Reflection: Digital citizenship in schools

The evolving context of digital landscapes and how these impact life and learning, is something I am keenly interested in. My interest in this topic is both professional, through my role as a Teacher Librarian, and personal, in my role as a parent of teenagers. The subject ETL523: Digital citizenship in schools has provided an opportunity to explore how we can adequately prepare young people for life and work in 21st century futures. In my first blog post for this subject, I wrote:

“The Students I work with live digital lifestyles. They attend a BYOT school that requires them to own a laptop. Additionally, the majority of them also own personal mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Some of them also have wearable computers such as smart watches and fitbits. They use social media and belong to online communities. They are often texting, downloading, updating and searching and they are always looking for Wi-Fi and chargers. Come to think of it, this same lifestyle is lived by their teachers, parents, grandparents, coaches and employers. It’s just the way life is for many in modern society”.

It was at this very early point in the course that I came to appreciate that due to the ubiquity of technology, life in 21st century Australia is digital and as such digital citizenship and citizenship should not be considered different entities. Furthermore, citizenship is fundamentally about participation in society and issues of access, rights, responsibilities and contributions to the collective are as important in our digital interactions as they are in our civil communities. The readings throughout the modules have broadened my thinking about digital citizenship in education and highlighted three interconnected issues that I would like to address in this reflection. These include: the digital divide; learning in a connected world; and the importance of teacher role models.

The digital divide

Throughout the modules in this course, we were challenged to consider questions such as:

  • Why is it important to establish digital learning environments in schools?;
  • Why should we teach digital citizenship?; and
  • Why must educators accept the professional responsibility to lead and support digital citizenship development?

One of the most compelling answers to all three of these questions is because digital and media literacies of participatory cultures are necessary in the 21st century for “social inclusion, business development, service delivery, creative expression, innovation, collaboration and employment” (O’Leary, 2012,Para.19). Essentially, this creates a digital divide that is not about access to technology but about access to the opportunities, experiences and skills required for participatory cultures. Individuals who find they lack such skills are at risk of being on the wrong side of the divide and left behind in academia and the workplace (Jenkins, 2006, p.3; Crocket, Jukes and Churches, 2011, p.14; O’Leary, 2012; and Seely Brown, 2012, p.15).

Learning in a connected world

One of the opportunities afforded in this course was to participate in a collaborative wiki project. The realities of digital citizenship and learning in connected environments were experienced in this project and as a member of a group working towards a common goal; it was imperative that I put into practice digital communication, the ethical and legal use of others’ intellectual and creative property, technical awareness and digital literacy, social awareness and interpersonal skills, and responsible and reliable contributions for shared academic outcomes. Such practices are among those outlined in Ribble’s Nine elements of digital citizenship (2011) and Enlightened digital citizenship model produced by Lindsay & Davis (2013). A conclusion drawn from this experience is that digital citizenship education requires two key components – understanding the competencies necessary for participation in digital environments and understanding learning in a connected world.

Teacher as role model

The course work for Digital citizenship in schools has also informed my professional practice in regards to my own online participation. One of the key questions considered in another blog post response to the course work, is how do we teach digital citizenship? A starting point is for teachers to practice what they need to teach. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) considers it paramount for teachers to possess the skills and behaviours necessary for participation in the digital age and to model these for students (2008). Clark (in Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011, p.38), Ribble (2011, loc.1901) and Lindsay & Davis (2013, p.98) are also among those advocating the necessity for teachers to lead by example in the arena of digital citizenship. To “practice what I teach”, I ensured that I shared information in social media environments such as Diigo and Twitter and experimented with new tools and published original creative content in order to go beyond consuming information. To this end, I created an infographic of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, an embedded Google slideshow of titled Teaching digital citizenship = leading by example; and produced a two-part video guide introducing teachers to the basics of building a PLN for my digital artefact in the collaborative wiki task.

As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. My goal is to transfer these understandings to library and classroom practice to prepare students for futures in connected and participatory environments.


Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st-century fluencies for the digital age. Kelowna, B.C.: 21st Century Fluency Project.

Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends, 55(4), 37-48. Retrieved March 28, 2015.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2015). ISTE Standards. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [White paper]. Retrieved from MacArthur Foundation website

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. A. (2013). Citizenship. In Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a time (pp. 97-125). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

O’Leary, T. (2012, October 10). Making connections to end digital divide. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital Citizenship in Schools : Nine Elements All Students Should Know (2nd Edition). Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE. Retrieved from

Seely Brown, J. (2012, November 21-22). Learning in and for the 21st Century. Lecture presented at CJ Koh Professorial Lecture Series No.4 in Singapore, Singapore. Retrieved May 23, 2015, from

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