Creating a Shared Vision for an Acceptable Use Policy and Digital Citizenship Curriculum

The ISTE Teacher Standard 4 provides four benchmarks for promoting and modeling digital citizenship and responsibility. My focus is to “address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources” (ISTE 2016).

My Question
How can a school promote legal and ethical behavior in teachers’ professional practice by 1) Involving teachers in creating, reviewing, and revising the school’s AUP; and 2) Embedding a digital citizenship curriculum organically in academic subject curriculum maps?

My Resolution

Acceptable Use Policy: It Takes a Village
When my school began a technology overhaul in 2012, including moving to a 1:1 laptop environment in middle school, we also created an acceptable use policy (AUP). Our goal for the AUP was for it to be a “living document” that would be shared and accessed regularly, as well as reviewed and updated at least once per year. We used the following resource as a guide: Common Sense Education: 1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies. We crafted our AUP with input from parents, teachers, and students, and published it after each group reviewed and approved it. Here is our current AUP:

We share our AUP at the beginning of the year with teachers (in-service), parents (first day of school parent event) and middle school students (1:1 laptop roll-out). We engage in review and update at the end of each year, with input collected from focus groups (teachers, parents, students). This process was/is no doubt relatively easy because we are a small private school; however, it is an important practice that we hope results in an increased feeling of investment in the educational journey of our school. Philadelphia teacher Mary Beth Hertz supports student review and revision of the school AUP in her blog post, “Social Media at School: Teaching Safety on the Virtual Playground” (2015).

Digital Citizenship: Working Together


The same year that we rolled out the 1:1 laptop program in our middle school (2013-2014), we invested in the Tamritz digital badge learning network—a badge learning platform designed by badge learning guru Sarah Blattner to use the principles of gamification to teach digital citizenship in a consortium of Jewish day schools. Tamritz offered a teacher professional development series, available in the summer, and a student digital citizenship curriculum that began in the fall. Several teachers participated in the teacher PD that summer, and reported that they felt much more prepared for the 1:1 laptop learning environment. In addition to the excellent learning materials prepared by Sarah Blattner, teachers were able to learn in an environment that was identical to what their students would experience in the student course. Teachers earned badges and interacted with educators at Jewish day schools from different cities all over the United States. In the fall, students interacted with other students at those same Jewish day schools. One benefit of our participation in the Tamritz badge learning network was the creation of a community of practice around the teaching of digital citizenship at the advent of a new focus on digital education initiatives in Jewish day schools. Another benefit was the introduction to online learning (professional development) to our teachers, many of whom have continued to pursue online learning about educational technology through webinars, etc. The teachers who formed communities of practice during the summer PD sessions continue to network about best practices in educational technology. The Tamritz badge learning network teacher summer PD and student digital citizenship courses were discontinued after the 2014-2015 school year; however, Sarah Blattner continues to work with schools to develop site-based badge learning platforms and multi-year technology plans. In fact, she provided guidance to my school as we developed a 3-year technology plan during the 2014-2015 school year.

This year (2015-2016), we adopted the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Curriculum at my school. As one of my school’s Technology Integration Specialists, I introduced the idea that teachers could incorporate digital citizenship lessons organically into their existing academic curriculum. Teachers were given time during that same session to examine and add lessons from the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Curriculum to their curriculum maps. Teachers also documented their commitment to teach lessons in a shared Google Sheet. The article, “ISTE: 3 ways to weave digital citizenship into your curriculum“, supports this effort and contains ideas for how teachers can integrate digital citizenship lessons into existing academic curriculum.

“The Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) in its 2010 report, Youth Safety on a Living Internet, submitted its recommendations for the promotion of digital citizenship elements in Pre-K-12 education as a national priority. The report stated that educators “in the process of teaching regular subjects, teach the constructive, mindful use of social media enabled by digital citizenship and new-media-literacy training” [18, p. 20]. These skills need to be presented in an organized manner to help students understand the connection between these elements. As the likelihood of a multi-generational work force in schools increases, training in digital citizenship will be needed for all groups—faculty members, students, and community members” (Ribble & Miller 2013).

I believe that embedding digital citizenship lessons organically into existing academic curriculum creates a common language among teachers and students around digital citizenship topics. Teachers know what their students know (because they were present for the teaching!), can seamlessly weave digital citizenship language and lessons into academic content lessons, and can swiftly and successfully react to digital citizenship issues that arise during the day-to-day use of educational technologies. For teachers to be able to guide their students in becoming digitally literate and responsible citizens, they also need to build their knowledge and practice. When all teachers and students are participating in digital literacy and citizenship development, all members of the learning community are that much closer to breaking a barrier to safe and equitable access that is caused by lack of information. To further model constant professional growth, I completed a digital citizenship course through Seattle Pacific University that involved becoming a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator. I encouraged all teachers who planned to teach digital citizenship lessons to consider applying to become certified educators through Common Sense. To read more about my experience, read my blog post: “Teaching Digital Citizenship: It’s Common Sense!” The goal of the technology team at my school is to work to become a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified School.


Works Cited

  1. Hertz, M. (2015, February 13). Social media at school: teaching safety on the virtual playground. Retrieved from
  2. Ribble, M. & Miller, T.N. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), pp. 137-145. Retrieved from:


  1. I think they key to promoting digital citizenship as a school – which you touched upon – is providing TIME for teachers to explore and find ways to integrate into their curriculum. Students get so much more out of lessons when they are relevant and seen as part of the curriculum, not just random lessons here and there.

    The word “community” runs through my head as I read your post. The work your school has done surrounding this topic has educated your students and teachers about how to safely navigate digital sources while building a strong foundation of community within your school. I hope this area continues to thrive within your school as staffing evolves over time.

  2. I absolutely agree! Simply promoting a curriculum will not result in implementation. Teachers need to be given time on task during scheduled PD to explore and plan integration.

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