Elements of digital citizenship (OERu peer evaluation post)

This blog post is published in response to Activity 4.1 of OCL4Ed 14.06 to assist with the testing of  the alpha software release of the peer evaluation development under the OERu’s Google Summer of Code project. The resultant materials will be re-used as one page within a learning pathway in the Digital Citizenship micro course being developed for the OERu for credentialing towards Otago Polytechnic’s Graduate Diploma in Tertiary Education.   

Digital citizenship

The concept of digital citizenship means different things to different people in different contexts. There has been considerable research and commentary on the topic in the compulsory school sector, and many of these ideas are applicable to the tertiary education sector, albeit with different emphasis on various aspects.


Sprouting digital literacies

Nine elements of digital citizenship

The nine elements of digital citizenship were derived from evaluating hundreds of articles, books, and news publications on the use, misuse and abuse of digital technology.

Ribble (2011: 15) describes the purpose of the nine elements of digital citizenship as follows:

The elements provide a framework for understanding the technology issues that are important to educators. They should be used to identify current areas of need in a school or district technology program, as well as emerging issues that may become increasingly important in coming years.

A summary of Ribble’s (2011) nine elements is listed below.

  1. Digital Access.e-commerceThis refers to full digital participation in society and is perhaps one of the most important elements to being a digital citizen. However, due to socio-economic status, location, and considerations for individuals with special needs, digital access may be restricted. Recently, schools have been becoming more “connected” incorporating “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)”, and other forms of access. This can be offered through kiosks, community centres, and open labs. Digital access is also associated with the digital divide and related factors.
  2. Digital Commerce. This relates to buying and selling of goods and services online and related aspects of  knowledge of how this works and understanding of the dangers and benefits of online buying, using credit cards online, and so forth.
  3. Smartphone_and_KeyboardDigital Communication. This element deals with knowledge and understanding of the variety of online communication mediums such as email, instant messaging, social media technologies and the variety of communication applications for mobile devices taking into account the issues associated with leaving a digital history of the users online communications and how to deal with inappropriate interactions.
  4. Digital Literacy. This deals with the understanding of how technology works including various digital devices and corresponding software. For example, how to properly search for something using a browser to access an online search engine versus using a a custom database search; how to use various online log in systems; the functions of various digital devices; how to use productivity software including word processors, spreadsheets and graphics packages; and how to discern  the quality of information online.
  5. Digital Etiquette. Incorporates appropriate and acceptable conduct as well as conventions or procedures in different communities.  Certain mediums demand more appropriate behaviour and language than others.
  6. Digital Law. This refers to the legal responsibility and conduct in a digital environment. For example, breach of copyright, illegal downloads, plagiarism, unauthorised software use, malicious hacking, creating viruses, sending spam messages, identity theft, cyber bullying, and so forth.
  7. Digital Rights and Responsibilities. This refers to the set of rights digital citizens have such as privacy, freedom of speech and corresponding responsibilities, for example honouring terms of use policies.
  8. Digital Health. Incorporates physical and psychological well-being including health and safety aspects in a digital world.  For example: digital citizens must be aware of the physical stress placed on their bodies when using computer technologies by internet usage including eye strain, headaches, stress etc.
  9. Digital Security. This simply means that citizens must take the necessary measures to be safe online, for example secure password practices, virus protection, backing up data, and so forth.

Reading activity

book_and_lightRead  Chapter 2 of the following resource accessible online from the ISTE website. (Note that this is an external resource published under all rights reserved copyright.)


 Ribble, M.  (2011) Digital citizenship in schools. Second edition.  ISTE & Eurospan: London.

Share your thoughts on WENotes and Twitter using the course tag. Prepare a short 300 word blog post considering the following questions:

  1. Are the nine elements of digital citizenship applicable to the tertiary education context? Justify your answer.
  2. Are the nine elements equally relevant for lecturers and students? Justify your answer.

Personal reflection

I will be developing components of an OERu course on digital skills and digital citizenship in the near future, so Activity 4.1 was a great opportunity to complete one of the pages in the learning pathway while contributing to the testing of the OERu peer evaluation prototype.

As this post relates to works produced in the course of employment, the copyright of this post belongs to my employer, the OER Foundation. The fact that I produced this over the weekend was my personal choice, and does not give me entitlement to claim ownership. However, I’m most fortunate to work for an organisation that applies open licences as a matter of policy and as an open education advocate, I don’t care who owns the outputs of what I produce as long as they’re available under a free cultural works approved license or dedicated to the public domain. If its useful, folk should be free to use these resources without restriction in my opinion.

Drawing on my own experience in developing OERs and my personal preferences based on the essential freedoms, I typically only use free cultural works approved resources. However, this activity required the use of three different CC licenses and I have incorporated CC-BY-SA text and image, a CC-BY image and a CC-BY-NC image in the compilation post. I embedded a Youtube video which would not qualify as OER under the standard YouTube license (a custom all rights reserved license) but used in accordance with the terms of service.   I have also included an image dedicated to the public domain, which technically is not a license.

I focused on ensuring that I could release the compilation under a free cultural works approved license, in this case a CC-BY-SA license because of the text sourced from Wikipedia which requires the viral ShareAlike provision to be applied to the derivative work.  So my selection of license types of the resources I reused and remixed were directed by this preference for free cultural works approved licenses. Under normal circumstances, it would not be possible to remix CC-BY-SA with CC-BY-NC because the BY-SA license would require that the same license is applied to the derivative. However, I used a legitimate workaround by using the NC image as a discrete identifiable object, without altering or modifying the source image — although this would have been permissible under a CC-BY-NC resource.  In my license statement, you will see that I clearly identify the image as an identified object with a different license as well as indicating that the Youtube video is not tagged with a CC-BY license. When I transfer the final version to the OERu course, I will remove the NC image because it will require to much effort to ascertain whether the copyright holder would deem assessment fees charged by a public education institution a commercial activity. I will also remove the Youtube clip and source an alternative which uses a free cultural works license.

I sourced a fair chunk of the text for this post from Wikipedia (the list of the 9 elements). The language needed a little polishing, so it was great that I could adapt and modify the text for this purpose. This underscores the educational value of the revise, remix and reuse activities associate with the OER definition.

Notwithstanding my extensive experience in developing OERs, this activity still required me to think carefully about my choices and illustrates the learning value of the task.

Image, video and text credits.

Nine elements of digital citizenship adapted from the text of the Wikipedia article, Digital citizen sourced on 29 June 2014 under a Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence.

Keyboard and cress image by Wetwebwork licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence.

Book and light image sourced from openclipart.org is dedicated to the public domain.

e-Commerce image by Infocux Technologies licensed under Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial

Smartphone and keyboard by Johan Larsson licensed under Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Video snippet of Gardner Campbell, Empowering our students for Digital Citizenship, by University of South Carolina is used under the standard YouTube license.


Ribble, M.  (2011) Digital citizenship in schools. Second edition.  ISTE & Eurospan: London. Online: http://www.iste.org/docs/excerpts/DIGCI2-excerpt.pdf 

Except where noted otherwise, this post is licensed as follows:

Creative Commons Licence
Digital citizenship remix example by OER Foundation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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