February 9, 2015  |  Community Engagement

Raising Digital Natives

Last week, the MSD of Lawrence Township welcomed Dr. Devorah Heitner, PhD, for both teacher professional development and the Parent and Family Resource Engagement Program (PREP). Dr. Heitner is an experienced speaker, workshop leader, consultant, and an expert on kids and media. She developed Raising Digital Natives, a program about embracing the upsides of technology while navigating the challenges. She holds a Ph.D. in Media Technology and Society from Northwestern University and has published and spoken in the field of media studies for the past ten years. She has taught at DePaul University, the Better Boys Foundation, Street Level Youth Media and Northwestern University. Dr. Heitner helps people have important conversations with kids and themselves about communicating with empathy and wisdom in digital spaces.

There was a lot of great information presented, but the objective here is to focus on some key areas of
 discussion and to share for those who were unable to join us. Dr. Heitner asked a basic question of both groups. “What were the rules around the telephone when you were growing up?” Answers came back around time limits and expectations for what had to be done before phone time. There was a lot of consistency in answers. That is no longer the case today. Digital forms of communication are around us all day every day. Anonymity is now an option when we communicate, never the case in the past. While this may seem a like a way to find out “the truth” about what other are saying or think about you or a particular topic, it has it downfalls. Information obtained can be hurtful and can undermine relationships.
She talked about “screen monsters” and how we want our children to create, not just consume content. According to Heitner: Watching a TV show is clearly about consumption, but what about when kids are tweeting along to a live broadcast? Or texting in their vote on American Idol? That’s a different relationship with the screen, to be sure. What about watching a YouTube video about how to play Minecraft vs. making a “how-to” video on YouTube about Minecraft strategies? Even though they are employing the same platform (YouTube), the activities are completely different (passive vs. active).

Discussion continued around the concept of a “digital footprint” and asking if staff have Googled themselves stating, “If you haven’t, you should.” According to Wikipedia, “A digital footprint is the data that is left behind by users on digital services. There are two main classifications for digital footprints: passive and active. A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected without the owner knowing, whereas active digital footprints are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself by means of websites or social media.”

Dr. Heitner spoke with educators about the SAMR model of technology integration in instruction:


There are upsides for those teachers who already identify with their content, digitally or otherwise. There are great ways to share learning that include:

• Creating podcasts
• Writing a teaching book
• Painting a mural
• Making a keynote
• Sculpting a model

For those who have difficulty staying on task and with the many social media options that exist, sometimes some help is needed. Apps exist like Anti-Social, that target digital distractions. When it runs, the only way to access those digital distractions is to reboot your computer. There were a lot of great takeaways, and there is a lot more to be learned.

Click here for Dr. Heitner’s Dozen Tips to Help your Family Thrive in the Digital Age.
Click here to watch Dr. Heitner’s TEDx, Empathy is the App: Raising Thoughtful Kids in the Digital Age.
This blog is brought to you by the administration of MSD of Lawrence
Township and includes valuable parent information, "Day in the Life"
stories, announcements, upcoming events, and much more!
Subscribe to receive email updates