Home Digital Literacy Empowering Students Through Digital Citizenship and Social-Emotional Learning

Empowering Students Through Digital Citizenship and Social-Emotional Learning

by Guest Blogger
social-emotional learning

Society, including education, has significantly changed even from just five short years ago. Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and that affects how we interact with one another. With this in mind, how do we empower students for life as adults in this new paradigm?

    • First, students need to be socially aware of others, as well as their own behavior.
    • Second, they need to be accountable for their actions and learning in both the real and digital world.
    •  Third, they need to become technology savvy while learning to use it appropriately.

Has technology hindered students from understanding the impact their behavior has on others? Or have we simply relaxed as a culture regarding common courtesy?  Whatever the reason, school districts are turning to social-emotional learning hoping to empower students to be contributing members of society.

What Is Social-Emotional Learning?

Respect yourself.org defines social awareness as the ability to understand the emotions and needs of others while using emotional cues. Many students today are struggling socially and emotionally. Some are becoming self-focused and lack empathy and compassion towards others.  These skills were once taught at home.  Now it appears the school system is becoming more involved in helping students navigate their emotions and learn from social cues.  Social-Emotional Learning educates the whole child using a systematic approach to teach students how to understand and control their emotions, build empathy, and foster relationships (Clayton, 2017). In order to become a contributing member of society and a positively engaged citizen, it is important to possess these skills.

Developing Digital Citizens

Being a responsible citizen also includes being a responsible digital citizen. Mike Ribble defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.” He further states there are nine elements of digital citizenship including:

  • Digital Access
  • Digital Commerce
  • Digital Communication
  • Digital Literacy
  • Digital Etiquette
  • Digital Law
  • Digital Rights and Responsibilities
  • Digital Health and Wellness
  • Digital Security.

Each one is important, but I feel in order to best teach appropriate online behavior while developing appropriate social skills, it is important to focus on Digital Etiquette and Digital Rights and Responsibilities.

In order to understand the ramifications of how their behavior can impact others, students first need to understand their rights and responsibilities as both a real-world and a digital citizen. Rights and responsibilities include the privileges, rules, and expectations we have as citizens. Unfortunately, many people act differently online due to the anonymity provided by their computer screen and the internet. We may say and do things online we would not do when speaking with someone face to face. In fact, it appears we have become desensitized to the effect our behavior has on others.

Technology-Based Solutions

Digital curriculum, such as that available through Common Sense, empowers students to behave appropriately online. Another solution, Ripple Effects, is a technology-based, social-emotional learning program that can be personalized to the needs of your campus and students. It is a tiered intervention program. Tier 1, Universal, includes charter education and life skills teaching all students how to be more aware of themselves and empathetic towards others. Tier 2, Targeted Prevention, provides targeted intervention to students with some risk factors, giving individualized mental health supports and consequences for negative actions. Tier 3, Indicated Intervention, provides intensive intervention behavior support for students at risk. The tutorials address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students. For this reason, using social-emotional learning programs lets students handle their emotions more effectively and become more compassionate and empathetic towards others. The fact is a technology-based curriculum will most likely help hold the attention of students and keep them engaged.

Providing Voice and Choice

Regardless of our own personal technology proficiency, teachers must embrace and utilize technology proficiently themselves if they are going to empower their students. Students need to master basic computer skills such as creating a word document, slide presentations, and spreadsheets, but they also need advanced skills such as video design, social media integration, gaming, etc. It is also important to use a learner-centered approach that provides active learning opportunities involving choice, ownership, voice, and authentic learning, otherwise known as COVA (Harapnuik, 2018).

Choice provides personalized learning through guided discovery. In essence, students are free to choose how they want to develop, create, and present their evidence of learning. By doing so, students have ownership over their learning, which typically leads to an increase in engagement. When students are encouraged to use their own voice, their level of understanding and mastery deepens. All things considered, authentic learning experiences provide students with the power to utilize resources and tools that engage and motivate them, which ultimately makes learning more relevant.

Empowering the Next Generation

Education today is so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Today’s educators need to be equipped with the means to grow our students academically, socially, and emotionally by utilizing digital tools and advances in technology to assist them. Digital citizenship, social awareness, and technological proficiency are key to empowering students to grow into productive and contributing members of our society.  Above all, it is time to acknowledge the current challenges facing education, our students, teachers, administrators, and society as a whole and begin an open and honest dialogue on the changes needed in education.  Failure to do so may be detrimental to future generations.


Clayton, V. (2017). The psychological approach to educating kids.  The Atlantic Retrieved on April 25, 2018 from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/the-social-emotional-learning-effect/521220/

EdTech. (2018). The digital citizenship curriculum: digital literacy, cyber hygiene and more. Retrieved on April 19, 2018 from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2018/04/The-Digital-Citizenship-Curriculum-Digital-Literacy-Cyber-Hygiene-and-More-perfcon

It’s All About the Learning. (2018). COVA. Retrieved on April 26, 2018 from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6991

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

Ripple Effects. (2018). Retrieved on April 26, 2018 from https://rippleeffects.com/

Thibodeaux, T. N., Harapnuik, D. K, & Cummings, C. D. (2017). Factors that contribute to ePortfolio persistence. International Journal of ePortfolio, 7(1), p. 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.theijep.com/pdf/IJEP257.pdf

This is a guest blog by Dina Perez. Dina is a history teacher at Cockrill Middle School in Mckinney ISD.


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