Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?

The Standard

ISTE for Teachers Standard 4 states that “teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices” (ISTE 2008). To me that seemed like quite a charge. It’s a huge responsibility for teachers, but it is one that is essential in the 21st century. Initially I was planning on investigating how primary teachers demonstrate to their students that they are ethical users of technology and I wondered how that positively impacted students? When I started researching and thinking about how teachers could be empowered to be responsible and ethical users of technology, I began to realize the vast quest that this standard entails. Like many of our modules in the Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University, I think that is the point of our assignment and our research. We are working toward a M.Ed. but we are also embodying the charge of the school of education at SPU, part of the mission is “to equip educators for service and leadership in schools and communities by developing their professional competence and character, to make a positive impact on learning.” I think that part of the reason we are focusing on standards that are very broad is to prepare us for conversations we will have with teachers and other stakeholders in the future as we become technology leaders in our schools and districts.

A picture of lemons reminding us to try different.

Maybe we can’t just try harder, maybe we need to try something different?

Continue reading “Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?”

Individual Project: The Literary Essay as an Online Review

My individual project is the last blog post of this quarter in the Seattle Pacific University Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. program. In this post I will reflect on the process of backward planning using the understanding by design (UbD) format and reflect on what facets of understanding my students may display at the end of my set of lessons. Most of what I write will be speculative since I am currently in the middle of teaching this unit and have not yet gotten to the focus lessons highlighted in the unit plan. Continue reading “Individual Project: The Literary Essay as an Online Review”

Digital Readiness Project

The Digital Readiness of a Suburban Seattle Area Elementary School

I was able to interview my principal about the state of technology in our elementary school and more specifically how we are teaching digital citizenship. As a district we’ve had some training in regard to digital citizenship that was distributed to schools through teacher leaders. I led that training about two years ago. However, staff turnover, the adoption of new curriculum, plus school and district professional development in other areas have made it difficult to sustain, or even return to the progress that was initially made in our approach to digital citizenship after the first training. I see this interview with my administrator as a way to get us thinking about this need as a school. We can evaluate where we are currently and figure out the next steps moving forward in order to focus on the digital citizenship needs of our students. Here are the questions that I asked my administrator during the interview.

Digital Access

  1. Do all students in our school have equal access to technology? If so, how do we define equal access?
  • How does our school account for students who do not have access to technology at home?
  • Do staff and students use our BYOD network?

Digital Communication

2. Are students taught appropriate ways to communicate using technology?

  • Do you think that technology can allow for a deeper understanding in learning?
  • Have you seen any evidence of technology being used that way in classrooms?

Digital Literacy

3. Is teaching students to use different technology tools in the classroom something that is practiced in our school?

  • Is appropriate as well as inappropriate use taught and discussed?
  • Is technology use monitored in a similar way by teachers?

Digital Etiquette

Our district requires Staff and Students to follow an administrative procedure that makes up the responsible use procedure for technology in our district.

The RUP Covers: Rules, guidelines and personal recommendations for the acceptable use of technology within the district. Some topics covered include responsible use, digital citizenship, COPPA and terms and conditions of internet tools, responsible use by students staff and guests, network privacy, internet safety, use of social media personally and professionally, copyright and ownership of work as well as unacceptable use and preventative measures.

4. Are students and teachers aware of the administrative policy and the technology RUP that has been adopted by the school district?

5. What are some ways that teachers model appropriate use of technology?

  • Do they model appropriate use of social media? How so?

Digital Law

6. Do staff and students practice acceptable use of digital resources?

  • Do you think there are any issues with copyright violations or plagiarism?

Digital Security

7. Are students taught to protect their technology and their personal information when using technology?

The questions covered a broad range of topics. I’d like to focus in on a few and share some thoughts for what we can do moving forward. The answers to the first three questions show that there is a vast range in the amount of technology that students use in the classroom in our school as well as a range in how technology is used by teachers. After debriefing my interview with my administrator we decided that there are three areas of focus for our school going forward.

