital Citizenship Week has been an ongoing District-wide celebration and many educators and schools have demonstrated their commitment to digital citizenship by becoming Digital Citizenship certified schools and certified educators throughout the District. This is an important first step on the path towards integrating Digital Citienship and helping to create a positive school culture.

The primary focus of this work begins with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students, Digital Citizen. This standard makes clear that as Digital Citizens, students develop the 5 Digital Citizenship Competencies. When the Digital Citizenship #DigCitCommit competencies (Being inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced and alert) are combined with Restorative practices and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) the result is a holistic approach to addressing the academic and behavioral needs of all students. Schools in LA Unified have realized this and have begun integrating Digital Citizenship and restorative practices with PBIS across the curriculum and all grade levels. As a result they have seen a transformation in their school communities as they have been better able to address the Social Emotional needs of their students using this combined approach.

RESTORATIVE PRACTICES

Building on the foundation of the Digital Citizenship Competencies, we layer in the principles of restorative practices. By intentionally focusing on the 5 competencies of being inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced and alert along with an awareness of restorative practices, we build and restore relationships in a proactive way. Restorative practices help to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities. Through restorative practices, teachers can proactively build the relationships and skills that students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face including those of being effective Digital Citizens. When Restorative and Digital Citizenship practices are integrated, students learn to transfer their positive behavior to online interactions as well. Schools that have participated in the L.A. Unified Practitioner Schools program, have also embedded Digital Citizenship and Restorative Practices at various levels of the school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support plan (PBIS).

HOW TO INCLUDE DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP IN THE SCHOOL’S POSITIVE BEHAVIOR AND INTERVENTION SUPPORTS (PBIS)

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) falls within the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Framework. The Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Framework helps educators provide academic and behavioral strategies for all students and also students with various needs. It’s important to note here, that every school and community is different, some schools may use PBIS, others may use MTSS while still others may combine Restorative Practices and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as part of their Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). However, no matter what the strategy is called, they are all interrelated and have the same goal, which is to support the academic and behavioral needs of all students.

The diagram shows the relationship Digital Citizenship can have in the school’s positive behavior practices. Digital Citizenship can be embedded in:

  • Tier 1, at the universal level for all students (Green)
  • Tier 2, selected small group (Yellow)
  • Tier 3, at the targeted intensive support level (Red). Let’s take a look at how Digital Citizenship can be embedded at each of these levels.

TIER 1- UNIVERSAL SUPPORTS

In Tier 1, at the Universal level we see how schools can incorporate Digital Citizenship as part of their school culture. Here schools can embed the DigCit Commit competencies for each day of the week with a theme for each day. For example, Thursday, students are encouraged to wear neon colors as a reminder to always highlight and verify their sources. This aligns to the DigCit commit competency of being Informed and helps to support students in becoming informed and effective Digital Citizens.

Schools can also engage in Virtual Community Building Circles, as shown on the picture on the right. Here the teacher provides an opportunity for the students to exhibit empathetic behavior online that builds relationships and community. The ISTE Standards invite all of us as educators to provide opportunities for students to practice being Digital Citizens. During professional development, teachers, administrators and all educators can also engage in their own Virtual Community Building Circles as a community building activity.

TIER 2 - SELECTED GROUP SUPPORTS

In Tier 2, at the Selected group level, schools can implement Peer Mentoring Groups as seen on the picture on the left. For example, the Peer Mentoring Groups can meet on a weekly basis and utilize the Common Sense Education curriculum to teach English Learners and all students how to become effective citizens both online and offline. In this example, the group can be composed of both newcomer students and native English speakers who served as peer mentors. The group can be led by the school counselor, instructional coach and/or Parent Center representative.

On the right side, we see an example of student leaders as Student Technology Trainers. These can be students that are selected by the teachers to support both the students in their own classroom and on specified days go to other classrooms to support younger students. The school can set up a schedule where the students can go to other classrooms to help teachers and younger students with Computer Science implementation and Digital Citizenship. This opportunity allows the Student Technology Trainers to become mentors and students leaders as they help to support other students in becoming effective Digital Citizens!

TIER 3 - TARGETED SUPPORTS

In Tier 3, at the targeted or intensive support level we have an example of how a school can respond to a student’s behavioral issue both online and in person. Schools can implement a Student Support Process to have a common understanding of how teachers and administrators would respond when a student needs individual support. In other words, the school should have consistent expectations across all classrooms and not have different rules for students to follow when teachers allow certain behaviors in one classroom but not in another. The green frame represents the Tier 3 targeted support staff level that can support students with individual and intensive interventions such as counseling or referral to specialists. However, the student would not arrive at this level of support unless they needed it.

Educators can document their interventions and supports through a Student Support Process Intervention Form, as shown on the picture on the right. The form can be utilized to focus on providing positive behavior supports and to reduce student referrals to the dean’s office or Principal’s office as well as suspensions. The form can also include a Restorative Practice by allowing students the opportunity to reflect on how their online actions impact other students. The success at the Tier 3 level is rooted in the belief that the school will never give up on students no matter what obstacles and/or challenges they face both online and in person.

In conclusion, this is only one way schools can incorporate Digital Citizenship into their Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) plan or embed Digital Citizenship at any level of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). When schools help students put digital citizenship into practice, students can better address the challenges in their digital lives. The student centered model presented here will support the academic and behavioral needs of all students and help to transform L.A. Unified schools by building inclusive communities of schools.