Digital Citizenship as Standard Operating Procedure

Note: This is an edited version of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Dear Teachers,

As a CDCN (Certified Dig Cit Nerd), I spend a TON of time thinking about how digital citizenship should be taught and learned. At some point in my recent ponderings, my Inner Voice yelled at me: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE. *THAT* is what Digital Citizenship should be!

[Photo credit: Patient Care Technician]
So many things in our lives have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Going to a ballgame. Grocery shopping. Taking public transportation. Attending a cultural event. Most of these things, we learned because we grew up watching them, or maybe made an effort to learn by observing others. There wasn’t a formal class on “how to buy vegetables” or “being quiet during the movie”; there were just the cultural norms and expectations that we absorbed from our experiences. We learned the Standard Operating Procedures of each of those very normal life experiences from what we observed and what we were shown.

How is one’s behavior different at a baseball game different from what it might be at an opera? How is buying vegetables at a Farmer’s Market different from making a purchase at a Wal-Mart? How does someone learn which fork or spoon to use at a formal dining event? Maybe we get explicit directions from someone more experienced, or maybe we figure it out from observation, but somebody has to show us what the norm is: the Standard Operating Procedure.

Sadly, there are a bunch of people on social media these days who provide horrendous examples for behavioral norms. So it’s up to us teachers to try to right those wrongs. We, as teachers, have a unique opportunity to impact the current cultural norm that communicates “anybody can say anything they want, any time” and to make a positive impact on what has been called “the Internet shouting factory.”

A while back, I spoke to several AVID classes at one of our senior high schools. I got the best quote ever, from a young lady named Naj:

Screenshot 2017-03-08 at 7.23.19 PM

Wow! She articulated in two sentences what I’d been trying to put into words for months! Showing kids what to do and how to act should be our Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to Digital Citizenship. We need to be able to show our students what the norms are.

Teaching students at an early age to be the same online as they are in real life should be SOP.

Celebrating others publicly should be SOP.

Guiding students to use social media for social good: SOP.

Mentoring students into positions of digital leadership: SOP.

Giving students opportunities to make positive contributions to the digital landscape (for example, with projects like CLICK*): SOP.

Talking aloud about what is on your smart phone and explaining what you decided to include (or not) in a Tweet or Facebook post: SOP.

Showing students how to use their devices for learning, instead of just entertainment: SOP.

Teaching students about privacy policies, website/”fake news” evaluation, citing sources: SOP.

Discussing ethical challenges that new technologies like Artificial Intelligence present: SOP.

Getting your students to determine the norms for their online behavior, and then revisiting those norms frequently, could become your SOP. Co-creating, with your students, the Standard Operating Procedures for digital citizenship allow positive norms to develop organically and naturally, with new students learning by observation what those norms and expectations are.

One thing I know for sure, things don’t become “Standard Operating Procedure” from a one-time conversation, a single pre-packaged lesson, or one “digital citizenship event.” It is the constant small doses of SOP, repeated frequently over a student’s entire school career, that ingrains the values and the lessons that we hope they take with them. What is your current Standard Operating Procedure for digital citizenship? What are the cultural norms for social media use in your situation? If they’re not as positive as what you might like, what can you do to tweak your SOP?

I can’t wait to hear back from you on how you’re working to be a digital culture change agent.




*shameless self-promotion



3 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship as Standard Operating Procedure

  1. Standard Operating Procedure…yes,yes, yes. Great examples. I love the student quote reminding us that we need to teach the “how to” not the “not to”. Our school has just introduced school wide digital portfolios which have lead to lots of good conversations about the how/why to.


  2. The challenge is helping colleagues and administrators move past the “one-and-done” model for teaching #DigCit and on to a model where #DigCit is embedded, modeled, promoted and celebrated across the school day and curriculum.

    Liked by 1 person

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