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What kind of (digital) citizen? A between-studies analysis of research and teaching for democracy

Marie K. Heath (Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

International Journal of Information and Learning Technology

ISSN: 2056-4880

Article publication date: 2 October 2018

Issue publication date: 20 November 2018




Public schools in a democracy should educate young people to develop the knowledge and dispositions of citizenship in order to foster a more inclusive society and ensure the continuation of the democratic republic. Conceptualizations of citizenship must be clearly framed in order to support civic engagement, in particular, civic engagement for social justice. Rarely do educational technology scholars or educators interrogate the International Society for Technology in Education definition of digital citizenship. Educational technologists should connect notions of civic engagement and conceptions of digital citizenship. Instead, the field continues to engage in research, policy and practice which disconnects these ideas. This suggests that a gap exists between educational technologists’ conceptualizations of citizenship and the larger implications of citizenship within a democracy. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


This paper uses a between-study analysis of the literature to answer: How does the field of educational technology discuss and research digital citizenship? The data were coded using constant comparative analysis. The study adopted a theoretical framework grounded in Westheimer and Kahne’s (2004) What Kind of Citizen, and Krutka and Carpenter’s (2016) digital approach to citizenship.


The findings suggest that educational technologists’ uncritical usage of the term digital citizenship limits the authors’ field’s ability to contribute to a fundamental purpose of public schooling in a democracy – to develop citizens. Further, it hampers imagining opportunities to use educational technology to develop pedagogies of engaged citizenship for social justice.


Reframing the conception of digital citizenship as active civic engagement for social justice pushes scholarship, and its attendant implications for practice, in a proactive direction aimed at dismantling oppression.



Heath, M.K. (2018), "What kind of (digital) citizen? A between-studies analysis of research and teaching for democracy", International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 35 No. 5, pp. 342-356.



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