Montour School District
#MontourProud: It's a hashtag that represents an entire community's commitment to using social media responsibly to promote school culture. And it's just one of the many ways the Montour School District has made digital citizenship a priority and empowered students, parents, and teachers to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly online.
Montour, located in a suburban community a few miles outside Pittsburgh, led a district-wide effort to implement Common Sense's Digital Citizenship Curriculum.
- No. of students: 2,894
- No. of schools: 3
- Ethnicity of student body:
- African American: 5%
- Asian American: 3%
- Hispanic/Latino: 2%
- Multiracial (not Hispanic): 3%
- White: 87%
- Economically disadvantaged students: 27%
- English-language learners: <1%
The Montour School District first implemented a one-to-one technology program using Chromebooks with high school students in 2013. Today, the district is nearing one-to-one Chromebooks for all students in grades K–12. Montour prides itself on being a student-centered, future-focused district.
When Montour High School made a commitment to a robust one-device-per-student environment (one-to-one), Superintendent Dr. Christopher Stone recognized the need for educating the staff and the Montour community on the importance of digital citizenship, ensuring that every student is safe and responsible online. Stone and other district leaders believed digital citizenship education to be just as important as math and literacy.
Montour also had parents inquiring about the one-to-one program and concerned about their children's welfare. So the district also focused on robust parent engagement on digital citizenship as part of the one-to-one initiative.
Get buy-in from key stakeholders
Montour responded to schools wanting to customize to the unique needs of their students, teachers, and parents. The district heard that teachers wanted flexibility in their teacher training options (in person and online) and allowed teachers and students to define the school's digital citizenship culture and plan.
Montour started its digital citizenship journey with high school students, preparing them for college and career. Pamela Diianni, a high school library media specialist who’s been with the district for 13 years, started teaching digital citizenship lessons at Montour High School in 2013. At the time, the district had no formal program, but Diianni felt strongly that the students needed guidance in these essential skills. She started out with seniors but quickly turned her focus to the ninth grade students, whom she described as less "jaded" and more receptive to the lessons.
The director of academic achievement and district innovation, Justin Aglio, saw the success of digital citizenship in Diianni's school. Recognizing the need for education on other grade levels, and using the Digital Citizenship Curriculum, he spearheaded the development of a curriculum plan for grades K-12 throughout the district.
Montour uses a front-loading approach, in which their goal is to have all digital citizenship lessons completed by all students before the end of the first month of school. Teachers are provided with digital citizenship resources, including the digital citizenship lessons broken up into a sequence of days. The district uses the digital citizenship implementation models Library or Media Lab, Core Subject Embedded, and Elective Subject.
In grades K-8, the curriculum director defines the structure, sequence, and timing of the lessons at schools. Teachers of grades K–4 also extend and reinforce the lessons using Common Sense's Digital Passport™ game. In high schools, the media specialists support implementation and teaching freshmen and sophomores. Some high schools use Common Sense Education's lessons on Nearpod.
Aglio also put ownership into students' hands, challenging high school students with developing a social media plan for the district. In marketing classes, students were tasked with developing a social media marketing campaign for the school system, and they transformed that initial plan into an ongoing effort. Students created social media accounts for the district, which they use to communicate announcements to the community. They use the hashtag #MontourProud to highlight the great work of students and educators in classrooms throughout the district. In doing so, they also practice good digital citizenship as leaders of the social media accounts for the district. These students' leadership in promoting digital citizenship and positive social media were even featured in national magazines.
In 2016, Montour began a blended professional development approach to its digital citizenship implementation. Every teacher for grades K-8 receive an online digital citizenship training and access to a district-designed resource portal. From within the portal, teachers have access to three digital citizenship lessons per grade level, along with related videos and Family Tip Sheets.
Montour engages families by providing them with a variety of resources through multiple channels, including face-to-face events such as parent nights and parent coffees, and online through the district's website. Schools provide discussion tips and best practices through classroom teachers and school events. They share articles and tip sheets through social media and school newsletters.
The #MontourProud social media presence has also surfaced in parent feedback, with parents claiming to be #MontourProud. Parents have expressed their satisfaction with the positive impact digital citizenship has had on their children and themselves.
Define and measure impact
Montour measures success in terms of district-wide success. The district's goal is to have every student and teacher participating in citizenship. It is no longer an initiative; it's an expectation. To track implementation, each teacher of grades K-8 is required to complete an E-rate certification form to verify their teaching of digital citizenship lessons.
Since the implementation of the Common Sense Digital Citizenship Curriculum, teachers such as Diianni and district leaders including Aglio experience firsthand how the digital citizenship lessons help schools create a culture of digital citizenship in their classrooms. For instance, Diianni notices that her students experience "light bulb moments" with certain lessons, where their assumptions are challenged and their understanding of a topic deepens.
Montour earned Common Sense District recognition for the first time in 2015 and has maintained recognition status every year since. The district provides banners to Common Sense Schools, and the news is shared in the district newsletter and with the school board. In addition, every high school teacher in Montour has achieved Common Sense Educator status.
Digital citizenship projects and successes are also shared via social media and district newsletter. The district also issues press releases to celebrate its achievement of district recognition (for an example, see this press release from 2017).
Reflect on progress
Moving forward, Superintendent Stone hopes to reassess the Digital Citizenship Curriculum and look for more ways to weave it into the district's curriculum. In addition, the district has identified parent outreach as a priority in the upcoming years. They hope to engage with parents through info nights and presentations at PTA meetings that are both accessible and appealing. They are confident in the growth of digital citizenship in the Pittsburgh region and in Pennsylvania as a whole.