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Looking Towards 2024: Top Trends in EdTech, Digital Literacy, and Cyber Civics

2024 Computer Screen

In this exclusive interview with Diana Graber, founder of Cyber Civics and Cyberwise, as well as author of Raising Humans in a Digital World, we explore notable trends in EdTech, Digital Literacy, and Technology that have shaped the landscape for 2024. Join us on this journey to understand how Cyber Civics, under Diana's guidance, is addressing emerging challenges, fostering ethical behavior online, and preparing students to thrive as responsible digital citizens.

Looking back on 2023, what notable trends or changes have you observed in the realm of educational technology, and how do you think these will impact digital literacy education in the future?

If I had to pick one trend that stood out in 2023, it would definitely be AI. It dominated the news this year and has both schools and parents worried about its impact on kids. Educators scrambling to keep up with this emerging technology are trying to figure out not only how to teach kids about it, but also how to take advantage of some exciting new AI tools that could make teaching easier and more effective.

Considering the evolving landscape of technology, how has Cyber Civics adapted its curriculum to address emerging challenges and opportunities in digital citizenship for middle school students?

Emerging new trends are very exciting for us at Cyber Civics because we continually update our curriculum to take new technologies into consideration. So, of course, this year we added some really fun and engaging lessons about AI, as well as algorithms, ChatGPT, persuasive technologies, and more.

In the context of the ever-growing influence of social media, how does Cyber Civics continue to teach students about responsible and ethical behavior online, and what role does media literacy play in this process?

Our mission is to teach students how to become ethical, safe, and productive digital citizens. So with this in mind our lessons have students engaging in hands-on activities in a classroom with peers. That way they can see, and discuss, the impact of things they might say or do online. 

Additionally, we like to call our curriculum “a slow walk” toward media literacy. What this means is we teach students how and why to be good digital citizens first, then we teach them how technologies work to deliver information, etc. before we finally dive into “media literacy.” For those who don’t know, media literacy is the study of how to use critical thinking skills to evaluate media messages. We find that media literacy makes a lot more sense when students understand how the entire ecosystem works first.

As technology evolves rapidly, what role does hands-on learning and practical activities play in Cyber Civics, and how does this approach enhance the effectiveness of the curriculum?

We believe hands-on learning about digital life is essential. One of the things we hear all the time is that kids spend too much time online. So our lessons give them a chance to make sense of the complexities of the digital world through lessons and activities that are offline. This accomplishes a couple of things. They can make mistakes in the safety of a classroom and not in a place that is permanent and seen by anyone and everyone. Plus, they can discuss the impact of technology with their peers, and negotiate the social norms they would like to take into their digital lives. 

One of the things we hear all the time is that kids spend too much time online. So our lessons give them a chance to make sense of the complexities of the digital world through lessons and activities that are offline.

It is a very powerful way to help kids make sense of a complex digital world and you’d be surprised at how much they enjoy a chance to talk about and critically evaluate technology when they are away from it.

In your experience, what have been the most significant challenges educators face in teaching digital literacy, and how does Cyber Civics aim to address these challenges in its curriculum?

I think one of the most challenging things for educators is figuring out how to fit digital literacy into an already-packed school day. So to address this challenge we’ve aligned our lessons with Common Core ELA Standards, ISTE Tech Standards, and the CASEL Competencies. That way when schools teach Cyber Civics they are killing two (or three or four) birds with one stone.

The Cyber Civics program is tech-agnostic and not funded by the tech industry. How does this independence contribute to the effectiveness and integrity of the curriculum, especially in light of potential biases in educational technology?

We like to say that this allows us to be entirely honest! While some other programs have to, understandably, take their sponsors or funders into consideration when they address certain topics, we don’t have that constraint. So, for example, we can offer lessons like “Your Brain on Tech.” This lesson explains all the persuasive technology techniques companies use to capture and hold onto their (valuable) attention.

While some other programs have to, understandably, take their sponsors or funders into consideration when they address certain topics, we don’t have that constraint.

Likewise, our lessons on privacy are very honest about what personal information companies collect, how they collect it, and what they do with it. Although tech industry funding might allow us to offer our curriculum to schools for free, we don’t believe the trade-off is worth it.

