February 10th, 2015

Promoting Digital Citizenship and Academic Integrity in Technology Classrooms

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New technology continues to emerge and influence the classroom learning environment. Students now have immediate and unlimited access to digital content, resources, and databases. To capitalize on the wealth of available Internet resources, many educators are joining the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative, which encourages students to use their own personal electronic devices (smartphones, tablets) during class time to augment and support learning. For example, students search for definitions and websites that enhance the course topic being discussed. Or students (as a class or in small groups) use online resources to solve a posted scenario.

When used responsibly, mobile Internet-capable devices can provide opportunities for inquiry, evidence-based reasoning, and collaborative learning. However, welcoming such devices in the classroom involves educating students about the responsible use of the information retrieved from the Internet. Therefore, to maintain academic integrity in the technology-rich classroom, faculty must promote digital citizenship.

Experts define digital citizenship as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use, which includes the safe, legal, responsible, and ethical use of digital information. Users should respect copyright and intellectual property and appropriately document sources. Faculty can promote digital citizenship and academic integrity in the classroom by addressing three essential components: prevention, awareness, and role modeling.

Develop a preventive classroom environment

Developing a preventive classroom helps reduce opportunities for students to engage in academically dishonest endeavors. This begins with a clearly defined academic integrity policy that guides students in appropriate digital etiquette and helps them become responsible digital citizens. These statements, consistent with institutional academic integrity policies, should be included in the syllabus. In addition, a statement regarding appropriate use of any mobile devices should also be included. For example, “Periodically in this course you will be asked to use your mobile device for learning activities. Only during the times identified by the faculty member is it appropriate for you to be using such devices.” These policies should be reviewed with the students at the beginning of the course and periodically thereafter.

Teachers should not assume that students know what constitutes academic integrity. They need models of good practices and guidance on appropriate digital behavior. Therefore, illustrate how the policy works—specifically what is and is not permitted. For example, students should not revise a paper that they found on the Internet; use materials prepared by other students; borrow facts, statistics, or other illustrative material without proper references; or use a mobile device during a quiz, exam, or test review.

Increase student awareness

A variety of activities may be used to increase student awareness. For example, the teacher could develop a BYOD learning activity that uses the Internet to teach about plagiarism. The activity should showcase the advantages and disadvantages of Internet resources and how to responsibly and appropriately use the retrieved information. Also, the faculty member could require students to cite resources not only for written assignments but also digital and oral presentations. In addition, students could be encouraged to verbally provide references when discussing responses to all BYOD learning activities. To teach the proper citation format, Web links to tutorials and citation tools can be listed on the course syllabus.

Be a good role model

Being a good role model demonstrates to the students that the teacher is dedicated to promoting and upholding academic standards. Examples of positive role modeling behaviors include citing sources used in lectures and providing a reference list at the end of PowerPoint presentations. In addition, good role models reduce opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty. For example, the faculty member should not use the same BYOD activities for each group or class as this may increase the likelihood of students’ sharing answers from class to class. Furthermore, the faculty member should clarify when collaboration is appropriate for course assignments and BYOD learning activities. Perhaps most important, faculty members need to address academic dishonesty when it occurs. Academic dishonesty has consequences and student offenders should experience them.

In conclusion, technology is changing the classroom learning environment. Internet-capable mobile technologies are no longer being viewed as a classroom distraction, but as a tool to facilitate learning. Therefore, it is essential for faculty to revisit their policies and procedures for addressing academic integrity. Through appropriate instructional techniques and role modeling, students will be encouraged to become good digital citizens who adhere to academic integrity standards.

Meigan Robb is an assistant professor at Chatham University. Teresa Shellenbarger is a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Reprinted from The Teaching Professor, 27.8 (2013): 1, 4. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.


  • Marius

    The integrity is very important in the current educational conditions, especially by the fact that we want a certain social development plan. Technological evolution has to be noted at this level, especially because students need innovative media courses for high interactivity.