2015 Components of Digital Citizenship

Components of Digital Citizenship

Martin Pluss

Dean of Learning at Loreto Normanhurst



Digital citizenship’s endpoint is about sharing. It is a journey along digital pathways with many steps.The journey for teachers involves a personal understanding of the components of digital citizenship and their application for student learning. The components of digital citizenship include digital footprint, digital reputation, transformation of citizenship into digital citizenship, digital learning and digital leadership.   To successfully navigate digital pathways as a digital citizen a teacher needs to firstly understand their digital identity which involves managing their digital world, master of the componentsand their application to assist their students.   A teacher who is an informed digital citizen is then in a position to become a functional digital learner and leader who learns and shares. 


Digital Footprint

Teachers need to share the news:  ‘beware of the send button’.This click is the start of a teacher’s digital footprint and reputation. Teachers can help students by sharing the facts about what a digital foot print means, however, their support of students would be greater if they too engaged in the process.

Digital foot print refers to the impression, traces or evidence  data and information which remain after  you  have use  any web tools or services of the digital world.  Once teachers have developed a greater understanding of their digital foot print, their personal journey of managing their digital reputation and citizenship begins in earnest. 

Dr Jason Olher (Olher, 2012)arguesteachers should “read, view and interact” with digital resources involving an understanding of bias and media persuasion.Teachers need to be critical and reflective of their use of services in the digital world. Students “go places” in the real and digital world. Are they always safe? Are there places they should not have been? They “interact” on line and have they done so with appropriate netiquette, while aware of their digital foot print? Students also “publish and contribute” in some way each day by doing a presentation, a citation, a status update, a blog post. Olher suggests there is a lot of solid learning happening in a typical digital day. This is their digital footprint and life. In relation to our role as a parent and teacher,  Olher advises:.

“We have a duty to educate whole families in a digital age.  It is not just digital citizenship and social media. Most of our mistakes are analogue …are not rewindable …the kids need us.”(Olher, 2012)

At what age do children have the ability to understand the consequences of their online behaviour? This is determined by their cognitive development and guidance by peers, parents and teachers. Do students get it right all the time? For that matter do teachers get it right?Teachers see the nods of agreement by students when they talk to them about their digital footprint?

Students appear confident they are managing, for example, their Facebook and privacy settings well.  Their expression changes when a teacher asks them to look at the photos and comments they have placed on a social media platform no longer in vogue such as My Space or when they discover that Snapchat photos can be screen captured before they disappear. These messages teachers provide students about understanding and managing their digital footprint are powerful. All of a sudden, after a presentation or workshop, students  are keen to check what is available to the public about them. Their understanding of their digital footprint is enhanced by their teachers’ diligence.

Teachers can elevate their support of students to another level.  Olher suggests t is one thing to tell the students what to do:

“We bring the kids into our playground and we need to be in their playground as well.” (Olher, 2012)

No longer can teachers and schools be passive observers.  We are in the middle of a paradigm shift in the way we live, learn and work in a digital world.

Teachers and schools are not immune from being aware of their digital presence.  A greater understanding of their web presence will help them guide students.It might be prudent for teachers to have a greater understanding of their digital footprint and reputation through more direct engagement in managing their digital reputation.  You probably have a personal Facebook account and maybe a Twitter presence or LinkedIn profile.  Is there an up to date picture of you? Is it linked to a webpage or biography of your professional life? Do all teachers understand the delete button does not always solve the issue? It can take years to build a digital reputation and one click can set you back many years. Teachers who understand and manage their digital footprint are in a better position to help their students. 

As teachers in a digital era we prefer not be in schools where technology is beyond the school gate. Schools that open the door to technology for communication and learning with in the school communityencourage teachers and students to learn how to understand and manage their digital footprint. In doing so, teachers in these schools have started the journey of becoming active digital citizens through sharing their learning with their students.

