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New Breed Instructional Forensics Group™ March 1, 2018

Digital Literacy & Citizenship:

Models for Christian Schools


Timothy M. Stafford, PhD

New Breed Instructional Forensics Group™ March 1, 2018 Digital Literacy & Citizenship: Models for Christian SchoolsRU Institute ​ - All Rights Reserved Page | 1 " id="pdf-obj-0-12" src="pdf-obj-0-12.jpg">


As the 21st Century continues to introduce a heightened level of technological improvements to our culture as a whole, this brings us to a greater awareness of the need to define and approach a level of literacy with regard to these technological advances and how they may or may not impact education in general and then education as a particular institution. These discussions of philosophy are not frivolous; in fact, they are pertinent to the continued growth of our understanding of the impact of education for 21st century learners and the educational process that will prepare them for the next phases of their lives as laborers and, more importantly, as a disciples of Christ.

The Scope of Digital Literacy

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Definitions of digital literacy are wide in scope. Most of the current thoughts behind defining digital literacy come from a more technical set of skills and not from a broader sense of literacy as a holistic learning framework (Chadwick and Howard, 2008). Digital literacy involves mastering ideas and not keystrokes (Goodfellow, 2011). This sense of ideas can be misconstrued as a divergence from soft skills that students must be aware of in order to scholastically or industrially succeed. The knowledge of these soft skills, like keyboarding and the use of collaborative educational tools, must be an integrative part of a student's education but the concept of digital literacy can not remain at this level. The term “literacy” raises the expectation of the learning objective to a much higher level of understanding and discovery than merely learning a set of skills. Higher order thinking skills must be a part of the objectives that help define the process of teaching towards digital literacy.

Defining Digital Citizenship

If digital literacy is one side of a coin, then digital citizenship is the other side of that same coin. It is important to realize that one cannot look at the issue of digital literacy without considering the impacts of digital citizenship and how it is addressed on both a personal and an institutional level. Institutions often make policies about digital citizenship without regard to the effects of those policies on digital literacy or on the students themselves (Dominguez, 2016). Digital societies, although they exist in binary computer platforms, are not in and of themselves binary; they are complex due to the presence of human interaction within these platforms. One tenth grade student said it best, “The problem with cyber bullying is that real people get really hurt and commit suicide and really die. Snapchat doesn’t feel the pain of that, we all do.” We as educators must purposefully integrate digital citizenship into our educational philosophies so that we are training the 21st Century learners to deal with a human world that exists in the vacuum of a binary one.

A Model for Digital Literacy

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All of this being said, and with these parameters established, the following diagram shows a working model of digital literacy that can be useful in setting our institutional objectives as a Christian School.

A Model for Digital Literacy Page | 3 All of this being said, and with these


The aggregation of data should provider the students the skills, both cognitive and tactile, that would help them answer the question, “Where can I go to find credible information?” These are the skills that help them create personal learning environments that work in a ubiquitous nature so that students can find the information that will help them through the discovery processes of learning. This can be accomplished via many different platforms; the function and organization that aggregation requires are the ultimate objectives of this piece of the digital literacy model.


Analysis has a twofold purpose within the construct of digital literacy. First, it serves as a set of skills for the students that act as a system of checks and balances to the integrity

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of the information that they are aggregating and curating. This is critical because they must create a system of scaffolding for themselves that will bear the weight of the truth in a matter - not just a varying set of opinions. This is accomplished by helping the students realize the second purpose of the analysis process which is the process of assessment to find the truth. Students must learn how to test information to find the truth and to understand what is really happening within the constructs of an issue.

For Christian educators, the critical issue here is in the Biblical worldview and how that is translated to the students in light of the subjects that are being taught. Since Christians believe in the inerrancy of scripture, as an example, then Scripture stands as not merely a reference, but a critical test in the efficacy of a truth that is aggregated through a personal learning environment. For many subjects this may not prove to be as much of a problem as in other subjects. But there is a need for a purposeful presentation of the truth of Scripture and its power of assessment for the life of a disciple at any age.


