Digital Citizenship: A Community-Based Approach


Susan M. Bearden

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    My best friend is a high school math teacher. When I started working on the Corwin Connected Educators series, I excitedly told her about the power of using social media to connect with other educators. I passed on what I learned from the authors in this series: that the greatest resource educators have is each other. At a conference, she heard Jennie Magiera speak and finally made the leap to getting on Twitter. Although I wasn’t sure she would continue tweeting, she did, and even joined Twitter chats like #connectedtl and #slowmathchat. A few days later, she texted me saying, “I seriously cannot thank you enough. You have changed my life.”

    Being “connected” seems deceptively simple: Just get on Twitter, right? But that’s really not enough. For those who truly embrace connectedness, it’s a lifestyle change, an openness to sharing and learning in an entirely new environment. We’re seeing the impact of this shift in mindset worldwide. Policies are changing, new jobs in education are being created, hitherto impossible collaborations are happening, pedagogy is evolving, and there’s a heightened awareness of each person’s individual impact. All of these changes are explored in the Connected Educators series.

    While you can see the full list of books on the series page, we’re introducing several new books to the series—published in the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016. These books each contribute something unique and necessary not only for educators who are new to the world of connected education, but also for those who have been immersed in it for some time.

    Tom Whitby, coauthor of The Relevant Educator, has brought together a group of experienced connected educators in his new book, The Educator’s Guide to Creating Connections. Contributors Pam Moran, George Couros, Kyle Pace, Adam Bellow, Lisa Nielsen, Kristen Swanson, Steven Anderson, and Shannon McClintock Miller discuss the ways that connectedness has impacted them and the benefits it can have for all educators—policy makers, school and district leaders, and teachers.

    While all connected educators are evangelists for being connected, connectedness does not necessarily prevent common problems, such as isolation in leadership. In Breaking Out of Isolation, Spike Cook, Jessica Johnson, and Theresa Stager explain how connectedness can alleviate the loneliness leaders can feel in their position and also, when used effectively, help leaders maintain balance in their lives and stay motivated.

    For districts and schools embracing the connected mindset and empowering all of their learners to use technology, a solid plan for digital citizenship is a must. In Digital Citizenship, Susan M. Bearden provides a look at how leaders can prepare teachers and students for the new responsibilities of using technology and interacting with others on a truly global platform.

    Connected education provides unique opportunities for teachers in their classrooms as well. In Standing in the Gap, Lisa Dabbs and Nicol R. Howard explore the ways that social media can specifically help new teachers find resources, connect to mentors, and encourage each other in their careers. Robert W. Dillon, Ben Gilpin, A. J. Juliani, and Erin Klein show how teachers can purposefully integrate technology and empower their students in both physical and digital classrooms in Redesigning Learning Spaces.

    One of the most powerful impacts connected education can have is in reaching marginalized populations. In Confident Voices, John Spencer shows how social media and other technology tools can empower English language learners. Billy Krakower and Sharon LePage Plante have also discovered that technology can reach special and gifted learners as well.

    The books in the Corwin Connected Educators series are supported by a companion website featuring videos, articles, downloadable forms, and other resources to help you as you start and continue your journey. Best of all, the authors in the series want to connect with you! We’ve provided their Twitter handles and other contact information on the companion website.

    Once you’ve taken the step to joining a network, don’t stop there. Share what you’re doing; you never know when it will help someone else!

    —Peter DeWitt, Series Editor @PeterMDeWitt —Ariel Bartlett, Acquisitions Editor @arielkbartlett


    If it takes a village to help our students become good digital citizens, it also takes a village to write a book about digital citizenship! I am indebted to so many who helped me on my own digital citizenship journey and paved the way for this book to be written.

    Thank you to Dr. Mike Ribble and Jason Ohler, whose books on digital citizenship are a must read for anyone wanting to learn more about the subject; to Dr. Marialice Curran, whose passion for digital citizenship is an inspiration; to Anne Lahr, Brad Meyer, Dr. Joan McGettigan, and Jen Scheffer, for allowing me to share their stories; and to Katrina Stevens, who suggested I write a book in the first place!

    I am deeply indebted to the wonderful staff at Corwin, especially to Acquisitions Editor Ariel Bartlett, without whose patience and feedback this book would not have been written. Thanks also to Copy Editor Deanna Noga and Project Editor Amy Joy Schroller.

    And finally, thank you to Dr. Kelly Mendoza, the Director of Professional Development, Common Sense Education, who provided insightful and invaluable feedback on the initial manuscript and who has done so much to advance the cause of digital citizenship education.

    About the Author

    Susan M. Bearden is the Director of Information Technology at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Florida. A former teacher, she frequently presents about social media, education technology, and digital citizenship at national and state conferences including International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), Miami Device, and the Digital Citizenship Summit. In 2015, she was named to the Center for Digital Education’s list of “Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers” and received the “Making IT Happen” Award from the Florida Society for Technology in Education. In 2014, she received the Bammy Award for School Technologist of the Year and was a finalist in the education talk show host category. Bearden cofounded and moderates the #edtechchat and #digcit (digital citizenship) Twitter chats, which are weekly online discussions about education technology and digital citizenship. She is a regular contributor to the popular EdTechChat Radio broadcast for the BAM Radio Network ( A popular guest blogger, she has written for a variety of online publications including the Huffington Post, SmartBrief on Education, and Edsurge, and was named one of Common Sense Education’s Favorite Digital Citizenship Bloggers to Follow in 2014. Inspired by her experiences with Twitter, she developed Tweechme, a mobile app specifically designed to teach educators how to build Personal Learning Networks on Twitter. Connect with her on Twitter @s_bearden and @Tweechmeapp or at


    This book is dedicated to my husband, Christopher Bearden, whose encouragement and support knows no limits; and to my father, Roger A. Morrissette, a lifelong educator who dedicated his life to helping children and making the world a better place.

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