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Digital Citizenship Framework Updated


Technology in education is not going away, but poorly implemented technology should. Many school leaders are realizing that in order to maximize the effective use of their technology tools in the classroom they need to understand the opportunities as well as the challenges.

In a 2017 Speak Up survey (, 93 percent of district administrators said that “knowing how to be safe online and use safeguards to protect our information and ourselves” is important for students and teachers. To help educators achieve this goal, Mike Ribble created “The Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship” (, which outlines the core foundation of any good digital citizenship program. These themes are integral to his “S3 framework” (Safe, Savvy, and Social).

Hundreds of schools have implemented these guidelines as the foundation of their digital citizenship initiatives. At the ISTE 2019 conference, after more than a decade, Ribble will release a refreshed version of these nine elements and S3 framework in his new book, The Digital Citizenship Handbook for School Leaders: Fostering Positive Interactions Online.

Ribble first updated the definition as follows: “Digital citizenship is the continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use.”

He then added the following details to the S3 framework elements:

Safe (Protect Yourself / Protect Others)
Savvy (Educate Yourself / Educate Others)
Social (Respect Yourself / Respect Others)

Each section of the framework includes the following nine elements, which were updated to support these three areas:

Digital Access: The equitable distribution of technology and online resources.
Digital Commerce: The electronic buying and selling of goods in the digital space.
Digital Communication and Collaboration: The electronic exchange of information.
Digital Etiquette: Electronic standards of conduct or procedures when using digital devices.
Digital Fluency: Understanding technology and its use.
Digital Health and Welfare: Physical and psychological well-being in a digital world.
Digital Law: The electronic responsibility for actions and deeds in the online world.
Digital Rights and Responsibility: Requirements and freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
Digital Security and Privacy: Electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

Why is Digital Citizenship Perceived as Difficult to Implement?

Despite the fact that schools know how important digital citizenship is to their school cultures, many still find it difficult to implement. There are three reasons for this. The first is knowledge. When the discussion turns to technology, many educators shy away. Without opportunities to learn how and where technology tools can fit into a curriculum or learning experience design, educators are often hesitant to implement tools that seem complicated and that take away from other opportunities in the classroom.

The second is time. The time constraints of busy teachers, coupled with limited professional development and a constant stream of new tech to learn, make the implementation of digital citizenship programs difficult.

The third is support. Teachers often don’t have enough (or any) instructional support to learn how best to implement digital citizenship programs into the curriculum.

How can school leaders support their teachers in learning how to implement digital citizenship into their lessons?

Here are a few ideas:

■ Host a week of digital citizenship activities featuring guest speakers.
■ Encourage a “grassroots” approach, where individual teachers share ideas and information about appropriate technology use.
■ Encourage students to create banners, public service announcements, and presentations to share with other grade levels.
■ Include parents, community members, and law enforcement officials in conversations about what they would like to see their children able to do with technology—in schools as well as in the larger community.

By involving all stakeholders in your digital citizenship programs, providing the needed time and support for professional development, and following guidelines like the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, your school can raise strong digital citizens today who will lead the way in the future.

Mike Ribble and Marty Park are the authors of the new book The Digital Citizenship Handbook for School Leaders: Fostering Positive Interactions Online, which will be released at the 2019 ISTE Conference.