A teacher’srole of spreading the word about the concept of a digital footprint is not just about what a student places online.   It is also about when students go digital, where they do it and how they go about it. Teachers can guide this process and it is suggested their guidance is better informed when they are engaged in the digital world themselves. It is probably no longer acceptable for a teacher to turn a blind eye and not be actively involved in the digital world. In fact, avoidance can potentially be detrimental to your students, personal and school’s digital reputation.

Digital reputation

Digital reputation is the opinion that is formed when people examine or become aware of your digital footprint.  Everything you do and say online will have an impact on your reputation. Your digital reputation does not need to be shape by others - you can manage it.  It is an active process that involves both content creation and relationship building which involves monitoring your digital reputation, being involved in a Community of Practice and through making use of digital tools that are available for teachers to use.

Students and teachers, who understand they have a role in their digital foot print, can benefit from proactive digital reputation management. Many students have a digital footprint either related to their school’s online newsletter or what they place on social media sites. At Loreto Normanhurst our Extension History students use Edublogs for their learning.  Recently one of our ex students informed us of a good news story.  For a university task she was completing a digital footprint audit and her first “hit” was her History Extension blog. She was very pleased with this reputation not, least because she was a history undergraduate.  

Teachers and students should actively monitor their digital reputation. This involves monitoring posts, comments and pictures on personal social media sites. Teachers should consider developing a professional social media profile through  LinkedIn or developing their own websites.  These experiences could then be shared with the students. Once a teacher is comfortable with their personal digital space and reputations they could consider involvement in a Community of Practice (CoP). A Community of Practice, according to Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (Pluss, 2007),  is a group of people who share a craft or a profession.  Through their common interests they share common interests and collaborate.  Communities of Practices exist in many aspects of life:  runners and triathletes gravitate to their respective online communities such as Cool Running, Australia and the Transitions forum. Educators connect through formal online communities such as EDNA and more recently Digital Education Research Network (DERN), through to the  TeachMeets (TeachMeets, 2014) or through their Professional /Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) facilitated through Facebook groups, Twitter or LinkedIn (Pluss, 2008).

These Communities of Practice shape a teacher’s  digital reputation and insights to assist students. 

Through teacher involvement in these communities you are starting to manage your digital reputation and embarking on a digital citizenship journey. There are several tips and tricks to help teachers achieve this and then be in a position to guide their students. This can be achieved by starting a blog or wiki, opening a collaborative learning group on Facebook; senior students can use LinkedIn for careers, engage in mainstream digital communication, use Slideshare, Prezi, YouTube or iTunes to share ideas and finally obtain their own domain to assist with the central management of their digital reputation

So the message is clear in managing our digital reputation; teacher and students need to be involved active digital citizens by collaborating and connecting online by using the plethora of   digital tools at our disposal. 

The transformation of citizenship into digital citizenship

Once your students  have their digital foot print reputation under control they might like to become a more actively involved digital citizen. Is there a difference between being a citizen and a digital citizen? There should not be. Many agree that technology is being nomalised into everyday life and this should apply to citizenship as well. Normalisation of digital citizenship refers to the transformation of everyday citizenship into digital citizenship.   It is not possible to be a citizen without being a digital citizen because our lives are digitally connected. This process is reflected in the mainstream adoption of social media such as twitter, the adoption of key trends identified in a longitudinal examination of the New Horizon Reports and an examination of how three types of citizenship ( personal, participatory and active) embrace the digital world.

If you want to follow and get the breaking news in sport, politics popular culture, current affairs the journalists in the fourth estate use their social media platform to link to their blog and pay per read newspapers. They are using the tools of the digital culture to be engaging digital citizens.    There are many educators who communicate connect and collaborate on educational issues through their social media presence.  They are being a digital citizen in the very act of sharing.   Jason Olher (@jasonohler), Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth), Alec Couros (@courosa)and George Couros (@gcouros) Mark Pesce (@mpesce) and George Siemens (@gsiemens)  are a short list of educators to follow who lead the way in  the normalization of digital citizenship. Each have particular fields of expertise and interests which are easily identified by teachers who choose to follow them on Twitter. These high  profile digital citizens are supported by hundreds of educational bloggers who communicate, connect, collaborate and share as digital citizens, learners and leaders. 

