The Richmond Register

October 17, 2012

Eighth-grade students earn their license to drive … on the internet

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Close to 600 Madison County eighth-grade and high school students have earned their “digital driver’s license,” or DDL, since the beginning of the school year — and there’s no real driving involved.

The district uses DDLs to teach “appropriate online behavior” when interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness, said the district’s technology director Charlene McGee during her technology report at a recent school board meeting.

The DDL exam guides students through the nine elements of digital citizenship: Access, Commerce, Communication, Literacy, Etiquette, Law, Rights and Responsibilties, Health and Wellness, Security and Self Protection. (For more information on each element, visit http://barretttd.wix.com/september2012).

For example, on the Digital Access, Health & Wellness section of the exam, one question is: “If you are riding in a car with someone who is looking at their cell phone, should you ask them to stop and focus their eyes on the road (even if it is an adult)? Yes or No?”

The DDL program is part of the district’s internet-safety policy, which makes it compliant with CIPA, the Children Internet Protection Act of 2000, McGee said. CIPA was enacted to protect students and address concerns of students being exposed to obscene and harmful content over the internet.

Schools must be CIPA compliant in order to receive federal dollars for technology expenditures, she said.

“Not only does teaching digital citizenship to students make us CIPA compliant, knowledge is the first line of defense for our students,” McGee said. “Our students will enjoy the benefit of using technology safely and have the ability to avoid dangerous or unethical activity they may encounter and be confidant to manage those challenges they may face while using the internet.”

The DDL exam was developed through a collaboration between the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Education and is being used statewide and nationwide as well, said Tina Barrett, the district’s technology integration specialist.

Although the district is using the program to teach every student the elements of digital citizenship, some schools can use DDLs as an incentive for use of technology, she said.

For example, students at Madison Southern High School must earn a DDL to use an iPad.

Barrett holds monthly meetings with the schools’ library media specialists to discuss each element of digital citizenship. They take that information back to the schools where a network of “tech teams” continue to spread the information throughout the grade levels.

Elementary students between third and fifth grade will be exposed to digital safety through games and videos. The program introduces digital literacy, critical thinking and respect in the online community, Barrett said.

“If we educate them young enough about digital citizenship, hopefully we can deter cyberbullying,” Barrett said. “Children are online more than people realize.”

District-wide, there are more than 5,500 (Microsoft) Windows work sessions, more than 600 Window-based laptops, around 800 network printers, and more than 800 Apple products, 633 of which are iPads, McGee reported at the board meeting.

After multiple troubles with wireless internet-access points last year, the company that installed them are currently replacing them — at not cost to the district. All schools now have wireless access, she said.

“The excitement of the staff and students to bring their own device, and the vast opportunities we have with the Apple initiative, it is imperative to have wireless up and going,” McGee told the board. “It (wireless) is as stable as the wired network. That is what we’re striving to do.”

There are 5,000 daily “guest” wireless users and more than 300 users authenticating to use the wireless each day, she said.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.