The State of Digital Citizenship

The State of Digital Citizenship

The Big Four

Over the years I have worked hard at providing a reliable environment to support K-12 staff and students in a relevant and meaningful learning community. A simple rule of thumb that I have done my best to follow is focusing on what I have called, "the Big Three." The Big Three is made up of three categories: infrastructure, devices, and professional development. As the years have passed and mobile devices have found their way into the hands of all staff and students, the Big Three is no longer enough, enter the new “big” on the block, digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship is not new, but in many cases it has not been part of the foundation when creating technology plans, nor has it been part of the conversation at administrative team meetings. However, we can no longer ignore that the number of student devices in the classroom is on the rise. By the 2016-17 school year, half of all school districts in the US will be 1:1 with mobile devices, according to Futuresource Consulting. This fact, combined with the decreased cost of mobile devices, means that digital citizenship must be taught and addressed.

Where Are We?

In the state of AZ, Jeff Billings, technology director at the Paradise Valley School District, has generated a bit of buzz around digital citizenship. Billings has created the Arizona Digital Citizenship Statewide Data Collection Project and hopes to have all students in the state represented when the project is complete. He has already collected data from over 250,000 students; the plan is to begin sharing the data next fall after the results have been disaggregated. The goal is to have a reliable source of information on digital citizenship across the state and promote further discussion and collaboration.

The picture painted by some of the early data shows that the local education agencies are at various places with respect to a shared vision of digital citizenship implementation in the classroom. It appears that a shared vision within districts is not the norm, which should prompt concern among all stakeholders. The way in which respondents prioritized the eight elements of digital citizenship is also notable. To be consistent in the delivery of digital citizenship, is any element more or less important than the other?

This project holds promise for bringing together districts from across Arizona and providing talking points that could lead to positive collaboration and common language among educators. We should applaud the effort and look forward to the data.

Moving Forward

It is becoming clearer everyday that digital learning is on the rise, even if our schools do not provide these opportunities. The 2014 SpeakUp Survey showed that 75 percent of students think every student should have access to a mobile device during the school day to support learning. Many of them have taken matters into their own hands, as 58 percent already use their own smartphones in class and perform such tasks as taking photos of assignments and textbook pages.

So where do we start with such an overwhelming responsibility that affects our classrooms and the teachers that ultimately set the example for our students? A quick Web search will return numerous sites with digital citizenship resources. Common Sense Media is a popular choice and offers scope and sequence materials that are age appropriate for the classroom and a certification program for educators and schools. It takes much more effort, however, to find actual programs that exist in schools-examples of digital citizenship embedded in those teachable moments that are so relevant to our students. We need to shared successful programs and hold them up as models for others to see (#digitalcitizenship).

A Partnership

Digital citizenship is no different from good citizenship in general-the only distinction is the medium where that community exists. If we expect our students to be responsible members of the digital community, we have to collaborate with all stakeholders to create successful learning opportunities, encourage parental support, lead by example, and include our students in that discussion. Technology is no longer a once-a-week event or a trip to the computer lab; it is embedded in our classroom and personal environments. It will take more than the librarian or tech teacher to instill the values of digital citizenship into the lives of our students and make good digital citizenship part of the Big Four.

cross posted at

Jon Castelhano is the Executive Director of Technology for Gilbert Public Schools in Gilbert, Arizona. He serves as an advisor to the School CIO member community, a group of top tier IT professionals in schools across the country who understand and benefit from news and information not available elsewhere. Read more at