Teachers would benefit from a more structured approach to understanding and managing their digital world.  One good way to see what is happening in the digital world is to closely follow the Horizon Reports as indicated in Figure 2. This table summarises the reports from 2004 – 2013 and provides considerable insight on closer analysis.

This longitudinal tracking of the different reports enables teachers to track patterns For example, an examination of the the 4-5 year adoption horizon to identifies trends that have consolidated or dropped off the agenda.  For example social networks and knowledge webs which were the 4-5 year focus in 2005.  By 2009 the one year horizon included collaborative environment and online communication tools which can be viewed as an extension of those  4-5 projections. Augmented Reality (AR) was flagged in 2006 and and again 2012  with a 4-5 time frame suggesting there seem to be  issues in AR gaining traction.  What is common in many the years are the references to mobile phones, mobile computing, mobile  learning and mobile broadbrand.  These trends which have a critical mass and have become the main tool of the normalization of digital citizenship

There are a number of levels to citizenship involving personal, participatory and justice oriented decision making. Each of these levels of citizenship should have an important digital component.  

Personal digital citizenship involves teachers acting according to their beliefs, values and ethics as we make use of digital tools. This is reflected in the way they engage with social media or how they ethically use web tools in the classroom for teaching and learning. Some examples of the ethical use of social media would be demonstrating the sharing of an idea by including the twitter handle of a useful resource shared with your twitter followers, the appropriate use photos taking into account privacy considerations or a collaborative welcoming and supportive appraoch in open discussion forums. This like a modern day version of footnotes, asking permission to take and use a photos and common courtesy in discussions with groups of people.  

Participatory citizens have moved on from being a digital observer, sometimes referred to as digital lurker, who are becoming more digitally involved. Perhaps a teacher can work on building collaborative online communities and Communities of Practice based on the subjects they teach or the co-curricular groups in the school such as the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Environmental Club of the Debating Club . This process is enhanced though the adoption 21st century digital teaching tool and skills as indicated through the Horizon Reports and other avenues. Studnts of the SRC can participate in the federal  government yearly initiative through Stay Smart Online. At Loreto Normanhurst the SRC had a week of events to promote digital citizenship.  This involved the making and displaying of posters, a cyber safety competition  and daily tips on how to manage students’ social media  reputation.

Teachers who engage in justice oriented citizenship challenge other teachers and students to devise solutions to problems in communities using digital tools to spread a message and improve the quality of life of communities.

At Loreto Normanhurst the teachers developed a week long program called the Youth Congress (YCon) which adopted the structure and processes of the United Nations.  The United Nations focuses on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance coordinating global effots to to solve problems that challenge humanity.  The year group was broken into eight countries and had a series of tasks, meetings and decisions to be made to address the following worldwide issues  such as climate change, poverty, terrorism, child slavery, food  shortages, natural disasters  and underdevelopment.

The elected student Secretary Generals of each country would meet in a room set up like the United Nations to argue their case for a series of scenarios. One scenario involved a biochemical leak in a county which suggested  testing for bio-chemical warfare.  Each country was required to research the issue and develop a considered national response which would be discuss in the Youth Congress (YCon) designed to  develop an international approach to the scenario developed.    All research communications and collaborations were digitally developed and promulgated through wikis, social media and an official YCon media team which provided press releases and interviews of students role playing as experts in issues discussed.


