One of my favorite ways to engage with students is by supporting and celebrating all the amazing ways we’re connected in the digital world. That’s why at Van Meter Community Schools in Iowa, we teach even our youngest learners to use various technology and research tools, and when we do, we always include important conversations about digital citizenship and media literacy.
This passion for connection led me to write a book for young learners called Sonia’s Digital World, a joint project I did in conjunction with ISTE and Capstone. As the district teacher librarian at Van Meter schools, I like to create books and resources for our children, teachers and families to support them in the digital world.
Using the ISTE Student Standards as a guide, Sonia’s Digital World shares all the ways our young students learn and interact with the digital world while at home, school and within their community. As teachers and librarians, we need books and resources that not only help us teach and support our students, but that also spark conversations, amazing projects and cool learning opportunities.
Sonia’s Digital World tells the story of the many ways a young girl uses technology to connect with others. One of the things I love most about my new book is how Sonia and her friends use technology to learn and connect in creative, collaborative and innovative ways. When writing the book, it was important to show the characters using a lot of the different technologies that our own students use, such as iPads, laptops, Merge Cubes, Zoom to connect with other classes, research tools like PebbleGo and creation tools. I want to be able to use Sonia’s Digital World to show teachers, librarians and administrators how technology can change the way we learn and share. Here are some tip from the book for engaging positively with technology:
1. Balance technology use with non-tech activities
Set up guidelines together as a family. Agree on tech-free times, such as family meals, and consider removing devices from bedrooms at the end of the day.
2. Make time for family and friends
Take pictures of things you see during a nature hike, create a game or song using an app to share with a friend, or bake with a family member over a video call.
3. Help out in your community or around the world
Find a Little Free Library on an online map and drop off used books, or use the internet to research ways to help in the community and with global events like Earth Day.
4. Learn new things and engage with new people
Watch a video to learn how to draw your favorite animal, then share your drawing with a friend or relative. Connect with others in an online art class, coding club or virtual book club.
5. Be thoughtful of when and how you use technology
Use the ISTE Standards to guide your conversations around the digital tools. Ensure that everyone — both kids and parents or caregivers — feel empowered and included in the conversation
Let technology empower students
I hope that everyone can use Sonia’s Digital World within their schools to celebrate and support all of the amazing ways we are all connected through the digital world we live in together. I hope it provokes important conversations and can be used as a tool to support digital citizenship and media literacy, and various technology and research tools. And most of all, I hope that children will be able to see themselves in the book as empowered learners, digital citizens, innovative designers, creative communicators, global collaborators and so much more.
You’ll find all of the wonderful resources we created, including the Educators Guide, Paper Chain Activity, Novel Effect soundscape, MergeEDU activity, BreakoutEDU Digital Game, and lots of other goodies like bookmarks and coloring sheets at soniasdigitalworld.com.
Shannon McClintock Miller is the district teacher librarian and director of innovation of instructional technology at Van Meter Community School in Iowa. She is also an international speaker, presenter and consultant.