The Importance of Digital Citizenship with the 21st Century Learner

The term digital citizenship seems to be popping up more and more these days in education.  What is digital citizenship and what does it have to do with education?  Ribble, Bailey and Ross define digital citizenship as “the norms of behavior with regard to technology use”(p.7).  We need to understand how students are using technology in their daily lives.  As an educational institution are we developing responsible users?  

Last year I was in a restaurant eating a meal with my wife.  As I was waiting for my meal, I observed two teens sharing a meal at a table nearby.  You would expect some conversation, but instead each of them held a PDA and spent the whole meal texting.  Not a word was spoken between them.  This behavior struck me as being extremely rude.  Since then I have witnessed the same type of behavior from not only teens, but from adults as well.  It seems that as technology is progressing, we as citizens appear to be digressing, at least in terms of understanding what appropriate and acceptable behavior is.  I believe that teens are showing this type of behavior towards others, because this is what they have grown up with.  No one has taught them any different.  Young adults do not appear to have a clear understanding of what is and is not acceptable when it comes to technology.  Adults on the other hand, should have a better understanding and should be the ones setting the example for the youth.

 In my observations since this event some of the worst offenders appear to be adults.  I have witnessed many adults participating in these same ill-mannered behaviors at many of the conferences I have attended.  While a presentation is going on they are texting, playing games, checking their e-mail or using online social websites.  At our schools these would be the same individuals that would be vocalizing their displeasure with the students about similar behaviors.  Our job as educators should be setting a good example for students, teaching them what is appropriate so that we can develop more responsible users.  From my observation this is not happening.  This leads me to believe that as an educational institution we are not doing our jobs effectively.  There are definitely some important pieces that are missing if both students and adults are acting irresponsibly when it comes to the use of technology.

It seems to having nothing to do with the curriculum as the ethical use of technology is one of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) outcomes that students should be dealing with in all divisions (Alberta Learning, 2000).  Alberta Education also have an agreement with Media Awareness Network that provides all Alberta teachers with resources that would help them teach these necessary skills.  So it leads me to believe that what must be happening is that these ICT outcomes are being neglected when teachers integrate technology into their subject areas.  As leaders we need to somehow show teachers the importance of developing digital citizenship in 21st century learners.  It is our responsibility to show students “appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology”(Ribble, Bailey & Ross. 2004, p.8).  Educating the students on appropriately using technology is our job and we need to make sure we are doing it effectively in order that we develop digitally responsible citizens.


Alberta. Alberta Learning. (2000). Information and communication technology. retrieved from

Ribble, M.S., Bailey, G.D., & Ross, T.W. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning &Leading with Technology, 32(1). Retrieved from

About pjstokes

I like just about all sports...mainly participating in them. I have also recently taken up photography as a hobby (the background pic is one of mine).
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