Who Should Teach Digital Citizenship?

Students need to become digital citizens in order to function in a digital world. I think we all recognize that, but teaching the skills that make up digital citizenship is a patchwork job in many of the schools that are addressing it. And some schools aren’t addressing digital citizenship at all.

Why is this? I think that part of the problem stems from the uncertainty of who is supposed to teach it. And therein lies the problem. Technology teachers that follow ISTE standards do address some aspects of digital citizenship. But, librarians are also important players in teaching it, as are other staff.

Who is most qualified to teach digital citizenship? To answer that question, I took a close look at how Mike Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship line up to ISTE and AASL standards and came to some interesting conclusions. But before I discuss my findings, take a look at this alignment chart I created:

9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

Aligned to AASL and ISTE Standards


Digital access: Advocating for equal digital rights and access is where digital citizenship starts.

Digital etiquette: Rules and policies aren’t enough — we need to teach everyone about appropriate conduct online.

Digital law: It’s critical that users understand it’s a crime to steal or damage another’s digital work, identity or property.

AASL 3.3.1 Solicit and respect diverse perspectives while searching for information, collaborating with others, and participating as a member of the community.

AASL 3.3.2 Respect the differing interests and experiences of others, and seek a variety of viewpoints.

AASL 3.3.6 Use information and knowledge in the service of democratic values.



Digital communication: With so many communication options available, users need to learn how to make appropriate decisions.

Digital literacy: We need to teach students how to learn in a digital society.

Digital commerce: As users make more purchases online, they must understand how to be effective consumers in a digital economy.


ISTE 5b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity

ISTE 5c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning

AASL 3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic, real-world contexts.

AASL 3.3.3 Use knowledge and information skills and dispositions to engage in public conversation and debate around issues of common concern.

AASL 3.3.5 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within and beyond the learning community.


Digital rights and responsibilities: We must inform people of their basic digital rights to privacy, freedom of speech, etc.

Digital safety and security: Digital citizens need to know how to protect their information from outside forces that might cause harm.

Digital health and wellness: From physical issues, such as repetitive stress syndrome, to psychological issues, such as internet addiction, users should understand the health risks of technology.

ISTE 5a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology

AASL 3.3.7 Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.

ISTE 5d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

Note:  School counselors should play a role in addressing digital health and wellness issues.


Helping students develop into digital citizens should be a collaborative effort. And each group involved should look to their strengths to determine what aspects of digital citizenship they are best suited to teach.

Based on the chart above, librarians are the best suited to address the skills in the ‘respect’ category of digital citizenship. Those skills are well-addressed in AASL standards.

A collaborative effort should be made to address skills in the ‘educate’ category. Technology teachers and librarians should work together to create lessons that address a combination of AASL and ISTE standards. Those lessons should be integrated into the classroom and curriculum, not taught in isolation.

The ‘protect’ category of digital citizenship should really be a school-wide effort, with all parties involved drawing from their strengths. I believe librarians are best-suited to address digital rights and responsibilities, while digital safety and security could be addressed by multiple groups, including librarians, technology teachers and even IT staff. Finally, school counselors can play a special role in addressing digital health and wellness, especially in areas of cyberbullying.

In conclusion, because digital citizenship impacts so many areas of a student’s academic and personal life, teaching it should be a concerted, collaborative and communicative effort by all parties involved (and we must recognize that A LOT of parties are involved in teaching these skills!).


2 thoughts on “Who Should Teach Digital Citizenship?

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