The curriculum, developed by SFU’s Faculty of Education, is rooted in the Digital Media Literacy Framework by MediaSmarts. Rachel explained, “Our faculty did a lot of work to make empowerment the focus of the curriculum, as opposed to fear,” which is a more common approach. Topics included health and well-being online, privacy, safety, cyberbullying, news and media literacy and social media wellness. The goal of the program was to nurture children’s confidence and decision-making skills while navigating the internet—and to have a lot of fun.
One uniquely successful component was the involvement of high school and post-secondary students as volunteer mentors. They played a vital role, leading small group discussions and helping the younger students with the technology. “The mentors really enjoyed the program, connecting with the kids and seeing their growth through the program,” Rachel reported. “It was a learning opportunity for the mentors as well as the kids.” The students particularly valued getting to connect with their peers and mentors in person, rather than online, to engage in conversations and ask questions.
The program was more than just presentations and discussion; it was also hands-on and interactive. The kids used tools like Canva to craft memes and Minecraft Education to engage in learning creatively. “While having discussions about online safety topics, they also got the chance to apply their learning and be creative. Bringing in interactive and engaging components was essential,” Rachel said.
Meredith from SD36 Community-Schools Partnership added, “Developing critical thinking skills, a positive mindset and digital skills is at the core of the program. The fact that the students love the exploration and the mentoring relationship is what really brings students back week to week.”