In this personal, participatory and justice based digital citizenship journey the teacher and school passes through several stages of involvement in the digital world, representing varied levels of learning and digital leadership. Initially a teacher’s digital life starts out as a consumer of information. As their confidence grows teachers  start to share with others, perhaps even becoming a critic offering constructive suggestions. This is where the majority of teachers sit in the digital world; however, there is room for some to become an editor of content on the web shaping and curating information and ideas in a way that which may lead you to producing content.  

As teachers we are learners and leaders.  Our journey as digital citizens from understanding our digital foot print, to managing our digital reputation to the normalization of citizenship with the digital world is incomplete unless our citizenship is closely linked to our learning and leading in schools.  

The Digital Learner


Teachers as active digital citizens need a framework to help understand digital learning.   Bruce Dixon of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF), suggests modern learners have the ability to access high quality content whenever and in whatever format they  need it,  have the ability to  form networks and participated highly interconnected groups , have the ability to save and retrieve information in a variety of formats, have the ability reuse and build upon the work of others, have the ability to quickly find feedback from multiple sources,  have the ability generate large amounts of data about our technological based activities and have the ability to operate in the same spaces  as experts and professionals.

In particular we can explore a few examples which maximize the different abilities suggested above. Digital learners have a digital learning identity.  Digital identity is more than how students engage in social media on the web.  Digital citizens develop a presence on the web reflecting that they are digital learners. They achieve this through managing content, re mixing this content and through active digital participations

The firstly digital citizens plan and evolve engagement with digital content. Digital citizens make use of wikis, blogs, a range of web tools and key school platforms such as Wordpress, the Google suite or OneDrive.  They also  learn to ethically and safely remix content from the web which develops a culture of sharing  at the same time showing respect for  and understanding of both creators of and consumers of  web content.  Students curate existing content and create their own material in the process of learning. The digital world has provided new platforms to develop activism. Engaged citizens consistently reveal that ‘Actions speak louder than Like buttons through involvement in online communities such as Facebook groups, Taking IT Global or Project Futures.  Teachers naturally have to take an active role in this sort of activism from both a safety and learning perspective.

The digital world in which we live is providing a paradigm shift in the way we live, work and learn. In life and work we do things differently compared to only a few years ago and learning is no different. Fortunately many schools work to understand and develop best practice and leadership to shape our digital learners. 

The Digital Leader


The final component of digital citizenship is digital leadership. Teachers who engage in  digital citizenship have the capacity to lead their school in the era of the digital world.  The key steps in this process involves, communication, connecting, collaborating and sharing.

Mark Pesce (@mpesce) in his uLearn Presentation in Rotorua New Zealand October 2013 ‘The sharing nexus: connecting, learning and 21st century educational environment suggest digital natives are now sharing natives.  They understand connectivity is the way they can share and access information and people.

Teachers can demonstrate digital leadership through the use of TeachMeets. Educators understand that learning is not a solo journey and grassroot  professional development  is demonstrated through TeachMeets. The core of which is based on the principle of sharing lead in NSW if not Australia by @mesterman .  Schools which have teachers  who organise TeachMeets are at the forefront of digital leadership. Teachers which have not formally embraced  TeachMeets have adapted the approach in staff meeting through their own  short presentations or even Ted X style talks to share and  liberate digital learning to the broader school community.

Many schools now are opening embracing social media platforms for communication with their school community. The  New Media Consortium’s, the author fo the Horizon reports defines social media as follows.

   “Social media is changing the way people interact, present ideas and information and communicate”. (NMC, 2013)


At  Loreto Normanhurst’s  the planning for the social media platform (@loretonh)  started in 2009 and was shaped  digital leadership of a group of teachers who  demonstrated digital leadership in the use of  social media for professional development to other staff and in their presentations to the school community on how to support students in their engagement in the digital world.

The school’s planning was guided by the digital  leadership of the key teachers who used social media in the school. These teachers were able to gain the confidence of the Executive through the step by step process of implementaion, assurances of quality control and moderation, responding rationally and positively to contingencies and the provison of guidelines for appropriate use and  a  plans for the evolution of the platform  over the ensuing years.


