ED4764:The Internet and Education · KSA #08 Relationships · KSA #09 Instructional Strategies · KSA #10 Technology

Web Awareness & Digital Citizenship

The Internet is abstract and abstract entities are difficult for adults to comprehend let alone children. Our students, in other words children, have a hard time understanding the complexities of the Internet and how it works; even I don’t fully understand it! As teachers, we need to be cognizant of this when we are educating our students about the Internet and the implications of their actions.

In today’s lesson we watched a Web Awareness video where Dr. Robin Bright and Dr. Mary Dyck discuss their research on teenage online behaviours.


Robin and Amy discussed teaching our students safety on the Internet, but asserting that this is only one piece to the puzzle. We must also teach them about digital citizenship and digital footprints. One way we can teach this is to be strong role models for our students (Sanderse, 2013). We must demonstrate integrity in our teaching by practicing using the Internet morally ourselves. Many of us have begun to do this in the making of online portfolios, where we are building our professional online identity.

Character education is defined as teaching our students to be morally just citizens (Wikipedia, 2013). I definitely feel it is the job of schools to develop character in students.  Cubukcu (2012) discusses the importance the hidden curriculum plays in character development in the primary grades, which, I would say, could be extended into the secondary classroom. I think that in the primary grades, we are teaching students to be morally ethical people and as they get older this shifts to teaching students to apply these lessons to the Internet. I recognize that children are on the Internet at younger and younger ages as Robin and Mary pointed out, however we need to build the foundation of what it means to be a moral citizen, so that we can then apply this to the digital citizen as students enter upper elementary.

Mary raised an interesting point, that education is developmental. I think this message has two meanings 1) that we are always changing education to meet the needs of our current learners and 2) that it is progressive in that we are constantly scaffolding student learning from their previous years of education. I have already discussed this with reference to statement made by Cubukcu (2012) and the hidden curriculum. In no way is it possible to teach students about digital citizenship in just one grade, but rather we need to scaffold their learning. This brings to question the use of web filters in schools. Should filters be placed on some content or should schools depend on the development of ethical digital citizens?

I would argue that filters are acceptable in lower elementary, but they need to be loosened as students progress through school. As was discussed in my post titled “Research: It Has It’s Place In K-12 Education” we need to be teaching our students about effective research strategies early on. This means though, that our younger students as they are learning may stumble upon material that is deemed inappropriate, on purpose or by accident, because of their lack of research skills. While we are developing these skills, having filters in place is not a bad idea, to ensure that students don’t come across material they shouldn’t be. As students become able to set their own boundaries (Dr. Mary Dyck) we need to give them the freedom and flexibility to do so.

Shearer (2010) states that web filters “violates the rights of Internet users and the principles of library media education”. The use of filters diminishes the authentic learning experience that students could have if there were no filters. If we continue with the idea of a progressive education system, by the time students are in high school, they should be digitally ethical citizens and our role is to continue to grow and expand their understanding of the digital footprint and why they need to exercise integrity on the Internet. To provide a true learning experience or our students, we need to get rid of filters at the higher-grade levels.

The classroom needs to be an environment where students are able to learn in an authentic environment, facilitated by the teacher. If we do a good job of developing a positive learning environment in our classroom that is centered on respect for one another I feel, boundaries will also be respected. We need to put some trust in our students to act as moral citizens on and offline, but also recognizing that part of learning is making mistakes and learning from them; something that should be encouraged at school.


Cubukcu, Z. (2012). The effect of hidden curriculum on character education process of primary school students. Educational Sciences: Theory And Practice, 12(2), 1526-1534.

Sanderse, W. (2013). The meaning of role modelling in moral and character education. Journal Of Moral Education, 42(1), 28-42.

Shearer, K. M. (2010). Blogging and internet filters in schools. Community & Junior College Libraries, 16(4), 259-263.

Wikipedia. (2013). Character education. Retrieved on July 15, 2013 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_education

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2 thoughts on “Web Awareness & Digital Citizenship

  1. Great post Justin, I enjoyed hearing your insights into this topic! I too think that filters should come off by high school. Students at the high school age are very capable of sifting through the information that is available and if they do not have the opportunity to use the Internet to it’s full capacity in a safe environment that supports good judgement, then I think that we are letting them down. I do agree with you that up to a certain age, there should be filters. If you have a student that is not using the Internet according to school/class guidelines or is constantly off task via the Internet, how would you address the student and their choices? Thanks for sharing!
    – Jen

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jen!

      This is a really interesting question. My initial instinct is to take away their privilege of blogging. However, upon reflection this just hinders the students learning, which is unfair. When I say this is unfair, I am referring to the fact that they come to school to learn and in public education each child in my room has equal rights to learn. So rather than take away their privilege of blogging, which is really more a requirement in my course, I will take away their privilege of Internet use. So rather than engaging using technology, as everyone else in the class will be doing this student will instead engage in a paper blog. They will still need to have others comment on their work, but comments will need to be done by hand. I think that eventually as the student sees the benefit of blogging on the computer vs. paper blogging (from a convenience standpoint, if nothing else) they will want their Internet privileges back. I am not sure this is the best solution, but it is what I could come up with for the time being.


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