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What’s the Big Deal about Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship?

 April 17, 2019

Contributor: Dr. Kali

Digital literacy or citizenship is a big deal these days. We hear a lot about it, but what is the true meaning when we say digital literacy is digital citizenship? It’s difficult not to define Digital literacy and citizenship simultaneously in the same concept because they go hand-in-hand.

little boy surprised

What’s the Difference between Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship?

Digital literacy is the ability to use technology to communicate, evaluate, and create information where we can interact in a world at large. For example, using instructional technology tools in the classroom to enhance learning and engage students. We have all used email, created a PowerPoint, or have even written a lesson in Microsoft Word. Or even connecting with long lost friends on Instagram. Digital citizenship is about technology etiquette where students make smart choices using technology appropriately and safely within society. For example, visiting appropriate and school friendly websites that are educational and not fake news or bribery.

Why is Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship So Important?

Technology evolves at light speed relative to the changes we seen from generation to generation from industrial revolution to present. Within a few decades our parents went from no computers or laptops to handheld computer devices all within a generation. From floppy disks to clouds. We use digital literacy to solve problems at large. It gives us the freedom to collaborate, create, communicate, and learn at the push of a button. How many times do you find yourself answering a question by saying, “Google it!”. Grandma didn’t have that option 50 years ago. Therefore, it is hard for grandma, let alone us, to keep up with the revolving door of technology and make sure our kids are safe online.

Old room Classroom

The challenge with Digital literacy is keeping up with the global community utilizing the internet for both personal and business reasons. Some reasons are legit, and some reasons are corrupt. Not everyone has our best interest for our kids’ best interest in mind. Our kids are using technology every day without us having the ability to constantly monitor them and keep them safe from predators. Enter Digital Citizenship.



So what happens when you “Google it”? How many different answers do you get and how do you know the difference between bias, fact, opinion, or fake Internet safety for kidsnews? How do we teach kids the difference between good research and phony bias?

Let’s take an example. You want your students to research dangerous insects in the impact it has on human society. So they Google dangerous insects and what pops up? Doom and gloom for people with phobias. Or if your kids don’t have a phobia, they will now and you will spend half of class trying to calm them down and refocus! Digital citizenship is about teaching kids to vet through real and fake news on the internet. Sites like Snopes.com offer the ability to fact check information such as this fake terrifying “killer bug” circulating social media and instilling fear.



SNOPE killer bug on hand

Graphic Source: Snopes.

In January 2016, social media users began encountering an item warning that a “new killer insect” sighted in India harbored a virus spread through touch that was able to “circulate [throughout] the entire human system in minutes.” The insect and the deleterious effects of its virus were graphically shown” (Source: Snopes ).

But Snopes shows in the article how two pictures are superimposed on one another to create this fake news story…or panic.

ISTE Fake News PosterOur job is to help kids recognize the difference between fact and opinion versus real or fake news. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) has sums up real vs fake news eloquently in this poster with the help of Stanford History Education Group: Graphic Source: ISTE Standards for Students 







Our federal government is also playing a role in protecting America’s consumers and our children with online information. The Federal Trade Commission offers resources on Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“Coppa “)

Want to Know How to Get Started?

US states are starting to come out with Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship guidelines, resources, in scope and sequences. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Education has developed a learning progression for Digital Literacy and Computer Science which you can see below.

Source: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Frameworks

The ability for us as educators to help our students make smart choices is a challenge because most of us did not grow up with the technology that the kids are growing up with today. We are preparing them for careers that are going to be fully engaged in technology on a global level. Our job is to teach children how to solve complex problems for the 21st century.

How do you use digital literacy and digital citizenship in your classroom? Share your ideas here at contact us and follow us on social media such as Facebook to find more ideas and share your experiences.


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