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Digital Citizenship: From Don’ts to Do’s to Seamless Integration

By Jerry Fingal
September 22, 2022
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The concept of digital citizenship has evolved and changed along with edtech. It has gone from a list of don’ts to a more proactive list of do’s to a more seamless integration into the curriculum.

Marty Park, the chief digital officer for the Kentucky Department of Education and the co-author of the 2019 book, The Digital Citizenship Handbook for School Leaders: Fostering Positive Interactions Online, says the idea now is for schools to have digital citizenship so well integrated, it’s evident in every digital action by teachers and students.

“The goal is to embed and integrate digital citizenship into learning,” Park said. “We don’t want it separated or pulled out. We don’t believe that’s working. Digital citizenship is the one concept that lives in every one of the ISTE Standards. It’s the tie that binds.”

There's a new mindset about digital citizenship

The days of digital citizenship as a one-off lesson are long gone. That mindset of treating digital citizenship lessons as an inoculation against bad online behavior has changed.

“What we want to do is get folks past the ‘Here’s the curriculum I’m using’ conversation,” he said. “That’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is that there is no end to the story. There's continued development.”

School districts are all over the place in their approaches to digital citizenship. Park and his co-author, longtime digital citizenship advocate Mike Ribble, developed a scale for districts to rate their digital citizenship maturity level. It ranges from zero – blocking and filtering websites and restricting devices – to four – complete digital fluency for students and teachers.

“We view level zero as really short-sighted,” he said. “You’re not really preparing kids when they leave at the end of the day or week or the year. They’re not really taking with them a core set of skills that are going to help them be empowered.”

Most districts fall somewhere in between.

“Mostly, districts are at level two,” he said. “That mainly consists of exposure to skills. You do workshops and share videos but you’re not gauging any kind of competency. You’re not checking for any kind of understanding.”

Watch the video below to hear ISTE CEO Richard Culatta explain the "do's" of digital citizenship: 

District leaders need to consider the "why"

Advancing on that scale requires district commitment. In their book, Park and Ribble offer a five-year plan for implementation of a digital citizenship program. The end result is integration districtwide. The process takes districts from the “why” to something that’s a natural part of digital behavior.

“When you plan your digital citizenship program, there's the why,” he said. “For me personally, that's pretty clear. But you need that touchpoint at a leadership level, so that everyone is believing in the same why. When you get into implementation, you’re going all the way through a program to where you can look at student action and teacher action and feel good about the fact that when somebody makes something awesome online, it's literally wrapped in being a good digital citizen.”

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Jerry Fingal is a freelance writer who focuses on the intersection of education and technology. This is an updated post that originally published on Feb. 7, 2020.