Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cyber Civics at Journey School

Having recently received an M.A. in Media Psychology and Social Change from UCLA/ Fielding Graduate University, I was eager to put my studies to work. Although I found every facet of media psychology absolutely fascinating, I was particularly drawn to media literacy (my Capstone topic: "New Media Literacy Education: A Developmental Approach"), primarily because I’m a parent of school-aged children. My daughters attend a Waldorf-inspired public charter school in Southern California  (well, actually, one just completed grades K-8). Those who know anything about Waldorf education probably know two things: 1) this pedagogy it terrific for developing creativity and critical thinking skills, 2) this pedagogy eschews the use of technology (often until 8th grade)… a curious dichotomy in the current educational environment. 

There is another fact about Waldorf-inspired schools, however, that is equally curious. Research (Hether, 2001) shows that Waldorf-educated students score significantly higher in moral reasoning than do students from traditional public high schools and a religiously affiliated high school. In fact, Waldorf educated students score in a range that that would be more commonly associated with college graduates.

Taking all of this into consideration, I decided to explore a possible way for Waldorf-inspired schools to integrate new media literacy into their curriculum. Since the times they are a changin', Waldorf-inspired schools in general are realizing that they must find a way to do this. So, having tackled this dilemma on paper, I am now enjoying the opportunity of putting my research to work by conducting a pilot program with the 6th grade class at Journey School in Aliso Viejo, CA. We are calling it "Cyber Civics" as it takes place during what was this class' civics block.

We just completed lesson one yesterday. This lesson was adapted from Jason Ohler's book "Digital Community; Digital Citizen" (2010) which advocates for a “whole school approach to behavior that sets the entirety of being digitally active within an overall ethical and behavioral context” (p. 145). Thinking that these schools may already have a head start in this area, I figured his approach to new media literacy would be an ideal place to begin.

We spent our time together yesterday doing what Ohler suggests, becoming "De-Tech-Tives". The children pondered the positive and negative impacts of different technologies... from the television to eyeglasses, the printing press to hair dryers! The class broke into small working groups to discuss various impacts, imagined ways in which they would have improved the technology had they invented it themselves, and finally presented their "findings" to one another. Their homework assignment this week is to interview a parent or grandparent and ask what life was like before the mobile phone and how it has impacted their lives, for better and for worse.

Our plan is to adapt and piece together a curriculum, much it from Ohler’s book and also from the Digital Citizenship curriculum offered by Common Sense Media that is based on the digital ethics research of Dr. Howard Gardner and the GoodPlay Project at the Harvard School of Education. The overall goal of the Common Sense curriculum is to “empower young people to harness the power of the Internet and digital technology for learning, and for them to become safe, responsible, and respectful digital citizens” (Common Sense Media, 2010). 

That is our goal too. Stay tuned for photos and updates.


Common Sense Media (n.d.). Common sense media education programs. Retrieved from

Hether, C. A. (2001).  The moral reasoning of high school seniors from diverse educational settings (Ph.D. dissertation, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center). Retrieved November 10, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text (Publication No. AAT 3044032).

Ohler, J.B. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.