Is Citizenship Transferable?

Parents and teachers are striving for the same goal; to raise good citizens who can think critically and make informed, ethical decisions.  This goal however, is challenged by a new realm – technology.  Students now need the literacy skills to demonstrate citizenship both online and offline.  Are these skills transferable between the two realms?  How can we help students seamlessly apply their morals and values to both realms?  Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan (2011) speak to the importance of parents and teachers working together to teach digital citizenship.  “There is widespread agreement as to the importance of practicing digital citizenship.”  (p.44, Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011)

James Ohler writes, “The digital age beckons us to usher in a new era of character education, aimed directly at addressing the opportunities and challenges of living a digital lifestyle.” (p. 26, Ohler, 2011)  If this holds true, then ‘digital citizenship’ as currently defined could eventually evolve into simply ‘citizenship’.  Students will learn to apply their literacy skills consistently, regardless of the medium.  When writing of digital citizenship, Hollandsworth, Dowdy and Donovan (2011) state, “If aligned with character education, it would lend itself to becoming a good citizen in the digital community.” (p. 38)  Let us keep in mind we want our students and children to become good citizens in every community they are a part of, digital or otherwise. 


Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 55(4), 37-47.

Ohler, J. (2011). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27. 


6 thoughts on “Is Citizenship Transferable?

  1. Debra you raise an excellent argument about perhaps one day Digital Citizenry will not be in a category of its own, but rather be intertwined with Citizenship learning and teaching in general. This debate happens everywhere that technology permeates in education. One example is whether or not there is a need for a separate Educational Technology department in addition to a Curriculum and Instruction department within a school division. Some districts make the argument that if it is separate it appears to be detached from teaching and learning, that focus is on technological tools rather than the pedagogy and therefore should be combined with curriculum and instruction. Others argue that until specific skill sets are acquired the separation is necessary until there is a higher degree of digital literacy.

    Do you think this might be similar to Citizenship? Should there be a separation from physical and digital?

    • James Ohler illustrates this argument quite clearly. He begins his article by referring to students either living two lives or one; living in the digital world outside of school, and a second life without technology within school, or living one life in a digital world, moving seamlessly between home This argument can be extrapolated to Citizenship. If students are to live one life, then Citizenship should not be separated between physical and digital. Citizenship can logically be integrated into all aspects of students’ lives.

      Ohler, J. (2011). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27.

      • One might make the arguement that digital citiznehsip itself can be looked at in the manner you have described above from Ohler (2011), that when teaching DC there are not two sets of rules or expecations in relation to being a positive citizen that the digital citizenship prinicples apply to any enviornment- inside or outside of school.


  2. One thing I find problematic, is that there are parents who seem to see the two worlds as separate. Perhaps they feel intimidated by the digital world, so they just don’t go there. So children then begin exploring this environment on their own. The opposite extreme is that parents create a culture of fear, where children are afraid to travel anywhere digitally. Somehow we have to find a happy medium.

  3. You have brought up a topic I have given a lot of thought to “Is Citizenship Transferable?” The Ohler article laid this out very well, asking two lives or one? I have had many interactions with students who strongly believe they do live two different lives, an in-school life and an out-of-school life. While teachers and parents may hope that these two lives have synonymous outcomes in fact many students view them as quite distinct environments. Young people have learned most of their Digital Citizenship skills from each other and many do seem to believe that there are differences in the way it is okay to behave when online than it would be if they were in a face-to-face situation. Ohler states, “asking students to actually help develop the values of a character education program that would guide their activities would encourage their participation and buy-in.” I wonder if this is true. I see this as more unlikely at this time, particularly with high school students, although I think that as we continue to educate our students we will see a shift in this mind set and hopefully achieve a generation of students who “seamlessly apply their morals and values to both realms”.


    Ohler, J. (2011). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Trudi. Young people certainly do seem to have a different set of standards when it comes to online behaviour. I have been shocked to read some of the comments on my daughter’s Facebook page. Inviting student input may very well encourage their participation and buy-in. Their insights may prove to be invaluable.

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