Best Practice: Bronx Early College Academy, NYC

March 04, 2011
Audrey Stokes Associate Product Manager, Education
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy

The Bronx Early College Academy, BECA, a small and growing public school in the Bronx, NY, implemented the Digital Citizenship curriculum with their whole student body, in grades 6 through 10, with approximately 350 students and 25 teachers. They taught the curriculum four days a week during their daily advisory period. Read on to find out BECA’s five key learnings in their first semester teaching the Digital Citizenship strand:

1. Whole-school approach works
Working as a team — both teachers and administrators (who also teach advisory and other subjects) collaborated and shared ideas about creative implementation, engaging students, and overcoming challenges as they surfaced. The teachers were able to have meaningful discussions with all of their students and could feel confident referencing any topics from the curriculum during any class, since all of the kids were familiar with it.

2. Choose a leader
Since the school had so many teachers involved, they struggled early on to coordinate everyone’s efforts. Then Andrine Wilson, BECA’s Instructional Coach, stepped up to oversee implementation of the curriculum (while teaching it herself as well). Faced with sometimes-limited access to technology and photocopies, Andrine developed a weekly plan — or “cheat sheet,” as she referred to it — for her staff. The one page document outlined the key goals, what handouts would be provided, and what technology was needed (e.g., a laptop to show the videos) so that everyone was (literally) on the same page. Andrine’s leadership made it easier for all of the teachers and administers in the school to implement the curriculum with their students.

3. Make it personal
Pat Cavanaugh’s eighth grade students loved hearing true stories about their 25-year-old teacher’s use of digital media and how different his experiences were from those of his 62-year-old co-teacher. “The kids love hearing about the changes and decisions we make,” Pat notes. “For example, how what some of my friends posted online had a real impact on their employment opportunities.” Chelsea Belz’ sixth grade students also loved hearing personal stories about her father’s first computer, which took up a small room!

4. Make it relevant
Andrine brought in relevant, current news stories that connected with the curriculum to share with her tenth grade students and added in her own extension activities based on current events: “Looking at something real made it important –  they saw they could face adult consequences.” Belz’ students raised the issue of the Rutgers student’s suicide when learning about cyberbullying. According to her, it was one of the “most real and serious conversations ever. They were all very mature.”

5. Printed parent materials don’t always make it home
Many of the teachers found that parent handouts were getting lost en route to Mom and Dad. Next year, they plan to email all of the tip sheets and other materials directly to parents.