Major Project – Development of a curriculum supported Digital Citizenship/Literacy resource

As a school principal in a developing country pursuing a graduate degree in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership in a developed country, I find that I am constantly in awe at the gaps that exist between the two education systems. The course I am currently taking – EC&I 832 has further served to open my eyes to the extent to which our system (in my country) is behind that which exists in Canada. There is absolutely no denying the importance of digital literacy in the current education system. However, whether discreetly or integrated it is not included in any subject area in the curriculum in my country.

I have, therefore, decided to develop a Digital Literacy Curriculum that will be incorporated in  Information Technology and the English language for the Grade 9 students in my home country. This curriculum will seek to expose students at this level in a formal way to the digital world, what it means to be digitally literate, the importance of being digitally literate, how to interrogate content to determine its veracity – fake news as opposed to genuine news. I have decided on these two discreet subjects because when I examine our current subject listings and consider the type of integration I would want, these two subject are most ideal. Information Technology is a logical choice as this is the subject that introduces our students formally into the digital world. The English language curriculum is the subject that exposes our students to the concept of research and how to cite sources for any research done.

Can Generative AI be beneficial to Education?

When Open AI released Chat GPT late in 2022 there was a great deal of concern about its possible impact on the education sector. Will it encourage cheating, or will it hinder critical thinking among students among many others? This concern was shared at both the secondary and tertiary levels. There were even reports of some school districts banning the use of ChatGPT and other AI in their schools.

As is always the case, there is continuous improvement in any new technology, and in the case of AI, it is the same. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have invested heavily leading to an explosion in this technology.  It is interesting to note that there seems to be a turnaround by some educational institutions in their approach to AI. The focus now is on establishing ground rules and guidelines for using generative AI.  The article in the link below provides an interesting read on the role UNESCO is playing in leading this shift in focus.

UNESCO has put forward eight (8) specific measures that educational institutions can adopt to ensure quality education, social equity, and inclusion:

  • Promote inclusion, equity linguistic, and cultural diversity.
  • Protect human agency
  • Monitor and validate GenAI systems for education
  • Develop AI competencies including GenAI-related skills for learners
  • Build capacity for teachers and researchers to make proper use of GenAI
  • Promote plural opinions and plural expressions of ideas
  • Test locally relevant application models and build a cumulative evidence-base
  • Review long-term implications in intersectoral and interdisciplinary manner

I am particularly interested in number 5 – Build the capacity of teachers and researchers to make proper use of GenAI.  I believe that if teachers understand how to effectively use this new technology and the benefits to be derived then they will be better able to guide students in the proper use of it and be able to identify improper use as well.  I believe embracing AI and GenAI in education has to be the better way to go.

Digital Identity, is it important?

In thinking about digital identity, I grapple with questions: is this important or even necessary? Can I operate or continue to exist without having a digital identity? Do I even need to be concerned about my digital identity?  The answer is yes, my digital identity is important and necessary. In the same way in the past, someone could physically impersonate an individual so it is, so our digital identity could be ‘hacked’.  It is virtually impossible to exist in the world today without a digital identity and I certainly must be concerned about my physical identity and protect it as well from being stolen.  Whether we engage in online banking, or online studies, or purchasing online we exist in the digital as well as physical world and as such we have a digital identity. In fact, one could be forgiven if you say that the line of demarcation between these worlds has been erased or blurred.

For young people, this is literally the world they exist in. But how many of them take the necessary precaution that is so important to protect themselves? Further, how many of them know what information to share and what not to share?  I believe it is important that the home (parents) and the school have an essential role in educating students on being responsible digital citizens and protecting their digital identity.  The article below outlines the Nine (9) Elements of Digital Citizenship.


AI, the benefits and the hidden dangers

As I sought to extend my knowledge on how we should educate our current and future students two articles in my reading have resonated with me. The first is Centaurs and Cyborgs on the Jagged Frontier by Ethan Mollick. I am not surprised that in the testing the consultants who used AI came out ahead using varying means of measurement, I am particularly intrigued with the observation that “When AI is good humans have no reason to work hard or pay attention. They let AI take over”. He refers to this as “falling asleep at the wheel”. This, I believe, is one of the inherent risks if the integration of AI in the school space is not monitored and guided. Students will become totally dependent on technology, and this will impact negatively their own creative thinking.  So, as we embrace the integration of AI in the education system the role of the teacher is not diminished as we must guide the extent of the dependency by our students so their individual creativity is not suppressed.

The second article ‘How Can We Best Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World’? By Burton Granofsky, the author seeks to explore anticipated changes in the education landscape in the next 5 – 20 years with the rapid and continuous changes in technology. The recognition that data literacy and engineering were highlighted as well as STEM–focused careers.  Of note is the suggestion that educators should engage in externships.  This led me to wonder how many educators have ever considered this or for that matter how many administrators would be willing to include this as an option when professional development is being planned?

Have you ever engaged in externship?

AI – Changing the education landscape…what about developing countries

I found the article attached particularly interesting as it speaks to another direction in which the conversation about AI and its impact on Education can be taken. John seeks to highlight the benefits that AI can bring to the teacher, student, and parents, rather than the often-explored perspective of how AI will encourage plagiarism or cheating or inhibit independent thinking among our students.

I find this even more interesting as I examine the article from the perspective of an educator whose background is rooted in a developing country.  Without question, only in a few schools is AI utilized by teachers and students.  This is so both at the secondary level and in the teachers’ colleges.  My thoughts therefore are centered around how far behind some developing countries are on the “information highway”

What is the level of penetration in other developing countries?

Link to Article