Monitoring Technology Misuse & Abuse

A Five-Step Plan for Creating a Digital Citizenship Program in Your School.

Over the last two years, it has become evident that a behavior pattern of misuse and abuse with respect to technology is beginning to emerge in our society. This outbreak of technology misuse and abuse is documented in continual news coverage on TV, in newspapers and on the Internet — both inside and outside of schools. The endless list of misuse and abuse includes hacking into school servers, using e-mail to intimidate or threaten students, illegally downloading music, plagiarizing information from the Internet, using cellular phones during class time, accessing pornographic Web sites, and playing video games during class. Therefore, if you are using technology in your district, you must begin to deal with digital citizenship in a significant way.

Five-Step Program

One of the first steps in dealing with digital citizenship is awareness — determining whether digital citizenship is a significant issue within your school district. Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of behavior with regard to technology use. Therefore, the Digital Citizenship Audit is a quick way for your administrators and teachers to determine if their technology is being properly used, misused or abused. Start creating your own program by following these five steps:

Step 1: Complete the Digital Citizenship Audit (see chart below).

Step 2: Analyze your results using the scoring guides (see Page 25).

Step 3: Have your technology leadership team discuss the following questions after they have completed the audit:

  • Is there a significant problem?
  • If there is a significant problem, how aware are teachers, students, board members and community members?

Step 4: Engage stakeholders in a discussion of your audit findings and extend the discussion to include the following questions:

  • How do I use technology?
  • How does my technology behavior impact others?
  • What courtesy do I extend to others when I am using technology?
  • When using technology, d'es my behavior infringe on others' rights?
  • How do I/we use technology to learn new ideas?
  • Do I act responsible when using technology?
  • Do I act in a way to keep myself safe when using technology?

Step 5: Design a digital citizenship program in your school (or district) that deals with the appropriate technology behavior. Have your technology leadership team focus on the following questions as they design the program:

  • With regard to technology use, how does our emphasis on 'rules and regulations' compare with our emphasis on 'education of our stakeholders'?
  • Where should digital citizenship be taught in our curriculum?
  • Who should teach digital citizenship?
  • What kinds of staff development opportunities do we need to provide administrators, teachers, staff and stakeholders as a prerequisite to effectively implement a digital citizenship program?

      Technology-infused teaching and learning has become a necessary part of the educational environment. However, that digital landscape is being littered with examples of poor and unacceptable forms of digital citizenship. Digital citizenship programs require awareness, critical analysis and well-conceived strategies in order to help eliminate this waste. Technology leaders must raise their expectations for technology-infused teaching and learning. It is time to focus equally on the effective use of technology as well as the appropriate use of technology. We cannot afford one without the other if we expect to produce productive citizens in the 21st century.

      Scoring Guide: Individual (Horizontal) Score

      Total the points for each individual category horizontally. This score provides a general picture of the relevancy of the specific digital citizenship issue.

      4-5: Somewhat Important or Extremely Important — You have concerns about digital citizenship issues and are either working on solutions or would like to begin.

      2-3: Neither Important nor Unimportant — You are not aware of digital citizenship issues or your school is not using technology.

      1: Extremely Unimportant — Digital citizenship is either unimportant or you have already solved problems of technology misuse and abuse in your school.

      Scoring Guide: Holistic (Vertical) Score

      For the holistic score, total points in each of the vertical columns, then add up the number of points in the bottom right square. This score provides a picture of the general level of problems that you are experiencing with digital citizenship. Remember, a high score is not completely bad news; it just means that you have a high level of technology use in your school. It also means that digital citizenship is not being practiced by students.

      40-50: This score shows that use of technology is high in your district. Unfortunately, technology misuse and abuse are also very high.

      30-39: This shows that technology use is fairly high. It also shows that technology misuse and abuse is relatively high.

      20-29: You are in the middle of the road. Either your school is not using a great deal of technology or you are unaware of the issues related to digital citizenship.

      10-19: If you have minimal problems with technology misuse and abuse, you are either not a technology-infused school or your digital citizenship problems are negligible.


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    • This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.