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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