Palm Springs Unified School District has been selected to receive the California School Board Association’s (CSBA) Golden Bell Award for a digital citizenship program.

The program teaches students all they need to know to become responsible users of social media.

The District is one of 51 recipients of the state’s leading educational honor.

The “Cyber Champion” game was developed in 2016 by PSUSD Director of Technology Will Carr and members of the District’s instructional technology team as a program for high school students, and the program is being expanded to middle school students later this year. More than 1,300 high school students have already joined in the fun and learning resulting from the development of a gamified instructional platform that is now being used in many districts across the country. The platform has evolved to monitor evidence of learning leading to micro-credentials, digital badging and continuing education credits for teachers or students. The goal is to ensure that students gain a new set of “soft skills” including: cyberbullying prevention, digital empathy, privacy management and digital identity/footprint awareness. The game consists of four modules with six activities per level that encourage students – all of whom are voluntary participants on their own time – to learn, explore and apply what they have learned. The game ends with an authentic student-created artifact that reflects what they’ve learned throughout the journey.

The Golden Bell Award will be presented during the CSBA state conference in San Francisco on Nov. 29. The Award, now in its 39th year, promotes excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing exemplary programs that address students’ changing needs in one of 20 major categories. A 17-member judging panel made up of experts from school districts and county offices of education reviewed the written entries and made initial recommendations for the honor. On-site validators assessed the programs in action.

“It is easy to just lock everything down and block students from everything – but why not try something that benefits them in the long run?,” said Google Innovator and Educator Eduardo Rivera, who was a leader on the Cyber Champion development team. “The real world does not block websites. It rewards those that can take advantage of such technology. Cyber Champions hopes to start preparing students for their digital lives.”

Students who complete the game are provided with access to District-provided internet for personal devices. All students who complete the game also get to add their phone to PSUSD’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) network.

“Our students are facing new challenges in their digital world that previous generations have not experienced,” said Assistant Supt. of Educational Services Dr. Mike Swize. “We want our students to build a set of skills to prepare them to become leaders online and offline. PSUSD is determined to create conscientious cyber citizens.”