Digital Citizenship. #ETL523 starts here

GlobeI like Edna Sackson’s simple definition of digital citizenship – the ability to participate in society online (Whatedsaid, 2014). Much more complex and comprehensive is Ribble, Bailey and Ross’s nine elements of digital citizenship (Greenhow, 2010):

  • digital etiquette,
  • digital communication,
  • digital access,
  • digital literacy,
  • digital commerce,
  • digital law,
  • digital rights and responsibilities,
  • digital health and wellness,
  • digital security.

To me this comes together to mean the capacity to access and interact with information and people productively, safely and ethically using digital technologies.

There can be no denying that digital citizenship is important. Few people can live their lives removed from ICT, even if they want to. Very few jobs do not require the use of some form of digital technology; most people use online banking; online interactions with government authorities are increasingly preferred; we rely on access to essential information like weather and warnings, for example, on days of fire danger. But we can’t assume that the so-called “digital natives” are by default good digital citizens – the natives might, in fact, be uncivilised. Learning the skills and behaviours of digital citizenship should be incorporated into the curriculum throughout primary and secondary schooling (and even tertiary), but even more importantly, it must be effectively modelled by teachers and other adults. This is my main area of concern. How can we expect students, for example, to use information ethically when (some of) their teachers do not?

An informed, publicly engaged digital citizen practices ethical behaviour, respects diverse points of view and is socially aware, using digital technologies like social media to support and advocate. They share their knowledge freely and support others’ learning. They are globally aware, collaborating across time zones and borders. Their interactions inform understanding and empathy for others. They can access and navigate information required to conduct their work and personal affairs. They are in control of their privacy and ensure important information is used securely.

This year my school has embarked on a BYOD program for years 6-12. This has already brought up issues like students messaging each other during class time and when and where the devices should be used. In our new building (ready for term 2) we will have a wireless technology for connecting devices to classroom screens. Students and teachers install a program or download an app in order to use the system. A feature is the ability of a viewer to capture a screenshot of what is currently displaying. This immediately brought up a concern for one teacher who wants her students to write (type) notes, not take the shortcut of screenshots (devices off is not an option). Who is right and who is wrong here? Is the teacher trying to use new methods to continue teaching in the same way (the S of SAMR) or is there a valid pedagogical reason for typing notes? Might not the screenshot give the student context when reviewing his notes later?

I’m sure many similar issues will arise and it will be interesting to see if our teachers are ready to allow the available technology to transform their pedagogy. Will our students be given the right scaffolding to develop into good digital citizens?



Greenhow, C. (2010). New concept of citizenship for the digital age. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(6), 24-25.

Whatedsaid. (2014, April 25). 10 understandings about digital citizenship… [Blogpost]. Retrieved from

Image credit

Globe. Free for commercial use, no attribution required image from Pixabay

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