Is your school a master of, or slave to, technology?

Dr Yuhyun Park, advocate of online child protection and digital intelligence education, discusses her passion for digital citizenship

By Lucinda Reid

Have you ever met someone you know is going to change the world? A few months ago at the Global Education & Skills Forum I was lucky enough to do so. The person in question is Dr Yuhyun Park, founder of DQ Institute in Singapore and the woman who launched the movement #DQEveryChild, which aims to empower 8–12-year-olds in over 100 countries from the start of their digital lives. DQ encompasses the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that are needed for young people to thrive as responsible members of the online world and be confident in handling the challenges of the digital era. In essence, DQ provides a framework to ensure that young people are prepared for their futures. Plus, it is free and available for schools to use within any curriculum. Yuhyun is currently working with over 100 organisations who all have the vision to create an ethical digital future for children online. In fact, Yuhyun isn’t going to change the world, I think she already is changing it… 

What was your motivation for setting up DQ Institute? 

I trained as a statistician and digital media expert and when I was working in the digital media industry, I saw how traditional media was collapsing and that new media was coming in very fast. The industry was trying to survive and money was flowing into social media, digital media and gaming, so the whole industry was pushing for this growth. Then, children were becoming exposed to this digital world. I started out 10 years ago and when I talked about this, no one listened. My conclusion was that actually education had to be the first step. I realised we had to give the right resources to parents and teachers. That was how I started to develop DQ. 

Why do you think this hasn’t been done before? Why aren’t schools discussing digital citizenship? 

Now, I can only speak from my experience in Korea and Singapore, so I can’t speak on behalf of the UK. I think that the UK is one of the leading countries thinking about digital policies within schools. It’s not that schools don’t want to teach these skills, they just don’t have the resources or tools to teach it. That’s why we are working directly with schools. 

How does DQ work with the curriculum? 

So far, we have developed a curriculum-based framework which is very flexible. DQ can be broken down into eight areas, from screen time management to digital citizen identity and it is working very well. When we launched the pilot study with a few schools, the feedback was quite interesting. A girl came up to me and said, “Oh, I never thought playing games for a long time could be bad.” This made me realise that we have been teaching children to not do something, rather than explaining the impact of technology. It was an enlightening moment. 

Dr Yuhyun Park

DQ is targeted at 8–12-year-olds. Why this particular demographic? 

This is an age where children grow from a child to a young adult. Therefore, it is essential that we teach them about why a digital footprint is so important during this development phase. 

What advice would you give to teachers that want to develop digital citizenship?  

When I speak to UK teachers, it is great because they have a real awareness of the issue. We still haven’t found the right solution yet but we are getting there. We are providing all our resources for free and I encourage teachers to contact us if they have any questions. We are happy to work together and ensure the programme is placed correctly in their schools. The programme is very flexible and can be used in any classroom. 

What do you think about devices in the classroom? 

I think it depends on the age group and the usage, as there is no one-size-fits-all. I think there are two different issues with this subject. Firstly, do we want to encourage students to use devices and secondly, how much technology do we want in learning? If we are thinking about this in terms of 8–12-year-olds my answer is no, I don’t see the benefit of these young children having their own mobile as it is a constant distraction. It restricts the learning rather than promotes it. My personal suggestion is that for young children it’s a no, but for older children it’s all about digital literacy. That’s why digital citizenship has to be the first step. I really like the metaphor of a master and a slave. They need to understand that they are the master of technology and they can use it to create something. They need to see technology as a tool. In schools, headteachers should have a strong philosophy about technology. I have met with a lot of headteachers and they are fantastic leaders, but when it comes to technology they feel powerless. 

How can headteachers gain control of technology and ensure their pupils are ready for the future? 

Educators have the biggest power to change the future, but in the past they have been very quiet. I think it’s important for headteachers to wake up and say, “This is the future I want for my pupils and I’m going to make sure my education creates that reality.” I want to challenge education leaders to do that. We are not faster than a horse but we ride the horse. We need to ride technology and direct it to where we want. Not be dragged by the horse. 

To learn more, visit dqinstitute.org