The first is improved digital access at school. Our school has a number of technology resources available. It is not a 1:1 school, however we do have a 3:1 ratio of students per device and our district is rolling out a BYOD network in order to allow students to use personal devices which will allow us to achieve closer to a 1:1 ratio in many classes. In order to improve access teachers need to be made aware of the capabilities of our network and the purpose of BYOD in improving access. Additionally my principal identified the need to develop a scope and sequence for technology instruction K-5 in our school. That way each classroom teacher and the librarian, who integrates technology instruction into her instruction across grade levels, would have some guidelines identifying what are the skills we are responsibly for teaching across grade levels to develop the digital literacy of students over their time in elementary school. We also discussed the idea of focusing on teaching appropriate use of social media in upper grades, or possibly incorporating social media into the classroom environment so students can understand the powerful way we can collaborate on a global scale through social media. This would also give students a firm foundation for using social media personally as they begin to create accounts, usually this seems to happen as early as upper elementary level for many students.

Another commitment our school will make to technology instruction is providing some guidelines for the entire staff on best practices for monitoring technology use in classrooms. This could be incorporated into the K-5 digital literacy scope and sequence as well as reviewed yearly to provide new staff members with a refresher on how to best monitor student use as well as how to incorporate technology into instruction. Additionally this would allow new staff members to connect with grade level partners who could support the integration of technology into instruction at the beginning of the year.

We also discussed the idea of our school leadership team developing a school wide presentation for teachers to show to students at the beginning of every school year that outlines the expectations for the use of technology during the school year. Creating this presentation would strengthen our commitment to instruction with technology across grade levels as well as help students to understand the appropriate use of technology at and away from school. I think that this presentation could even lead to further discussions around moral and ethical use which seems to be an area of need for many technology users, especially youth. Another idea we discussed was having our district technology leader provide some training at a PTA meeting each year to help parents understand how students may be using social media and some things that they can do to help guide their students to use social media responsibly.

These are the areas of focus for our school in regard to digital readiness and digital citizenship. From my discussions with my principal as well as my interaction with staff members as a technology teacher leader in my school these next steps seems to constitute a reasonable plan to support our staff and students in moving forward for the next 1-2 years. Then we would be able to consider and develop a more robust integration of digital citizenship into each classroom so that all students would leave our elementary school with a firm foundation in digital citizenship to help them to be engaged ethical technology users in the larger society.

Mission and Vision in Digital Education

Vision & Mission as a Digital Education Leader

As a digital education leader I will leverage technology for improved educational outcomes and a deeper understanding of content for both teachers and students. I will teach and advocate for the mindful use of technology. I will remind students and teachers of agency in relation to technology. I will remind staff and students that in our agency, we should consider disconnecting at times in order to develop our online as well as our offline selves, because both make up our whole self. Finally, I will remind students to consider broader moral and ethical concerns that are connected to their use of technology.

As a digital education leader, I am committed to being an accessible resource for other teachers and students. I will balance troubleshooting with instruction and professional development so that technology can be used in new ways to raise the standard of learning. I will be an available resource for teachers and someone who collaborates with them to strengthen instruction. My goal is to use technology to transform learning and I will encourage other educators to reflect on their practice to use technology to transform learning as well.

Another idea I would like to be mindful of is that I don’t oversimplify the use of technology. I recognize that using technology may not be intuitive for all educators and I will be a patient collaborator to help all staff to feel that they can use technology in a transformative way with their students, because incorporating technology into instruction will help educators to better connect with and motivate students. Teachers have much to consider, such as, desired outcomes, privacy, possible misuse and many other factors before adopting a new technology. Therefore, agency in consideration of technology is an important principle for my own integration of technology as well as in my mentorship of other teachers.

I want students to experience the transformative power of technology. I think that allowing open ended representation of final products, when possible, along with guided instruction in the use of technology will allow my students to redefine their learning and their production. Students are inundated with technology in their daily lives. Students need to understand the numerous way that they can leverage technology to augment their learning. Developing mindfulness plus moral and ethical thinking skills will cause students to pause before posting, copying and pasting or remixing ideas and putting them online. I want help students think critically about their use of technology. Using technology should be a choice not just an automatic action or a part of the background. I want students to be excited about using technology to extend their learning. I want them to creatively think of ways to incorporate technology into their learning. I will provide structure, understanding and time for reflection so that students realize the nuanced ways that technology affects their lives. I will also provide students with a grounding in what it means to be a digital citizen. As digital citizens students will use technology ethically and with increasing fluency for collaboration or communication locally as well as globally. (ISTE 5a-c).

Mindfulness and Distraction

As an educator who is teaching in a digital era, I see a need for students to raise the level of mindfulness and their awareness of distraction regarding their use of technology and social media in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom. Technology is pervasive. It is all too easy to be enveloped by the vastness of the internet. Therefore, mindfulness and distraction are concepts that should be taught to all students, starting at an early age, to help them prepare for and cope with what they experience in the online world. To me this is the groundwork that will lead to a more complete understanding of digital citizenship. It will begin to teach them about agency. It will allow students to better understand and connect with modeling and facilitating safe, healthy, legal and ethical uses of digital information and technologies (ISTE 5b).