The launch ‘happened’ through a  video of a key school event – Loreto Day 2011.  The first post was an immediate success for the whole school community. With this success came more questions and refinement in areas of explaining our vision, privacy, copyright, moderation, hashtags, the use of photos and videos and re-posting to other platforms.  Over time we have added , multiple platforms Twitter, Facebook,  Instagram, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Youtube, Edmodo and Four Square.

All this was made possible through the digital leadership of a group of teachers in the school. Through their use of social media, mainly for professional development, in their capacity as a digital citizen they were able to become the school digital leaders promoting the importance of being a digital citizen and learner in the digital world.




Some argue there is no such thing as an original idea just a combination of ideas used in varied contexts.  These ideas on the components of digital citizenship have been developed through personal experience as an early adopter of technology and a geography teacher who learns by sharing.

Digital citizenship is an act of doing and sharing.  The journey starts for teachers as they develop an understanding of their digital footprint and reputation and the resultant practice of auditing and management. In the process of sharing these experiences with teachers and students they transform the process of citizenship into digital citizenship though embracing the digital world in personal, participatory and justice focused citizenship.    

Teachers who are digital citizens understand digital learning and embrace the concepts of a digital learning identity, digital content, the remixing of digital content and digital activism for learning. These teacher are the digital leaders of their schools who have the capacity to shape the digital citizenship of their students through projects which embrace the digital world and and even the digital citizenship of the school community through the adoption of a school wide social media platform.





Dr Jason Olher (Olher, 2012) Conference Notes ULearn Auckland Conference October 2012

Plüss, M (2008) “Twitter: Viral Professional Development and Networking” Teacher November pp:58-60

Plüss, M (2007) “Communities of Practice”, My Teaching Career, Teacher Learning Network pp:34-36

Pesce, M. (2013) The sharing nexus: connecting, learning and 21stCenturyULearn Keynote Conference Presentation

TeachMeets  (Aus) , 2014



New Media Consortium (NMC), 2013 Horizon  Report 2013

Stay Mart online


Figure 1


Figure 2

Horizon Reports 2004-2013 Summary Table


Time to adoption Horizon

1 Year or Less

Time to adoption Horizon

 2-3 Years

Time to adoption Horizon

4-5 Years



      Learning Objects

      Scalable Vector Graphics

      Rapid Prototyping

      Multimodal interfaces

      Context aware computing

      Knowledge webs


      Extended learning

      Ubiquitous wireless

      Intelligent searching

      Educational gaming

      Social networks and knowledge webs

      Context aware computing/augmented reality


      Social computing

      Personal broadcasting

      Phones in their pockets

      Educational gaming

      Augmented reality and enhanced visualization

      Context aware devices and devices


      User created content

      Social networking

      Mobile phones

      Virtual worlds

      New scholarship and emerging forms of publications

      Massive multilayer educational gaming


      Grassroots video

      Collaboration webs

      Mobile broadband

      Data mashups

      Collective intelligence

      Social operating systems

2008 Aus/NZ

      Virtual worlds and other  immersive digital environments

      Cloud based applications


      Alternative input devices

      Deep tagging

      Next generation mobile


      Collaborative environments

      Online communication tools


      Cloud computing

      Smart objects

      Personal web


      Mobile Computing

      Open Content

      Electronic Books

      Simple Augmented Reality

      Gestured based computing

      Visual Data Analysis


      Electronic books


      Augmented reality

      Game based learning

      Gestured based computing

      Learning analytics


      Mobiles and Apps

      Tablet Computing

      Games based learning and personal Learning Environments

      Augmented Reality

      Natural Users Interfaces



·      Cloud Computing

·      Mobile Learning


·      Learning Analytics

·      Open Content

·      3D Printing

·      Virtual and Remote Laboratories



Adapted: Horizon Reports for 2004-2013 Martin Pluss