Considering the importance of social and emotional learning, how does Cyber Civics integrate CASEL Core SEL Competencies into its curriculum to foster the holistic development of students as digital citizens?

Cyber Civics was founded, over a decade ago, in a Waldorf-inspired charter school. If you know anything about Waldorf schools then you know they are masters at integrating social-emotional skills throughout the entire curriculum! So these skills are in the DNA of Cyber Civics. Every lesson has at least an element within it that helps students practice the social-emotional skills that are so desperately needed when we go online today.

With a 98% renewal rate, it's clear that Cyber Civics has been well-received. Can you share some success stories or testimonials that highlight the positive impact of the program on students and schools?

Honestly, I love answering the phone when teachers call us. Nine times out of ten educators express gratitude for the lessons and share stories of how they resonate with their students. While our website is chock full of testimonials, those personal phone calls are the ones that really stick with me and make me feel so grateful for what I get to do every day.

I love answering the phone when teachers call us. Nine times out of ten educators express gratitude for the lessons and share stories of how they resonate with their students.

Given the increasing integration of technology into various aspects of education, how does Cyber Civics balance keeping pace with technological advancements while maintaining a focus on foundational digital literacy principles?

Because of the curriculum’s grounding in media psychology—the study of the impact of technology on human behavior—our lessons focus on students’ behavior, no matter what the technology! Tools change every year, so no matter what comes next, we are equipping students with the behaviors to use all tools safely and wisely. 

What has been a highlight of yours for Cyber Civics this year?

My highlight has been watching and helping our small team learn and grow. Most people don’t know that there are really just a handful of us who work behind the scenes at Cyberwise and Cyber Civics, and that means we all wear a lot of hats! But as we continue to grow, it has been fun for me to watch each team member really shine within their own area of expertise and move the company forward.

Looking forward to 2024, what initiatives or developments can we expect from Cyber Civics to further enhance its mission of preparing students to be ethical, safe, and productive digital citizens in an ever-changing technological landscape?

Well, as always we will be updating our middle school curriculum to keep pace with tech changes and new research. But the really exciting news is that we are finally releasing a curriculum for 4th and 5th grades. 

After lots of research and careful consideration, we determined that the best way to address this age group—children who have yet to develop the ethical thinking skills necessary to think through the topics presented in our middle school curriculum—was to focus on honing their social and emotional skills. So these lessons start by covering an array of “values,” including things like kindness, self-discipline, mindfulness, tact, and more. First, students consider how these values can guide them in their everyday lives, and then they learn how they apply them online. 

It also includes lessons on the basics of technology operations. The entire curriculum is super engaging and fun and includes new videos with our owl mascot as the narrator. We are very excited about it and cannot wait for schools to start using it in ’24-25.

Interview: Wrapped

As we bid farewell to 2023 and look forward to 2024, the year has been a transformative journey in the realms of educational technology, digital literacy, and Cyber Civics. The pervasive influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies have posed both challenges and opportunities in education, prompting educators to adapt and integrate these innovations. Digital literacy education, exemplified by the Cyber Civics curriculum, has witnessed a dynamic evolution to encompass not only foundational principles but also the intricacies of AI, algorithms, and persuasive technologies. Guided by a commitment to ethical, safe, and productive digital citizenship, Cyber Civics, under the leadership of Diana Graber, continues to empower students with hands-on learning experiences and a holistic approach to social-emotional development. As we look back, 2023 has been a year of resilience, growth, and innovation in preparing the next generation for the complexities of the digital landscape.

Author: Connor Cohen.

Connor Cohen

Connor joined the Cyber Civics team in 2023 with experience in both social work and marketing. In 2020 he earned his LMSW in Texas where he worked as a therapist in a private practice. He made the switch from direct practice to marketing and worked with therapists to help market the profession and practice. Connor now works for Cyber Civics and Cyberwise. After earning his Bachelors in English, Political Science and Counseling from the University of North Texas, he went on to receive his Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. Continuing his studies, he earned a certificate in Digital Marketing from the University of Texas in 2022. He resides in Houston, TX with his fiancee and dog Leia. Connor feels that his role at Cyberwise and Cyber Civics is the perfect place to make the much needed changes that help promote the mission of increasing digital literacy and online safety.


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