Learning to Practice Agency, and Disconnecting

Using technology is a choice. We may feel pressure from society or from other factors to use technology increasingly because that is the general pattern around us, however, we still have human agency. With guidance from teachers and parents students can learn to resist the temptation to use technology at all times. Parents should be empowered to set limits on technology use for themselves as well as for their children. Agency plays a role in daily online decisions. Is posting this joke consistent with my moral and ethical values? Do I agree with the entirety of this article? Would my friend give me permission to post this picture? Did I give credit to this author or artist? Those are thoughts that should be in the forefront of our minds when we are choosing to post, blog, comment, repost or remix online media. Finally, there are moments in life where we have to unplug in order to be completely present. It is when we are disconnected, alone with our thoughts,in conversation with others, or sharing some activity with others that we will feel completely present. The following idea from Borgman resonates with me and I think that youth today should consider the message here as well and disconnect at times,

we have to give such occasions [times where we experience the nearness of divinity] a secure place and a regular time in our lives. Contemplation needs a cloister, a space where the splendor of the simple is secure from mindless distraction and busyness. (Borgman 2012, p. 9)

Borgman is saying that this won’t happen on it’s own, we need to make time to disconnect, in order to develop our whole selves. As Rheingold (2012) says, [sometimes one should] “throw some sand into the machinery that automatizes your attention.” (p. 50). Disconnecting relates back to mindfulness, being mindful requires reflection and metacognition. All of those practices will help lead to moral and ethical thinking.

Moral and Ethical Use of Technology

I will foster reflection and mindfulness and develop a sense of agency and encourage students to disconnect. Together those two concepts will surely help students develop into more well rounded citizens, however, moral and ethical use of technology is also necessary for learners in this digital age. Consider this quote from Carrie James in Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap:

The beliefs and values an individual holds–about honesty, respect, responsibility and what it means to be a good person–can provide an anchor, assuming these moral values are salient to his or her identity and are considered and invoked when a moral or an ethical situation arises. (James 2014, p. 120)

Accessibility, being always on, social media and constantly changing technologies provide a steady stream of ethical dilemmas that are always right at our fingertips noticed or not. Students would benefit from a moral anchor when experiencing a dilemma. Again James provides a framework for considering these dilemmas and provides a hope for how to begin to give young people the tools to navigating these murky waters.

On a practical level, thoughtful, ethically sensitive identities can be cultivated when dialogue about moral and ethical issues is a regular part of a young person’s life–when frequent support and incentives exist for grappling with and debating dilemmas in light of different moral beliefs, values, and interests. (James 2014, p. 113)

As educators we can make time to grapple with and debate these dilemmas. It is our job to help cultivate minds and to guide young people to consider differing beliefs. That has long been a focus, now we need to continue that work and extend it to technology and online lives. Ultimately I want my students to grow into genuinely ethical people in their online and offline lives.

Being genuinely ethical requires much soul-searching, conversing with informed peers, a willingness to admit that one has been wrong, and striving to do better the next time. These steps are far more difficult to execute than a simple delineation of what is ethical and what is not. (Davis & Gardner 2013, p. 172).

As a technology leader I am committed to starting this discussing with students and encouraging other educators to have similar discussions. We want what is best for our students understanding that media and technology is a part of their lives. Therefore, we must provide them with the necessary tools to develop the whole self in all areas of their lives, including their online lives. I look forward to a generation of mindful, deliberate moral and ethical young people.


Borgmann, A. “Contemplation in a Technological Era: Learning from Thomas Merton.” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith) Volume 64, Number 1, March 2012. Page 9.

Davis, K., & Gardner, H. (2013). The App Generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy and imagination in a digital world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

James, C. (2014). Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Attention! Why and How to Control Your Mind’s Most Powerful Instrument. Net Smart (pp. 34-75). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Here we go!

This blog will be a tool I use to reflect on and put the ISTE coaching standards into practice as I move through the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. program at Seattle Pacific University. Check back throughout the next 7 quarters as I add evidence and grow in my understanding of what it means to be an educator who uses technology effectively in the classroom as well as a more competent coach to help others use technology more effectively in their own classrooms. Here we go!