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Best Practices: Underwood Hills Focus School (Omaha)

Audrey Stokes | May 20, 2011

Underwood Hills, a focus school in Omaha Nebraska, provides students with additional opportunities in Leadership through Technology and Communication.  Students benefit from an extended school day, with enrichment activities planned until 5:00 p.m. each evening and the students follow a year-round school calendar.

Barb Jizba, Underwood Hills Librarian, coordinated the Common Sense Media Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum efforts across the school.  She did this by teaching lessons, training staff members on the curriculum, and ensuring that the school had the necessary materials.

Because of the school’s focus on technology and communication, the school has incorporated a 1:1 initiative.  Before students are given full access to their computers, different parts of the Common Sense Media curriculum have become a standard that students are exposed to.

Safety and Security

These lessons were introduced in the first two weeks of the school year through Underwood Hills’ late-day, enrichment program.  According to Barb, the Common Sense Media lessons opened up discussion about the Internet; the kids were not just given a list of “don’t do this or don’t do that,” but were provided guidelines for safe use of computers.  The message “with great power comes great responsibility” really fit the school’s 1:1 initiative.

Research and Information Literacy

The Research and Information Literacy lessons were shared in the library as preparation for Capstone Projects.  The projects contained rubrics requiring authority of information, MLA citations, etc.  Barb mentioned that the Common Sense Media lessons were a great introduction to the language and the requirements set forth by their project.  As students worked through their projects, she infused mini lessons into their research and work time periods.  The students’ work with citations was paired well with the “Four Points of Fair Use” activity.  As students began to add pictures and music to projects, Barb pulled in the “Responsibilities for Respecting Creative Work” materials.

In addition to the above lessons, Underwood Hills infused Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum in the following ways.

Counselor lessons

The Underwood Hills Guidance Counselor included Digital Citizenship lessons, videos and activities with core curriculum on bullying.  The counselor enhanced her four-lesson bullying unit to a six-lesson unit that included cyberbullying lessons from Common Sense Media.

Parent engagement

Underwood Hills communicated with parents by adding Common Sense Media newsletter clips which shared with parents information about the curriculum their students were working on.  In addition to this, school leaders shared Common Sense Media web resource links and information on their school’s web site.  Finally, at a family school event, a presentation was conducted which shared resources available to parents through Common Sense Media.

Have you utilized any digital tools in your classroom to help you enhance Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum?  Please share, we’d love to hear your ideas!

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