Overview of Digital Citizenship (Prezi Part 1)

Categories of Digital Citizenship (Prezi Part 2)

What is Digital Citizenship?

Digital Citizenship is essentially a code of ethics for our online behaviour and actions. In the real world we try to be good citizens by developing our character, being considerate of others, living by a set of values, and behaving according to the golden rule. Our online world is different from our real world in that we don't always see or hear each other person to person, instead we can create our own online identities. Living our online life through the code of ethics, values and character we would use in real life helps us interact and communicate in our online life respectfully and responsibly. The code of ethics includes many topics such as identity, netiquette, cyber-bullying, copyright and many more that we will learn about through this Digital Citizenship unit of study.

Here's an introductory video for staff and students on Digital Citizenship and the key rules for students to protect themselves online.

Why is Learning About Digital Citizenship Important?

Our students spend a significant part of their lives exploring our new digital world where behavioural, cultural, and societal norms are often unclear. While this digital world offers unlimited opportunities for our students but we must understand that it can also be fraught with great risks. It is imperative that our students learn about Digital Citizenship in order to make safe, ethical decisions online to act as responsible, 21st Century citizens.

Teaching our students about Digital Citizenship is now as essential as teaching them to read and write. We must empower our students to act responsibly and ethically online by helping them to develop a sense of ownership over their actions, behaviours and the decisions they make while online.

  • "Our role [educators] has really been to say these issues of children's behavior [online] really belong in the center of education as opposed to justice and law enforcement...Because this is about empowering young people to navigate this world responsibly and ethically. And it's about doing that in the context of school and home." - Ian Quillen, 2010

Now that we have established a moral imperative for teaching Digital Citizenship many educators are asking themselves, what does Digital Citizenship look like? How can I make time for this? What resources are available to help me introduce this topic in my school? This wiki is designed as a resource for educators with links to unit plans for K-12. While my initial intention was to design a Digital Citizenship unit for a specific grade level on my own, I discovered an incredible resource by Common Sense Media, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that I have chosen to examine in closer detail and connect to pedagogy we discussed as part of our Technology and the Curriculum course.

Why is Digital Citizenship Important - A Video for Teachers and Students

Curriculum and Unit Plan

Common Sense Media has developed comprehensive units for Digital Citizenship for Kindergarten to Grade 12 that conform to ISTE standards and are a combination of print, online and video lessons. There are 80 lessons in total and are free to access when you create a free account.

While Digital Citizenship has yet to be officially integrated into the Ontario curriculum, I believe that it should be included in a revised Language curriculum document for K-12. I have suggested in the past that because Digital Citizenship is cross-curricular and covers so many aspects of our current curriculum, we should create an entirely new subject for it, however, I now feel that it is best placed within our Language curriculum. The Language curriculum should be revised to include technology use as a foundation for language learning and using Digital Citizenship for technology integration is a natural starting point.

The Digital Citizenship units are divided into eight categories of learning shown by the diagram below. Most lessons will include at least two of these categories as they tend to overlap. For example, lessons on Relationships & Communication are closely linked with issues of Self-Image and Identity.

Units and Lesson Plans by Grade (K-12)

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Learning Theories and Integration

ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller 2006)
  • Attention - Digital Citizenship lessons will generally stimulate the curiosity of learners through active participation, variability of presentation materials, and an inquiry approach to learning.
  • Relevance - Digital Citizenship uses existing skills and matters to the real world lives of students.
  • Confidence - All students are capable of meeting objectives, applying the skills learned and being successful.
  • Satisfaction - Skills developed are useful and beneficial when using new skills in real life

Discovery Learning (Bruner 2006)
The themes of Digital Citizenship will allow students to:
  • Interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects
  • Examine questions and controversies
  • Be actively engaged
  • Be autonomous, responsible and independent

Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger)
Digital Citizenship lessons can connect to CoP as learning occurs within an environment of shared interest. Students share a common interest in the topic as it relates to their lives and they become not only learners but practitioners of the skills they develop. Students will become teachers of the lessons they learn through their social interactions with others both in person and online.

