School Wide Digital Citizenship Practices

Since digital citizenship, like traditional citizenship, includes a wide range of areas, several varying strategies are required and many are area specific. Just like you would likely have two different strategies for practicing hard work and kindness, so it is in digital citizenship.

That being said, as just as with traditional citizenship, there are a few general strategies or options that begin to incorporate digital citizenship as a whole into curriculum.

Integration into Handbooks, Rules, etc.

Most experts agree that a “one life approach”, which presumes technology to be an integral part of every day, a part that doesn’t stop just because students are at school (OHLER, 2012, p. 14). This mentality though, requires online activities to be included in all relevant school materials and discussions. Here are some suggestions for better implementing digital literacy and citizenship into the school life as a whole.

  1. First, include reference to all potential digital issues alongside historic issues in student handbooks and policies. For example, if stealing has a potential punishment of expulsion, why should an FBI charge of pirating be any different? Or if being caught in a compromising physical situation would get you suspended, why would be caught viewing, creating, or sending sexts be any different. The list goes on: bullying and cyberbullying, plagiarism, cheating, stalking…
  2. After defining the behaviors and punishments clearly, include the articulation of these things in your normal rule introduction process. Be it in homeroom at the beginning of the year or an assembly with question and answer time, especially in the beginning, make the students aware of the consequences related to each specific action.
  3. Finally, be consistent with your application of the rules. “Of particular concern in this scenario is that as issues such as sexting and cyberbullying emerge, educators tend to respond as though these cyber issues are unrelated. School systems tend to respond to all such issues either on a case-by-cae basis… [t]hese approaches address symptoms, not issues” (OHLER, 2012, p. 15). Keep this step in mind when creating punishments and articulating the rules to students, so that no one is surprised at this step.

Ohler (2012) likens the resistance to teach digital citizenship to the resistance to teach sex education in the 1960s. “Two camps planted their flags on the moral high ground, one saying that sex education should be taught in the homes to ensure parents were in charge of their children’s moral perspective… 40 years later, sex education is a fairly well-established part of most high school health curricula. This development is due, in large part, to a concern for the safety of our children, who, without an informed understanding of the risks of sexual behavior, were clearly jeopardizing their safety in a number of ways. We are at the same point with regard to teaching digital health” (p. 16).

While schools cannot regulate everything students do at home, their rules and education always stretch beyond the confines of a schoolhouse. We an in-depth inclusion of digital rules and expectations should be an integral part of student policy.

In addition, the actual writing of the rules themselves can foster an incredible lesson of digital citizenship. School and community round tables, that include students in pivotal roles, class activities as editing and design, and student leaders as advocates, all allow for a new depth of understanding and accountability.

Ohler, J. (2012). Digital Citizenship Means Character Education for the Digital Age. Education 

Digest, 77(8), 14-17.

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