It is not enough to merely aggregate information and then analyze it - although those skills in partnership can create infrastructures of truth finding for the individual that can give the appearance of literacy for those who are studying and it creates a simple quietness that is often desirable in the classroom, as well as the home study area. However, real literacy can only be tested through some form of communication. This document is communicating the aggregation and analysis of a wide variety of subjects, papers, opinions and ideas that are associated with educational philosophy, educational technology, epistemology, curricular design, cyber security and many other subjects. There would be no use for that aggregation and analysis to occur without the production of some form of communique to pass that analysis along and then for that information to be vetted through the minds, epistemologies and analysis of others. None of the literacy process can be performed in a vacuum or we risk the reality that knowledge will either never occur or never be passed on.

A Model for Digital Citizenship

The other side of the coin, Digital Citizenship, must then coincide and become symbiotic with the premises and objectives of Digital Literacy. Further, as a Christian School, we must look at “citizen” through the construct of the Biblical worldview so as not to side step the reality of discipleship as the end goal. The model presented here uses some of the themes that are currently being propagated in the educational industry (REMC, 2017) but special attention has been given to its connection to the Biblical worldview.

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Page | 5 ● Honoring God/Respect of Self and Others Christ first is the overarching issue

Honoring God/Respect of Self and Others

Christ first is the overarching issue in the ongoing discipleship of man. It is the struggle of man at every level to put Christ first and from that place of superiority one can then understand the role of a servant that he must accept in order to live in such a way as to put Christ first. Further, beyond relinquishing that ultimate superior position to Christ, others then must be seen with a value that only can be defined from a greater definitive power than what we can define ourselves. That being said, digital citizenship requires that everything that we do online honors God (regardless of its value or intention within the scope of a school or other institution). Digital citizenship also places a great emphasis on the tolerance of others in the sense that children must understand that although they can remain elitist to ideas (the truth of God’s word for instance) that they must remain egalitarian and protective towards people.

Learning and Connecting with Others

George Siemens and Stephen Downes (2014) have created some intriguing ideas about digital learning that can be of great help to institutions as they consider the ideas of digital literacy and digital citizenship and how to define the roles of the digital citizen. Consider this example, a young woman watches a video of a chef showing how to bake a cherry pie. She also publishes a video about how to change the oil in her car. The chef who made the video about how to make the cherry pie is now watching the young

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woman's video about how to change the oil in his car. Both of these digital citizens are learners and teachers simultaneously and ubiquitously. This is one of the inherent powers of digital spaces. The roles of the learner and the “expert” are interchangeable.

Another important function of digital spaces is the peer review aspect of its infrastructure so that the truth of what is being seen can be more rightly honed in every presentation. Viewers leave comments, or create other videos that show different ways to bake a cherry pie or change the oil in a car. This amalgamated reality of digital spaces allows for a learner to have a greater capacity to understand the nuances of what they are trying to learn and at the same time enter the conversation and add value to it as well. These nuances to digital spaces need to be emphasized in the context of digital citizenship so that the 21st Century learner knows not only how to find information but add value to that information through their own education and expertise.

Protecting of Yourself and Others

There are three dangers in a binary digital world. First, there is the danger that one can believe that if it is on the internet or some other form of digital communication, then it must be true. Second, there is a danger in believing that ideas, no matter how good or hostile, can be deleted. Digital citizenship demands that there is an understanding of the permanence of digital environments and that anything said in a digital environment could be accessible forever. Finally, there is a danger in believing that what is said in a digital environment will be completely understood by other humans receiving the information.

Another way to see this is through the words of a third grader, “It’s ok, when somebody says something on Instagram that is mean, it doesn't hurt the other person like it would if I said it to their face.” This type of belief brings a real danger to the communicative properties of digital spaces. Therefore digital citizenship demands that citizens realize that, although binary in function and form, digital communication is face to face.

A Realistic Translation to the Curricula

Based on the foundations of the models discussed for both digital literacy and digital citizenship, the following is a high level but functional translation of high order thinking and soft skills to the various grade clusters:

Lower Elementary School (Kindergarten through Second Grades)

While many soft skills are more a perceptual need rather than an actual need in these grade levels, what is important is that these students have basic knowledge of the user type skills needed to work on digital devices. Many of the students have some skills from using household digital appliances like cell phones and ipads but the use of a mouse or trackpad and a keyboard

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can be useful in introducing them to these skills at a very early age. Many times these skills can be associated with online tools and games that can help them further their academic knowledge while developing these soft skills. Further, as the students learn to read and write, they can begin to connect the use of technology to the discovery process (especially in Grade 2) by participating in very prescriptive projects that will help them discover what is available for learning in digital environments.

