What My School Needs Next

CC: pixabay.com by Geralt
CC: pixabay.com by Geralt

This week, while pouring over content to expand my knowledge of citizenship versus digital citizenship, I stumbled across an old resource from a class I took last year. It led me on a squirrel chase where I discovered an entire curriculum that was exactly what I have been dreaming of creating for my school. The curriculum blended moral decision making with technology use at every grade level. It was/is the perfect presentation for digital citizenship in Catholic schools. It is what the world of Catholic education is missing, at least in my world, and quite possibly what’s missing in public schools, too.

. . .

I work in Catholic education. The fabulous resource I discovered was from a Catholic school system, Ottawa Catholic School System, in Canada.  The discovery made me question why – if Catholic educators are set on promoting moral decision making – aren’t we actively collaborating on this content for our schools, as we do with religious instruction?  Isn’t it teaching many of the same concepts? Why do we (at my school) have to start from scratch to create something as important as digital citizenship curriculum? Why are we slow to teach teachers and students about behaving like Catholics in our digital lives?

Consider the iCitizen project. The project revealed a short list of truths, some of which Catholic educators have long been teaching.  For example, “[that] empathy must be modeled and taught early and often” (Curran, 2012, p.14). The same message is at the basis of many of the teachings in Catholic education, yet it is not fully promoted in our online interactions in or outside of our school.

Ribble (2015) promotes principles that again align with the teachings of Catholic education; respect yourself/respect others. And Ohler (2010) refers to “virtuous behavior” as a necessary part of being a good digital citizen. These examples demonstrate what educators are saying need to be included in teaching about and living good digital lives. They are also inherent in Catholic education.

popeI believe digital citizenship in Catholic education means being competent making moral and ethical choices while consuming and contributing in a digital environment – which takes some practice. Teachers need to understand that “Catholic community” includes  both face to face and online communities, in and outside of school. They need to define the “norms” of both Catholic communities (Polgar & Curran, 2015).  My school needs a formal digital citizenship curriculum to give teachers those necessary tools. Our small Catholic school is good at getting out the larger messages of the Catholic doctrine. It’s time to create a unified, formal message that connects the pillars of Catholic behavior with those of the modern digital world.

As I conclude my reflection, I recognize my personal goals for building a program that could make a difference in the digital behavior of others, and the power I have to bring about that change. I look forward to the day when our students have guidelines for what to expect, and say, and do during tough digital interactions with peers, and hope teachers will be their mentors. This is what the world of Catholic education is missing, at least in my world, but not for much longer.

Graphics retrieved from pixabay.com under Creative Commons licensing


Curran, M. (2012, June). iCitizen: Are you a socially responsible digital citizen. Paper presented at the International Society for Technology Education Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX. Retrieved from icitizen_paper_M_Curran.pdf

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community: Digital Citizen. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Polgar, D. R., & Curran, M. B.F.X. (2015). We shouldn’t assume people know what digital citizenship is. Retreived from http://www.teachthought.com/technology/we-shouldnt-assume-people-know-what-digital-citizenship-is/

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education

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