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Character Education and Digital Citizenship

Using Character Education to Teach Digital Citizenship

Jul 21, 2017 2017-07-21

By Dr. Jason Ohler

This post is part of a series of blogs from passionate digital citizenship advocate, Dr. Jason Ohler. The series explores the importance of digital citizenship and provides strategies for integrating digital citizenship into schools.

What Doesn’t Work

Some of the strategies schools currently use to address digital citizenship fall short because they focus primarily on specific issues and ignore building a solid foundation for students to think critically about digital citizenship.

One of the least effective ways to approach digital citizenship is as a list of don'ts. New issues and behaviors crop up all the time, and a program will never be able to address everything. We want to equip students with the tools they need to respond appropriately to new situations.

Another common strategy for teaching digital citizenship is to address individual issues, such as cyberbullying, copyright infringement, and sexting. This ends up being tedious, specific, and often disconnected. New issues routinely emerge and there is no way to cover all of them. Make no mistake-addressing specific issues is important. However, the individual issues are really symptoms that challenge us to think deeper and more broadly. An overall approach to the issues needs a foundation, a context, and a big picture. That's where character education comes in.

Why Character Education Works

Character education can serve as the base for a great digital citizenship program. According to, character education is a proactive effort to instill important core, ethical, and performance values such as caring, honesty, diligence, fairness, fortitude, responsibility, and respect. Character education is predicated on the belief that academics and character are equally important in the education of students. Typically, character education programs are built on publicly defined values, which are then infused into the school community from activities to curriculum. The goal of developing a character education program is to create a framework that better enables a school community to address specific issues of behavior and perspective.

I hope you will follow this blog series as we delve deeper into digital citizenship and the strategies you can use to help your students become digital citizens. In the next post, we will discuss how to create a successful character education program.

Dr. Jason Ohler is a professor emeritus, speaker, writer, and a lifelong digital humanist who is well-known for the passion, insight, and humor he brings to his writings, projects, teaching, and presentations. He has been helping community members, organizations, and students at all levels understand the ethical implications of being digital citizens in a world of roller-coaster technological change. His most recent book, 4Four Big Ideas for the Future, reflects on his 35 years in the world of educational media and innovation in order to chart a course for a future. He is first and foremost a storyteller, telling tales of the future that are grounded in the past. Find Jason on Twitter @jasonohler or visit his website:
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