Finally, the students at this age need to begin talking about digital citizenship and safety. For Christian schools this can be taught in conjunction with character trait studies and other discussions of social behavior and what God expects from us. Cyber safety should be included in general discussions about talking to strangers, giving our addresses and phone numbers, etc. This allows the students to begin thinking about digital citizenship and apply those citizenship truths to the digital spaces where they already reside.

Upper Elementary School (Third through Fifth Grades)

Starting in third grade and continuing through the fifth grade, students need to be introduced to keyboarding as an extension of their penmanship and writing studies. Digital spaces also need to start to be recognized for their scholastic value and so prescriptive projects that are grade appropriate are important so that these students begin to hone their abilities to use digital environments to aggregate, analyze and communicate information. At this level the students also can be given digital literacy assessments to identify weaknesses and then they can continue to work on those weakness the course of their studies in these grades.

From a digital citizenship standpoint, these grades need to continue to address a variety of issues that surround thethree components of digital citizenship and the nine subcomponents that are involved within them. The students need to understand their role in the digital space and how to treat others in these spaces. There needs to be an awareness of the positives and negatives of social media spaces and in the older grades (especially 5th grade) the students can start to look at the validation of information online through project based modules that help them understand the necessity of understanding the integrity of online information.

Middle School (Sixth through Eighth Grades)

Middle school students need to develop a dependency on the use of digital spaces as a part of their everyday existence in learning environments. These students should be completing projects that give them the skills to set up personal learning environments for themselves and then focus those environments towards the aggregation, analysis and communication of information about every subject in their schedule. Different tools can be used for different subjects, but all must meet standards of integrity that will endure so that the students are empowered to build an arsenal in their personal learning environment. Additionally, the students should be developing higher order skills to analyze the “truth” of what is being aggregated and how that “truth” compares to a Biblical worldview (absolute truth). Finally,

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digital tools should be the primary use of communication. Creative uses of different kinds of tools should be encouraged so that the students understand how to utilize a network of tools to communicate what they have aggregated and analyzed. Collaborative work should also be a part of the curricula but should not overwhelm the curricula.

Digital citizenship needs to be enforced on a social and scholastic level starting in middle school. In elementary school there is a concentration on the social aspects of digital citizenship moving towards the scholastic. In middle school the social aspects are still discussed, as this should be an ongoing discussion, however, the scholastic areas need to be emphasized. Plagiarism, information integrity (the use of Wikipedia for example) and other high level scholastic issues need to be more fully addressed so that the students understand their responsibilities as digital citizens to protect themselves and their own integrity through the integrity of their work. This will help them better prepare for high school level work which will demand a high level of scholastic integrity and depth of communication.

High School (Ninth Through Twelfth Grades)

The philosophy in high school needs to be based on the rigorous digital demands of both the collegiate realm as well as the business sector. These students need to develop soft skills that include the creation and use of various forms of data aggregation, data analysis and communicative platforms to deliver higher level presentations of knowledge and understanding. Digital spaces should be the primary location for communicating ideas and information and these communication platforms should be used interchangeably with live presentations, creative digital presentation and other forms of communication beyond report writing.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (2012) has been used as the definitive guide to understanding what types of activities stimulate and develop higher order thinking skills and the goal is to push the students to the highest levels of higher order thinking as often as possible using digital platforms as much as possible. The following figures show Bloom’s updated Taxonomy with coordinate skills and the second figure shows an example of what digital platforms could be used to help develop those skills.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (Updated 2012)

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Bloom’s Taxonomy (Updated 2012) Page | 9 Bloom’s Taxonomy (with Applied Digital Spaces) ©2018 RU Institute

Bloom’s Taxonomy (with Applied Digital Spaces)

Bloom’s Taxonomy (Updated 2012) Page | 9 Bloom’s Taxonomy (with Applied Digital Spaces) ©2018 RU Institute

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This is only a small representation of how higher order thinking can be translated to digital spaces and, although the recommendation here is for high school to focus on these kinds of digital applications, middle school, and in some cases upper elementary school, students would benefit from prescriptive use of these platforms for the sake of exposure and to stimulate different levels of higher order thinking.

