Technology and Character Education

By Lindsey Wright

The use of technology has been a growing force in education. Once, classrooms were relatively isolated, nestled into a school in a suburb, small town or city. Now, regardless of physical location, today’s students have access to the larger world through the Internet. However, the focus of education itself has not necessarily changed.

Educating has always been about preparing students to be successful citizens, in whatever way possible. Strong reading, writing and math skills continue to be important, as does character. Being able to get along with others, having self-control and patience, being honest and trustworthy: these have always been traits teachers have hoped to instill in their students, and that remains true today.

Strong character is essential in the use of technology used for classroom learning. The Internet itself is a wide source of knowledge, as well as being the gateway to further content. As students attending traditional and online schools alike begin to use the Internet more and more for research, they need to learn how to utilize this tool in an ethical manner. Thus, teachers should inform students how to find credible websites when working on research projects as well as how to properly cite their sources in order to avoid plagiarism. Teaching students how to use the Internet responsibly early on will not only help students academically but also teach them to respect the work of others.

Good character is also imperative when using the Internet in a more social way. As students interact on the web, they are becoming digital citizens. Just as they must learn to adapt to their role as members of their school community, they must learn that, when they participate online, they are creating an identity representing themselves, and possibly their school.

The use of social networking has the potential to create problems, as students use sites like Facebook to connect and communicate. As a result, issues such as gossip and bullying are no longer left behind when the school day ends, since student communication continues online. Bullying, in particular, has reached new levels with the advent of cyberbullying. Luckily, there are several things students, parents and teachers can do to prevent this. A website created to help promote positive interaction on the Internet gives some excellent tips.

While there are potential problems in the use of technology, it is an excellent instructional tool for developing good character. Social interactions within the school, in the classroom, in the cafeteria and on the playground have always provided excellent teaching opportunities. The Internet simply provides another venue. Teachers can teach proper behavior and take opportunities to get involved and correct when needed. Finally, teachers can model good behavior by considering what they say online, and being cognizant that nothing is private on the Internet.

With the increase in the use of technology, a focus on the basics of good character must be maintained. Being able to interact well with others has always been crucial, but perhaps even more so now, as students are conversing with people across the world, and of many different backgrounds and races. As the world gets smaller, being able to participate in that world in a positive way is more than important than ever.

This post was written by guest contributor Lindsey Wright, a freelance writer who is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.

To learn more about educating students for digital citizenship, don’t miss the keynote panel at the upcoming National Forum on Character Education and the remarks of digital citizenship expert, Dr. Jason Ohler.

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Where Gardens Grow Character

We believe gardening in schools is a necessity.

Most of us probably know that school gardens are a great teaching tool that can be used to enrich curriculum and improve physical health, but we believe in gardens as a way to grow character.  We see this everyday in our garden.

We see children sharing, working hard, and being kind. We watch kids grow responsibility as well as vegetables. We see kids engaged, excited, motivated, and proud of their school.  We watch as kids make connections between their school, their community, and the planet.

New research published by the Royal Horticulture Society (and who knows gardening better!) shows that as well as helping children lead happier, healthier lives, gardening “helps them acquire the essential skills they need to fulfill their potential in a rapidly-changing world and make a positive contribution to society as a whole.”

In fact, evidence suggests that gardening can play such a vital role that we believe every child should be given the chance to experience the benefits. So we will be sharing what we’ve learned along the way- how to start and maintain a school garden, how gardens create opportunities to embed character education principles, and what kids, teachers, and families have to say about gardening at the 18th National Forum on Character Education.

Our presentation “Where Gardens Grow Character”  on Friday, Oct. 21 at 2:15 will include opportunities to share your school garden stories and you’ll walk away with: a list of gardening resources we’ve found helpful; a bibliography of garden research; and a hand made memento from our beloved garden.

Please join us!  Because gardening in schools is a necessity.

Posted by Susi Jones, Tricia Elisara, Nancy Younce, Julian Elementary School, a 2010 National School of Character

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Start the School Year Off Right

Students set personal goals at the start of the year.

 A focus on the whole child and each child’s moral and social development pervades the program at Beauvoir the National Cathedral Elementary School, a 2011 National School of Character. The school invests a great deal of time and resources into the “social curriculum,” which is seen as being just as important as, and even part of, the academic curriculum.

All classes spend the first 6 weeks of the school year developing class norms according to the Responsive Classroom methodology. Part of this is the development of class constitutions, contracts, or promises.

Students also set specific personal goals called “hopes and dreams.” Both are posted and referred to regularly in each classroom. During daily morning meetings in each classroom, students greet each other, play a game together, share something of importance to one or more students, and read the morning message.

Even the youngest Beauvoir students start the year with learning the social curriculum in age-appropriate ways. When entering Pre-K, all students are given stuffed bears that they name, make clothes for, and then use for role playing throughout their first two years at Beauvoir. The bears are a tool to teach empathy teachers adapted from the book Bears, Bears, Everywhere by Luella Connelly.

Beauvoir is one of five cathedral schools located in the U.S. and one of three on the beautifully maintained grounds of the National Cathedral located in Washington, DC. Beauvoir is a private primary school, serving preschool aged children through third graders.

Beauvoir will be presenting at the 18th National Forum on Character Education in San Francisco, Oct. 19-22.

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Attending the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools annual conference

Federal education conference emphasizes the importance of school climate

by Lara Maupin, Director SSOC/NSOC

Kristen Pelster, Principal at Ridgewood Middle School in Missouri

Joe Mazzola and I attended the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools annual conference this week. We were quite pleased to see the Department’s emphasis on how school climate can enhance the conditions for learning reflected in the selection of keynote speakers and workshops. Researchers and practitioners shared how improving school climate can improve academic achievement and reduce bullying.

We were especially thrilled that the Department asked dynamic principal Kristen Pelster of Ridgewood Middle School in Missouri to be the kickoff keynote speaker. Kristen told her school’s powerful story of transformation from the worst school in the district to National School of Character. How did they do it? Character education! By holding kids to high expectations and giving them the support they needed to meet those expectations, Ridgewood culture began to change. Over time, Kristen was able to empower her teachers and students. Without changing anything about how they taught academics, Ridgewood students improved academically. Of course, this is a story we know well at CEP. We see it repeated time and time again in our Continue reading

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Pulling up bootstraps

We’ve recently posted some great news articles on our Facebook page from around the country about communities that inject valuable character education into the local sports scenes.  The Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy Leadership and Character Development Camp in Vero Beach, Florida emphasizes character education at their summer camp.  Midnight Basketball in Taylor, Texas is more informal, yet is a well-known gathering place for teens to play in a pick-up game at night and benefit from the wisdom and values shared by local mentors and leaders. 

On a similar note, this year’s Promising Practices winners include schools like Gallup Hill Elementary in Ledyard Connecticut and South Grafton Elementary in South Grafton, Massachusetts whose P.E. teachers have helped to transform the recess period into constructive game time using character education and organized athletic activity. Their actions have greatly diminished playground shenanigans and bullying and encouraged cooperative play and teamwork.

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