Date of Submission



The emergence of the global digital world has created large-scale transformation in how individuals and societies function. Citizenship in twenty_first century society now includes digital citizenship – which is described in the research as the norms of appropriate, responsible behaviour regarding technology use. The rapid change of digital technologies has generated a need for new ways to develop responsible citizens. Schools are being challenged to address an increasing range of broader societal issues that influence individuals’ responsible citizenship such as cyber bullying and identity theft. The research problem addressed in this thesis concerns how learning communities cultivate responsible citizens. How this issue has been addressed is by school leaders implementing digital citizenship teaching and learning opportunities in the curriculum. The research purpose is to explore how students, teachers and leaders of one secondary school experience a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship. Three specific research questions focus the conduct of this study: How do members of a secondary school community experience a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship? How do members of a secondary school community engage with a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship? How does a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship influence members of the school community? Case study is the methodology adopted for the research. Participants are purposely selected from the student, teacher and leader body of a Catholic secondary college in Queensland. In total, 300 participants are involved. Data are gathered through focus group interviews, individual interviews, online questionnaires and participant observation. For the purpose of the research, the Constant Comparative Method of data analysis is applied. This research generates 10 conclusions: First, Ribble and Bailey’s Nine Elements Framework (2007; updated by Ribble, 2011) offers a productive strategy for school educators to conceptualise the issues concerning digital participation. It provides a defensible framework to prepare curriculum that incorporates digital citizenship themes. Staff and students confirm that a common language for digital citizenship is productive, however the Nine Elements Framework and digital citizenship terminology may be more meaningful for staff than students. Second, it is appropriate for digital citizenship teaching and learning opportunities to be included in school curriculum. Participants consider digital citizenship as a necessary and relevant focus for schools. Third, a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship promotes online behaviour standards in schools. Participants consider the integrated curriculum a relevant educative approach for developing staff and students’ capacities for responsible online participation. Fourth, there is a need for government informed leadership to school systems and schools concerning digital citizenship. Direction on the relationship between digital citizenship and Australian education priorities is required. The deficit of leadership is problematic for school staff striving to facilitate curriculum that integrates digital citizenship. Fifth, schools and families share responsibility for developing students’ digital citizenry. Staff and students consider that digital citizenship is productively developed when parents and teachers cooperatively guide the process. Sixth, there is a deficit in teacher knowledge and confidence in teaching digital citizenship. There is a need for more and improved quality teacher education concerning digital citizenship. Seventh, a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship opportunities is a preferred teaching and learning model for staff and students. Contextualising digital citizenship learning in an established educational program encourages a school-wide digital citizenship focus. The integrated curriculum generates connections for students between online and offline contexts. Eighth, a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship is a productive approach to the enculturation of digital citizenship in a school community. Contextualised teaching of digital citizenship develops five areas of school life: digital citizenship awareness; common language concerning the digital context; professional expectations; staff and student interactions, and practice. Ninth, specialised professional development is critical for all school staff facilitating digital citizenship education. Staff members require initial and ongoing education concerning the digital context and digital citizenship themes. The development should particularly engage with Australian Curriculum digital citizenship requirements and implications; and how students approach, value and relate to digital technologies. Tenth, in a school where digital citizenship is a curriculum priority it is productive for school-based and system accountability processes to include digital citizenship themes.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


348 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Faculty of Education and Arts