With regard to Digital Citizenship, high school students need continued education in cyber etiquette and security - especially in terms of commerce and work related digital spaces and communications. High school students should have a deeper understanding of the permanence of digital communications and how different platforms can have an effect on their ability to move forward in job acquisition, function and promotion. Juniors and Seniors in high school should be able to instruct younger students on basic digital citizenship behaviors as well as discuss case studies that include psychological issues of digital dependency and its effect on relationships and other social constructs. Further, digital integrity must become a core value to them so that they are functioning in digital spaces without plagiarism or other integrity invalidating practices. Digital citations and other key skills in report writing need also to be fully implemented in all of their writing assignments, including those assignments that use digital spaces. The school-wide implementation of a tool such as NoodleToolsis an excellent idea and can be easily implemented into any curriculum for any style guide chosen (APA, MLA, CMOS, etc.) Additionally, it can be integrated with the Google Suite and other digital applications.

Final Thoughts

Digital literacy and digital citizenship are important discussions for Christian schools and should be at the forefront of our educational planning, policy writing and curriculum development. The academic, business, and industrial worlds are demanding a high level of digital literacy and citizenship from their employees and these are skills and ideas that will only become more complicated and necessary as the world continues to digitally evolve.

As a final recommendation, I fully support the use of the digital assessment tools, programs and activities that learning.comhas developed for all grade levels. They have been on the cutting edge of research and development on the subject of digital literacy and teaching digital natives for more than a decade and their assessments and programming are excellent. I also recommend that any school look at the REMC Association of Michigan's work on the 9 themes of digital citizenship. It is an excellent foundational source that any Christian school can adopt and rework using a Biblical worldview. REMC provides a robust set of objectives and scaffolding for a holistic approach to digital citizenship and its implementation and evaluation.


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Blooms Digital Taxonomy Pyramid. (n.d.). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from

Chadwick, A., & Howard, P. N. (Eds.). (2010). Routledge handbook of internet politics. London:


Clark, D. (n.d.). Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from

Dominguez, A. (2016). Developing Digital Literacy: Teaching Research In The Digital Age And Building Ethical Digital Citizenship. ICERI2016 Proceedings. doi:10.21125/iceri.2016.0961

Goodfellow, R. (2011). Literacy, literacies and the digital in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education,16(1), 131-144. doi:10.1080/13562517.2011.544125

About the Author

References Page | 11 Blooms Digital Taxonomy Pyramid. (n.d.). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from Chadwick,St. Thomas University ​ in Miami, Florida. Dr. Stafford is the president of ​ RU Institute ​ , a consulting and project management firm for educational and image building projects, and ​ New Breed Instructional Forensics Group ​ , the research and publishing arm of RU Institute, and also serves as the senior marketing analyst for Ablaze Media, a full service agency speicalzign in marketing and development of non-profit organizations. Dr. Stafford is also the senior educational consultant and the infrastructural and curricula designer for an international school that services ​ third culture kids in expat families ​ all over the world. He currently lives in Central Florida with his wife, victoria and children, Joshua and Danae. ©2018 RU Institute - All Rights Reserved 11 " id="pdf-obj-10-21" src="pdf-obj-10-21.jpg">

Dr. Timothy Stafford, PhD is an award winning educator, lecturer, and researcher in the areas of learning theory, instructional design for online learning, educational leadership, epistemology and ubiquitous learning. He is a highly sought after educational, e-learning, and accreditation consultant/analyst and has dozens of clients across many industries.

He currently a Dissertation Chair, Instructional Design Support Coordinator and Associate Professor at St. Thomas Universityin Miami, Florida. Dr. Stafford is the president of RU Institute, a consulting and project management firm for educational and image building projects, and New Breed Instructional Forensics Group, the research and publishing arm of RU Institute, and also serves as the senior marketing analyst for Ablaze Media, a full service agency speicalzign in marketing and development of non-profit organizations.

Dr. Stafford is also the senior educational consultant and the infrastructural and curricula designer for an international school that services third culture kids in expat familiesall over the world. He currently lives in Central Florida with his wife, victoria and children, Joshua and Danae.