This Startup Adds “Digital Citizenship” To School Curriculums – Fast Company
As students punched in their answers, the tablets relayed the results in near real-time, anonymously, to their teacher. There to assist was Alex Springer-Post, who runs the school’s “discovery lab”–basically, she’s the in-house tech expert for digitally-enhanced lessons–who was shocked by the results: Turns out, 65% of kids thought marked ‘True.’ The saying might work for playground comebacks, but they’re not true at all, especially in the age of cyber-bullying, where the taunting can go wide and feel unrelenting.
Next, the tablet offered examples of cyber-bullying on common apps that the kids might use like Messenger or SnapChat. Through the devices, Springer-Post surveyed who had seen that sort of abuse before and if they’d been individually exposed to it.
For Springer-Post, the lesson was so powerful because it allowed those being bullied to understand that they weren’t alone, and those being bullies learn about the pain inflicted by their actions. “They can respond and they’re letting us know without having to come and say it,” she says. Students who might otherwise be afraid to speak out publicly had alerted teachers to a serious problem and helped them start to solve it.
That lesson is part of the “digital citizenship” curriculum created by Nearpod, a digital learning company with interactive lesson plans that is challenging traditional textbook companies for a share the estimated $10 billion educational material market. In some versions, which vary by grade level, there’s inventive ways to teach kids how to defuse bullying, like a cartoon-panel screen with boxes for them to draw or write something a cyber-bully might say or do, followed by how they might response to it, and then what a “positive outcome” might look like.
Nearpod, which launched in 2012, has created software-based, device-specific lesson plans with features that include built-in collaborative spaces for students to sharing ideas (versus the time-waster of going around the room in a circle), and various polls and quizzes for teachers (with different privacy settings) to quickly grasp class opinions or the overall understanding of what’s being taught. Some lessons are augmented with videos, VR-experiences, or the expectation of doing more research on the fly because the device is connected to the web.
So far, Nearpod says it has been been adopted by one-in-10 classrooms around the country, reaching roughly 5 to 6 million kids in both public and private schools. Part of the reason, according to founder CEO and cofounder Guido Kovalskys, is that the company has embraced the idea that school tech has reached it’s tipping point: About 50% of all school kids are estimated to have access to portable devices like laptops or tablets during school time, either through bring-your-own-device policies or school sharing and loan out programs, which pass out gear at the start of class and then collect it.