The digital world offers students an abundance of resources and unlimited learning potential. Our largely one-size-fits-all approach to education and technology in the U.S., however, doesn’t seem to be working for today’s digital youth. Moreover, resources are not applied equitably across schools and classrooms. To help address these challenges, The Aspen Institute established a Task Force on Learning and the Internet, to understand the ways in which young people learn today, and to identify methods to expand educational opportunities online and off, inside and outside the classroom.
After a year of collaboration, the group released its findings via a comprehensive report entitled “Learner at the Center of a Networked World.” The Task Force’s conclusions suggest a radical rethinking of the very approach to education is needed—starting with the core belief that students must be at the center of their learning. This means providing young people with affordable access to networks; arming them with digital-literacy skills, so they can tap into the benefits those networks offer, and ensuring they have a trusted online environment that promotes learning and protects their privacy and safety.
At Microsoft, we recognize that while the Internet has a multitude of benefits, it may also expose students to certain risks, such as inappropriate content or invite unwanted contact. Such risks bring into focus the tension caused by varying beliefs and attitudes that exist among consumers specific to privacy and online safety. My colleague, Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch, reflected on his participation in the Task Force, underscoring the importance of recognizing the impact that changing technology has on these areas, and calling for the creation of frameworks that establish trusted environments for learning. To assist teachers and, in particular parents, as they navigate an online culture in which rules and social norms are imprecise and constantly evolving, Microsoft will continue to provide digital literacy tools and resources. These include Bing in the Classroom and our Safety and Security Center so educators and parents can assist young people in making responsible, ethical decisions in our digitally dominant world.
We call this sense of ownership and online personal responsibility “Digital Citizenship.” And, teaching skills like digital literacy, digital ethics and digital etiquette is critical to help prepare students for life in a technology-driven society. We support the integration of digital citizenship concepts into the classrooms and curricula to help put students at the center, and in control of, their learning environments. In fact, the Aspen Task Force identified this as an imperative to help foster continued scholarship both in real life and online.
Cultivating the next generation of digital citizens through digital literacy and educational programs offers students tremendous opportunities to learn, share and communicate. I am bolstered by the Task Force’s findings, and encouraged that we are on a solid path toward comprehensive reform for teaching our 21stcentury learners.
For more information, tools and resources on Microsoft’s approach to digital literacy and online safety, please visit: http://www.microsoft.com/safety.
Editor’s Note: Once a month on Microsoft on the Issues, Jacqueline Beauchere shares her point of view on topics related to the global consumer online safety landscape. Follow the conversation on Twitter using #MSFTCOSO.