Digital Literacy


Digital Literacy and Citizenship

Digital literacy refers to fluency in the use and security of interactive digital tools and searchable networks. This includes the ability to use digital tools safely and effectively for learning, collaborating and producing. Digital citizenship is a broader term that often incorporates the concept of digital literacy. Digital citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior when using technology.

Photo of students and a teacher with a laptop computer.“Digital Citizenship in Schools,” published by the International Society for Technology in Education, identifies digital literacy as one of nine key elements of digital citizenship:

  • Digital Access: Can all users participate in a digital society at acceptable levels if they choose?
  • Digital Commerce: Do users have the knowledge and protection to buy and sell in a digital world?
  • Digital Communication: Do users understand the various digital communication methods and when each is appropriate?
  • Digital Literacy: Have users taken the time to learn about digital technologies and do they share that knowledge with others?
  • Digital Etiquette: Do users consider others when using digital technologies?
  • Digital Law: Are users aware of laws (rules, policies) that govern the use of digital technologies?
  • Digital Rights and Responsibilities: Are users ready to protect the rights of others and to defend their own digital rights?
  • Digital Health and Wellness: Do users consider the risks (both physical and psychological) when using digital technologies?
  • Digital Security: Do users take the time to protect their information while taking precautions to protect others’ data as well?

State Policy Approaches

State legislatures are investing in programs and professional development to provide digital literacy and citizenship skills for students and educators. A handful of states are modifying teacher training program requirements to include digital age literacies.

  • Washington: SB 6273 (2016) concerns safe technology use and digital citizenship in public schools, provides a process in which students, parents or guardians, teachers, librarians, other school employees, administrators, and community representatives to engage in an ongoing discussion on safe technology use, internet use, digital citizenship, and media literacy as part of implementing the state's basic education goal and essential academic learning requirements for technology.
  • Utah: HB 213 (2015) requires a school community council to provide for education and awareness on safe technology utilization and digital citizenship that empowers a student to make smart media and online choices and a parent or guardian to know how to discuss safe technology use with their child.
  • Washington: SB 5294 (2015) relating to school library and technology programs, modifies teacher-librarian duties to include collaborating with schools to integrate information and technology into curriculum and instruction, including instructing other certificated staff about using and integrating information and technology literacy into instruction, provision of information management instruction, instruction in digital citizenship, and creation of a culture of reading in the school community.
  • Maine: SP 161 (2011) requires the commissioner of education to develop a program of technical assistance for instruction in digital literacy, including offering professional development and training for educators in the effective use of online learning resources. The technical assistance must include a model for instruction that promotes digital literacy for students; a clearinghouse of information on using online learning resources, including best practices in using open educational resources and open-source textbooks; and professional development and training for educators in effectively using online learning resources.

Additional Resources

NCSL Resources

Other Resources