Computer Literacy and Computer Safety Go Hand-in-hand

In 2004, CRDG’s Truc Nguyen began work on a computer literacy curriculum that was no longer just about programming, but about the effective, efficient, and responsible use of software as well as behaviors online. In addition to technology skills, she wanted to incorporate internet safety and ethics. The result is a computer literacy and ethics curriculum that was piloted at ULS in 2004 and, in partnership with the ULS teachers and students, has undergone five years of revision and refinement. The course develops W.I.S.E. (Web and Internet Safe Educated) kids and has attracted the attention of both the Hawai’i Department of Education and the Hawai’i attorney general’s office.

The soon-to-be finished curriculum addresses such topics as information validity, internet safety, online fights, plagiarism, sexual predators, and copyright infringement. The five years of input from the students and teachers at ULS have been critical to the development of the instructional materials since the perspectives of thirteen- through seventeen- years-olds are, and will continue to be, central in refining discussions surrounding the ethical dilemmas children face. Nguyen is currently developing a teacher-training course in preparation for a scale-up to HIDOE schools in the fall of 2011. The course is designed, in part, to meet the No Child Left Behind requirement that all students be computer literate by the end of eighth grade, a goal that all HIDOE schools are also striving to meet.

Computer literacy for today’s students goes well beyond learning to use hardware and software. Students at ULS participate in the research that will inform future efforts.

Nguyen’s curriculum development led, this year, to a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The collaboration, begun in the fall of 2009, funds baseline data collection about the habits and patterns of internet media usage by juveniles so that law enforcement can better prepare themselves for prevention of crimes. During her research and development work with the ULS students, Nguyen began to see large gaps of understanding among the students, their parents, and even the teachers. A research study of the ULS community revealed some significant divides in beliefs about the computer’s role in educational and social settings. For the DOJ study, Nguyen is using the questionnaires developed in that smaller study and scaling those instruments up to distribute to over 30,000 students, parents, and teachers across four states.

Another partnership that came out of her curriculum development work is a project with Infragard Hawaii, the FBI, and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to develop community outreach materials for adult learners. Nguyen is reviewing the materials, which are meant to provide parents and community members with more knowledge and skills to help children stay safe online. With her colleagues, Nguyen is looking to present the statistics and some appalling stories of online crimes against children in a way that promotes critical thinking from the standpoint of Bloom’s taxonomy and Gagne’s nine stages of adult learning. As Nguyen put it, “We want to help people to learn, not just scare them!”