Situated Learning (Lave)
Learning occurs as it is embedded within activities. Lessons on Digital Citizenship are contextual and authentic - meaning that the activities are closely related to real life situations and issues that students can immediately connect to their own experiences. Situated Learning is closely related to Community of Practice theory where social interaction and collaboration are essential to learning.

21st Century Learning Skills

According to Ken Kay's 21st Century Skills, the K-12 units on Digital Citizenship can connect to many of the themes and skills outlined in his paper. The skills that apply to Digital Citizenship are listed below.

21st Century Themes
  • Global Awareness
  • Civic Literacy & Health Literacy

Learning and Innovation Skills
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Literacy

Life and Career Skills
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Leadership and Responsibility

Certainly students who learn about Digital Citizenship will become more globally aware and become more civic minded as they learn about the ethics of acting responsibly online and in person. 21st Century learning skills, such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving is an area of focus for Digital Citizenship lessons as so many of the issues students will face regarding technology use will be situational, meaning that there is no textbook answer for how to deal with every situation, they must learn to think for themselves and use their best judgement.

Through the Digital Citizenship units students will learn to become literate in terms of information and media by using a variety of technology devices to make meaning and develop artifacts for learning. The aim of Digital Citizenship lessons are to inspire students to take initiative and be responsible for not only their learning but their behaviour as well.

Meaningful Use of Technology

Technology is used most effectively when it is partnered with good pedagogy. We must ask ourselves what our learning goals are and how technology can be used to achieve those goals. In teaching Digital Citizenship our aim is to produce literate, motivated, critical thinkers who are able to navigate the real world and the digital world in a safe, ethical, and responsible manner. We can best achieve this by using a variety of technology tools including the devices that the students own and use on a daily basis.

The K-12 Digital Citizenship unit allows students to:
  • Make learning relevant, students are challenged and engaged, while collaborating with their peers and reflecting on best practices as a group.
  • Students are able to use their background knowledge and understanding to connect to their everyday life.

Barriers That Influence Implementation

Learning Curve for the Technology and Pedagogy
  • Educators may have difficulty finding the time and motivation to learn about Digital Citizenship without being convinced that it is worthwhile and meaningful. It will also need curriculum connections to demonstrate learning outcomes in order to be successful. Creative Commons addresses these connections to ensure that lessons conform to ISTE standards and learning outcomes that can be adapted to expectations.

Lack of Perceived Need
  • Some educators may view Digital Citizenship as values education that needs to be driven from home life rather than at school. It is becoming increasingly clear that character and values needs to be incorporated into our curriculum in order to produce ethically-minded 21st Century learners.
  • Digital Citizenship can sometimes highlight the dangers of technology which may be off-putting for some students and teachers and must include from the beginning some of the advantages and positives of learning to use technology responsibly.

Access to Technology
  • Funding issues usually surround all technology implementations, however, Digital Citizenship can use the BYOD philosophy when needed for lessons which can lead to a collaborative formation of class/school/board policy on appropriate technology use. Schools should invest in wireless internet capabilities which have become much more cost effective recently depending on the size of the building.

  • Effective implementation of a Digital Citizenship program needs to be a collaborative effort between administration and teachers. Infrastructure and access to technology needs to be in place before teaching begins. Perhaps most importantly, administrators, teachers and students must have a clear vision of the purpose of learning about Digital Citizenship and understand clearly why it is important.


Kay, K. (2009). 21st century skills: Why they matter, what they are, and how we get there. Retrieved from http://www.wheelercenter.org/pub/presentations/Ken Kay - Foreward - 21st Century Skills, Rethinking How Students Learn.pdf

Keller, J. M. (2006, June). What is motivational design?. Retrieved from http://www.arcsmodel.com/pdf/Motivational Design Rev 060620.pdf

Mayer, R. E. (2004). Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning? . American Pychologist, 59(1), 14-19. Retrieved from http://ictmentor4sci.wiki.hci.edu.sg/file/view/Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning.pdf/277161734/Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning.pdf

Quillen, I. (2010, July). Making sense of digital literacy.Education Week, Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2010/07/the_sensical_need_for_digital.html?qs=making sense of digital literacy