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Essential elements of digital citizenship

By Mike Ribble 6/25/2014 Digital citizenship

Nearly all of the ISTE Standards list digital citizenship as one of the aspects of education technology that all members of a school or district should support. Specifically, the standards tend to focus on the safe, legal and ethical use of technology in schools.

This is certainly at the heart of the ideas behind digital citizenship, but as technology integration grows, not only in schools but in society as a whole, I believe the concept of digital citizenship will continue to expand.

When I wrote my first book, Digital Citizenship in Schools, with Gerald Bailey, we considered where this might lead on a bigger scale. The idea was to create a framework of defining elements that provide a structure for digital citizenship education on which everything else could hang. As a result, we identified nine key elements that help define how to best use technology in every school, home and community. They’re organized into three primary categories:

Download digital citizenship defined, a free guide for teachers and other educators.

Respect

  • Digital access: Advocating for equal digital rights and access is where digital citizenship starts.

  • Digital etiquette: Rules and policies aren’t enough — we need to teach everyone about appropriate conduct online.

  • Digital law: It’s critical that users understand it’s a crime to steal or damage another’s digital work, identity or property.

Educate

  • Digital communication: With so many communication options available, users need to learn how to make appropriate decisions.

  • Digital literacy: We need to teach students how to learn in a digital society.

  • Digital commerce: As users make more purchases online, they must understand how to be effective consumers in a digital economy.

Protect

  • Digital rights and responsibilities: We must inform people of their basic digital rights to privacy, freedom of speech, etc.

  • Digital safety and security: Digital citizens need to know how to protect their information from outside forces that might cause harm.

  • Digital health and wellness: From physical issues, such as repetitive stress syndrome, to psychological issues, such as internet addiction, users should understand the health risks of technology.

These nine elements have been well-received over the years, and I am now looking to take them to the next level by creating a curriculum that can be embedded into the classroom at various levels. The curriculum will break down the elements into the categories above, then expand and incorporate them throughout a student’s K-12 experience. This is where we originally hoped digital citizenship would ultimately lead, and the time is now ripe.

Advancing digital citizenship education

This is why Jason Ohler and I have been working to create an ISTE Professional Learning Network (PLN) for digital citizenship. Our hope is that this network of like-minded ISTE members will help move the development of digital citizenship curriculum along.

The PLN would also play a role in our new Digital Citizenship Academy, which will help staff at every level better understand digital citizenship and begin building their own programs within their schools and districts. These courses will allow administrators, technology staff and teachers to link the ISTE Standards on digital citizenship to where their schools and districts are headed with technology.

As more districts add mobile technology into their curricula, now is the time to get a handle on what they should be doing to ensure responsible use of this tool within their schools.

Digital citizenship is a complex topic with many facets. We need to make sure we help students understand the issues that might occur online while also stressing the positive impact of technology. As many educators know, most students want to do the right thing — and will, if they know what that is. Let’s help them do great things with technology while avoiding the pitfalls.

Want to learn more about weaving digital citizenship into your curriculum? Join our Digital Citizenship Network.

Mike Ribble is a district technology director and author of Digital Citizenship in Schools. Visit his website on digital citizenship and connect with him on Twitter via @digcitizen.

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