Digital Learning, School Leadership

Digital Citizenship: A buzz word or the new way?

If you’ve spent any time in education, you’ve heard the term “digital citizenship”. But what does it mean, how do we promote it as educators, and what are some resources that will help implementation of digital citizenship? I’ve explored many different documents on digital citizenship and I have focused on three definitions:

  • According to Mike Riddle, “digital citizenship is the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use” (2017).
  • Another definition of digital citizenship given by Ribble is that it is an integration of ideas and concepts from the past with the best tools available today to provide the greatest learning opportunities for our students (Ribble, 2015).
  • Digital citizenship is a curriculum and the critical first step to becoming media literate in the 21st century (CyberWise1, 2015).

Tying these various views together, my definition of digital citizenship encompasses them all slightly. In my opinion, digital citizenship is akin to societal citizenship. It is your interaction with and contribution to the digital world. You can be a poor contributor to the digital world, an excellent one, or anywhere in between. I agree with Ribble when he states that it is taking ideas from the past and integrating them into the technology of today. As educators, we must be healthy digital citizens. We must know and understand all facets of digital citizenship so that we can properly engage and exist as digital citizens and teach the best practices of digital citizenship to our students and their families. This is also true for principals and other folks in the school system. Digital citizenship is now we will connect with generations now and to come. Modeling and teaching acceptable digital citizenship will be the key to ensuring we are producing positive contributors to the digital world.

In my new role as instructional coach in a district new to me, I am still trying to uncover the current view on digital citizenship. As I explore this and explain the need for digital citizenship curricula woven into existing curricula, my focus is illuminating the immediate necessity. Students as young as kindergarten are part of the digital world. Often, their parents are unaware of what their children have immediate access to on their devices. We also need to consider the engagement piece associated with integrating digital citizenship and technology into our classrooms. The world is changing. As a result, our teaching should change. We need to immerse ourselves in the digital world, become fluent digital citizens, and transfer that knowledge to our students. There are many valuable resources available to inform my colleagues of the need. Five specific sources include:

Of the nine elements included in Mike Ribble’s work, Digital literacy and communication are the most important to myself and my classes because I want my students to be ready to get a job or work independently at college using technology. Jobs expect people to come in knowing how to use Microsoft tools, send appropriate e-mails, research skills. I weave these skills into content that is required. For instance, after learning formulas for interest along with what an amortization table is, students can create their own spreadsheet to calculate monthly payments, overall interest, and how many payments will be necessary. This requires them to understand the interest formula while also giving them the chance to learn the skill of entering formulas into a spreadsheet. I also require my students to send e-mails to people they want to go see, whether it be the counselor, the principal, or other teachers. I have them send me the e-mail first, we critique it together, then they send it off to request a meeting time. Requesting a time to meet via e-mail is a critical skill these days!

In conclusion, I believe it is important for everyone to define their own role as a digital citizen. There are many resources out there to help an individual understand what digital citizenship is and how to model and teach appropriate digital citizenship to others. The digital world is not going away. It’s becoming more and more a part of education and our students’ lives. Let’s take the opportunities we are given to lead them in the right direction of digital citizenship.


Curran, M. (2014). Proceedings from ITSE 2014: The tweet heard around the world. University of Saint Joseph. West Hartford, Connecticut.

CyberWise1 (2015, June 10). What is digital citizenship? [Video File]. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education

Ribble, M. (2017). Welcome to the digital citizenship website. Retrieved from

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