Digital Wellness in Action
At the heart of any inquiry is a topic that provokes wonder, that causes a reaction, and that prompts discussion. Digital Wellness has proven to be just that topic for Jenny Cartwright and Sydney Hertz’s grade 4/5 learning community at Raymer Elementary. Based on some early observations and classroom discussion they decided it was crucial to engage their students in an inquiry on how they might improve their own digital wellness and the digital wellness of their school community. The Raymer duo chose to use design thinking as their model of inquiry since it had a focus on empathizing with others, creative thinking, and it ensured students would move their learning towards action in the form of a prototype.
Cartwright and Hertz began by getting their students to engage in a series of provocations based
on four of the five SD23 Digital Wellness elements, “Practice Mindfulness”, “Spread Positivity” and “Think Critically” while having the lens of “Be safe” applied across all of the elements. Students considered a series of discussion prompts like “What strategies can we use to be more mindful about our technology use?” or “How can we spread positivity in our community?” after watching the provocations and then documented what they already knew, what they wondered, and what they learned in their digital wellness passport which was produced by Nicole Leboe at Oyama Traditional School. Next students were given the opportunity to choose one of the digital wellness elements mentioned above that they were passionate about going deeper in and started developing their own essential question.
As part of the empathy phase students not only got the chance to empathize with their classmates and students across their school but they conducted research based on their topics of interest. Cartwright and Hertz utilized a web-app known as Newsela which allows educators to curate text sets based on a topic area, in this case, the five digital wellness elements, and then differentiated the text sets by publishing them at five different reading levels. “Every single one of our students was engaging in research. Some students were staying in at breaks because they didn’t want to stop” said Hertz. Newsela proved to be so powerful that some students were reading the article more than once, the first time at a level that was appropriate for them and then adjusting the article to the next level up to see how the language and content got more sophisticated.
Currently, the Raymer grade 4/5 learning community is finishing their empathy phase and is finalizing their essential questions. The community is hoping to take what they have learned about digital wellness and help support the digital wellness of other students at Raymer. So far some of the essential questions include,
"How can we promote kindness in our school community to ensure we create a positive digital environment?" - JJ, Raiden, McKenna, & Sayo
"How can our school community show others that video games can be good for us and not rot our brains?" - Cormac
"How can our school community learn what they need to look for in fake videos, profiles, and websites?" - Nyah & Amelia
"How can our school community be aware of the amount we spend on technology to save money for things students think are important?" - Theron & Teni
As a culminating event, these students will have a Celebration of Learning at Raymer where students will get a chance to showcase their learning and their prototypes for their school community before they head to the Expo of Awesome to do the same with other students across our district.