Citizenship - Digital and Global

"We need a global and rational approach to working with and learning with digital technologies. Our future as a planet relies on our ability to use incredible technological advances for good and that begins with being able to relate to one another and prevent cultural disconnects from happening"

​What is 'Citizenship' in a digital world?

  • What is digital citizenship? Should we teach it?
  • How do we teach students to be responsible and reliable online learners?
  • How can we use mobile devices and technologies effectively without compromising the privacy, costing parents money or promoting academic dishonesty?
  • How can we promote digital citizenship within our school and community?

Discussion points

  • Five Areas of Awareness - what are they? how do we teach them?
  • Four Rays of Understanding - what are they? how do we teach them?
  • 'Although technology is used in communication, digital citizenship is still squarely about relating to people'- do you agree?

Enlightened Digital Citizenship

©Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay 2012

Technical Access and Awareness

Anyone who uses a cell phone, a computer, or any technological device has an awareness of how to use that tool and it is their onramp to the information highway. Therefore technical awareness is the core awareness that enables a person to be a digital citizen. However, there are people who refuse to use technology or do not have access. Therefore, before they can become part of the digital society, they must have access to the tools and an awareness of how to use the tool. This is the beginning.

Individual Awareness

As one moves into online spaces it is important to be aware of one’s values and goals and to have the self-confidence to advocate for oneself online and speak out when issues arise. Additionally, individual awareness helps a person make healthy lifestyle choices that help achieve online and offline balance and resist the tendency of many towards addictive behaviors or dangerous behaviors such as texting and driving.

Social Awareness

Many argue that face-to-face society is being impacted negatively by the proliferation of technology that causes the inattentiveness of people to their own families and face-to-face friends. Cell phones have interrupted movies, weddings, and social events, and often have become an intrusive, disruptive device when used in inappropriate ways for the context of the social situation. Social awareness allows the digital citizen to interpret situations and retain interpersonal skills with face-to-face and online friends and colleagues.

Cultural Awareness

Much of the world lives in a homogeneous face-to-face environment. Being aware that cultural differences exist and being able to understand deeply the nuances of cultural differences is a vital awareness for effective online collaboration and citizenship. Understanding that the world is diverse and that other cultures have different religions, holidays, school practices and that it is important to find commonalities rather than focus always on differences.

Global Awareness

Global awareness understands the regional nuances of other places in the world and causes the digital citizen to ask such questions as: What are the impacts of technology use and access in other countries and cultures? How can I connect and communicate with someone on the other side of the world? Understanding geography, politics, and local bandwidth concerns and the fact that one should understand these areas leads to a global awareness that makes one an effective digital citizen.

Core Competency Areas: (Rays of Understanding)

There are FOUR main core competency areas where global digital citizens are expected to have understanding of behaviors and attitudes.

A: Safety, Privacy, Copyright, Fair Use and Legal Compliance.


Students should be taught how to be safe online. Additionally, they should know how to protect themselves should they be made to feel uncomfortable by others. They should realize that pictures that show street signs or car tags can actually impinge upon their own privacy. When others reveal private information, they should have the confidence to delete the content or ask for its removal. They should understand to never meet a person from online unless they are in a public place with their parents (unless they are older and then with friends.)


Students should understand how to find and interpret the terms and conditions and privacy policies of websites and how to view their profile as the “public” sees it. They should peruse the Internet intermittently for information that may have been posted about them and guard against identity theft. By reviewing case studies of those who did not protect their privacy, they should understand the importance of protecting their own privacy and that information that is not posted cannot be used against them.

Copyright and Fair Use.

Students should know how to find content and to license their own. They should understand when fair use applies (at school for schoolwork) and when it does not (in their social lives and at home.) They should understand the difference between free music and owning the copyright to music: just because music is free does not mean they have the right to copy or use in their multimedia creations.

Legal Compliance.

Legal Compliance with Country of Origin.

Additionally, digital citizenship is about legal compliance of students with local laws as well as laws of the country of origin of websites and artifacts used by their school in projects. Although the Internet is global, it is governed by a melange of inconsistent and often conflicting legislation in the countries where it is used. For example, a student in a country where copyright laws are not encompassing or fully enforced may take the advantage and use or repurpose copyrighted material on YouTube or the Internet. However, if the student uploads that content to a Ning which is a USA based company, the website is bound by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) in the United States. Students can be following accepted behaviours in their home country and still jeopardize a project.

Legal Compliance with Country of Residence.

Just because a project allows a behavior does not mean that it is acceptable in the location of the teachers and students. Teachers and administrators at the local school should ultimately be responsible to familiarize themselves with the major legislation concerning privacy and copyright in their location. Additionally, this is part of the education of students to allow them to understand the nuances of local law and laws of the country of origin for websites used in their personal lives. Note also that a law not being enforced is different to having the rights. For example in a country like Bangladesh there is a clear, although not well advertised copyright law, but as can be typical in third world or developing countries the government struggles to enforce it.

B: Etiquette and Respect


Sometimes called "netiquette."
Knowing how to communicate and solve problems without causing stress. This includes synchronous as well as asynchronous communication. Sometimes a real-time conversation can solve a problem or clarify a situation quicker, but being able to work through frustrations with tasks or team members via discussions, messages and wiki environments is also very important. This includes appropriate use of emoticons and online “im speak” as well as proper language use for contexts.


Knowing that the written word can often be misinterpreted. Being respectful and reliable in communication habits. Being respectful means being aware of the different digital attitudes and practices of others globally and nuances of the different digital spaces. Respectful digital citizens promote and support participation in learning and sharing and advocate respectful treatment of everyone in online spaces. Being aware of different expectations for affection or familiarity and maintaining a professional communication mode.

C: Habits of Learning: Reliable, Responsible Management of Online Activity

What are appropriate habits of learning in the digital age? Being responsible means having a professional approach to the use of all things digital. It also means knowing how to maintain personal privacy and how to learn safely amongst the minefield of resources the Internet provides. At the same time, reliable means knowing how to manage online activity for learning, working and entertainment. It also means being a contributor and effective cooperator and collaborator for enhanced communication. It means having an online presence, often called ‘digital footprint’ that is proliferated through sensible actions and responses while using digital tools. These ‘habits of learning’ in a digital environment can be influenced by external factors.

Core Area D: Literacy and Fluency

Realizing that language, including spelling and colloquialisms, differ globally and one culture or region does not always have to dominate. (Note: Language denomination in a collaborative wiki environment has prompted many global discussions with teachers and students during Flat Classroom projects. On some wikis we ask the students to decide which English is being used (USA or British) and then appoint an editor to maintain that consistency)