Date of Award
Doctor of Education in Instructional Technology
Dr. Tiffany A. Roman
First Committee Member
Dr. Matthew L. Wilson
Second Committee Member
Dr. Iván Jorrín Abellán
Prior research indicates that researchers and teachers feel that digital citizenship should be an essential part of a student’s education; however, there is a lack of knowledge about teachers’ perceptions of the efficacy and challenges of digital citizenship initiatives. It is unclear which digital citizenship instructional strategies support effective curriculum implementation, enhance students’ safety and learning, and reduce educational disparities. Addressing this gap in understanding is crucial to the ongoing development of digital citizenship education and ensuring that students are adequately prepared to navigate the digital world responsibly. In this dissertation, I examined the perspectives of six Georgia high school teachers, all actively engaged in the implementation of a digital citizenship curriculum, on said digital citizenship curriculum along with the challenges and concerns that these teachers face in teaching digital citizenship.
This phenomenographic study was informed by the theories of social constructivism and connectivism. Additionally, nine elements of digital citizenship and a framework that included self-identity in digital environments, activity online, fluency for the digital tools, and ethics for digital environments (SAFE Framework) served as a guiding lens for analysis. This study was comprised of pre- and post-interviews, observations, and a focus group interview. The interviews were semi-structured, and each participant was interviewed twice. Interviews focused on participants’ initial perspectives and approaches to digital citizenship education as well as their experiences implementing digital citizenship lessons. Participants chose a digital citizenship lesson for individual observation, followed by a collaborative focus group discussion exploring the concept and challenges of implementing digital citizenship after the completion of individual interviews and observations.
Using the data spiral analysis that allowed for the reduction of data down to manageable units, several key themes emerged. Participants, despite teaching the same curriculum, all had differing perceptions of what digital citizenship meant and encompassed. Participants highlighted the challenges of implementing a digital citizenship curriculum, which included a lack of time and feeling unprepared, as well as a range of concerns that the participants had for their students, including mental health and worry over consequences for future job and college prospects. Implications from the study include the need for a unified definition of digital citizenship and a goal for digital citizenship education at the school and district level. Additional recommendations include a need for teacher training, potential changes to how digital citizenship curriculum is integrated into student learning, including the consideration of introducing a new class dedicated to digital citizenship or extending the allocated time within the current curriculum to ensure comprehensive coverage and the creation of more time for teachers to implement digital citizenship curriculum.