Exploring Digital Citizenship ED 654

One way to try and pin down a definition is to look at its relationship to like terms. While "digital citizenship" may be a new phrase in some classrooms, "cybersafety" and "digital literacy" are not. So, as I investigated models of digital citizenship, I kept an eye on how it interacted, overlapped, or enveloped the terms with which we're already familiar.



The trifecta

Fraser's diagram of the separate (yet connected) aspects of digital education.

Josie Fraser's 2013 CETIS keynote address "Digital Citizenship: Underpinning Open Education" tackles the issue of poor digital literacy training and its negative effect on making online education accessible to all. Related to the need for thorough digital literacy education, she also calls for digital citizenship to be better covered by the curriculum set for UK schools. E-safety and digital literacy are included in their National Curriculum, but digital citizenship (or at least aspects of it) are almost an afterthought in the Computing curriculum. Fraser goes on to discuss how digital citizenship should be taught within the Citizenship curriculum, as the digital world is now so inextricably tied to the real world.

"Digital Citizenship for me addresses social, political, economic and legal participation in relation to the use of technologies and online environments. It isn’t an ‘add on’ to the area of citizenship as a whole, but a recognition that technologies and digital environments are a part of the real world, and they mediate all aspects of UK life..."

When digital citizenship is approached from this angle, it is clearly an essential aspect of the digital education trifecta. E-safety covers issues such as privacy, and keeping you and your information safe. Digital literacy addresses the use and evaluation of digital tools and information. And, for Fraser, digital citizenship is not a separate entity from citizenship as there are fewer and fewer barriers between the digital world and the real world. The issue is addressing digital concerns within the conversation about citizenship.



The Catch-all

Slide 14 - Collier's proposed definition of digital citizenship

Anne Collier's 2011 presentation at the Safer Internet Forum entitled "Making a Case for Digital Citizenship" provides a model that makes digital citizenship an inclusive term. Collier's definition of digital citizenship works in safety, literacies, behavior, freedom, and participation. With everything essentially under the purview of "rights & responsibilities," digital citizenship becomes a catch-all for how we engage with the digital aspects of our environment. While I find this model less clear-cut than the "Trifecta" model, it is interesting to think about cybersecurity and digital literacy through the lens of a person's rights and responsibilities. Once we say digital citizens are entitled to a particular kind of environment somehow it feels like the issues have more weight. Maybe people are more willing stakeholders in digital issues when they see how it affects their personal rights and responsibilities.

Slide 15 - Benefits for educating youth in digital citizenship

In Collier's understanding of digital citizenship, there is no real division between the online and offline world. Participating as a good digital citizen is beneficial for our lives as a whole. For young people especially, digital citizenship allows them to take a productive role in the global community as an "change agent" who can lead, collaborate, and model for others the actions of a "good" digital citizen.



the Digitized Maslow

Simkins' Maslow-esque Hierarchy of Digital Citizenship

The last model I explored was posted as an "intellectual experiment" by Michael Simkins on his blog in 2014. While playing around with ideas about how to integrate elements of digital citizenship into his lesson plans, he attempted to apply them to the oft referred Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. He comments in his post that just as we are concerned with a student being fed and well-rested before they can learn, without access to technology the higher levels of digital citizenship are also not obtainable. Reaching self-actualization in digital citizenship requires a strong foundation of appropriate/appreciative use of digital tools and materials. Again, the apex or goal of this model is to consistently and respectfully engage within a community.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

This model may not be fully thought out but I like that I can see how the steps of becoming a good digital citizen could easily be scaffolded in a classroom. Once they have access, then they need to learn about cybersecurity, from there to online social interaction, then dealing with copyright and intellectual property, and finally finding their place in the community and exhibiting ethical behavior. Instead of throwing digital citizenship and all its elements at a student from the get-go, this breakdown also allows for some thought to age/maturity appropriateness of the topic.


There were ELEMENTS of each model that I appreciated:

The three part distinction between e-safety, digital literacy, and digital citizenship in Fraser's diagram helps me mentally sort out all the issues that we find in the digital world. I think I could bring this diagram into a classroom and plan lessons around it without much trouble. The simplicity of the model was to its benefit. And just as Fraser did, creating the distinctions may allow us to see where we are falling short. This model gives digital citizenship space to try out a definition that exists beyond e-safety and digital literacy.

I respect the philosophy behind Collier's model that wraps everything up under "rights & responsibilities." It's kind of a power move to demand what is entitled to you as a (digital) citizen. I see how you may get more investment out of people when the issues are framed this way. Though I will say that, overall, I found this model to be the most confusing, which may be due to how the presentation was organized. I'm glad I ran into this model just to provide a different perspective, but putting so many things under the digital citizenship umbrella actually made the concept less accessible.

For being an experiment, I thought Simkins' model was rather interesting. It wasn't out to give a definition of digital citizenship, and it lacked the clarity of Fraser's tri-part relationship between digital citizenship, digital literacy, and e-safety, but I think using the hierarchy gave an extra element to the conversation. Other than the self-actualization description (which could be better developed), this model made sense in a way that could be easily applicable to a classroom.

One aspect that stood out in each of these models was the focus on agency. To be a "good" digital citizen is to be active, engaged, and responsible in your community. Citizenship is meant to be exercised.
Created By
Noelle Mischenko
Created with images by blickpixel - "board electronics computer" • monica749 - "circuit computer plate" • blickpixel - "pins cpu processor" • Pexels - "usb technology computer" • webandi - "board printed circuit board computer"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.