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Enabling digital citizenship programs within your district’s network infrastructure

A District Administration Web Seminar Digest • Originally Presented on August 14, 2012

Digital citizenship programs, which focus on the safe and appropriate use of technology by students, have never been more important. The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 31 percent of students have been victims of bullying at school. An important aspect of Digital Citizenship is connecting students’ advancement through the program with enhanced access rights. In this Web seminar, Mike Ribble, a consultant and author of Digital Citizenship in Schools, discussed the nine elements of digital citizenship; and Greg French, CIO of Woodford (KY) Schools, outlined the district’s implementation. They were joined by Enterasys Director of Education Jonathan Kidwell and Director of Vertical Solutions Robert Nilsson. 

Mike Ribble, Ed. D. 
Consultant, speaker and author on
digital citizenship in schools

I’ve been talking about this topic for 24 years; but it’s been really exciting in the past 18-24 months as interest and awareness of the topic has grown and people are starting to talk about where digital citizenship could go. 
Very early on in my work, I saw that technology would be an integral part of education. It has taken us some time to get here, but we have crossed over a boundary, where technology can be an integral part of education. Now we have the tools, but we need to show how they should be used, and be very clear with students and staff about the topic.

I first heard of digital citizenship in the late 1990s when I studied under Dr. Gerald Bailey. At that point, very few people were talking about this.

We have developed a framework of nine elements that make up digital citizenship. They break down into three categories, which create the acronym “REP,” because they are ideas that we must reinforce with repetition:

  • Respect: Etiquette, Access and the Law.
  • Educate: Communication, LIteracy and Commerce.
  • Protect: Rights and Responsibilities, Safety, Health and Wellness.

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) has been a great partner in this. Their work on developing a National Council on Digital Citizenship is really exciting, and it will grow into an International Council on Digital Citizenship because the issue is truly a global one.

Greg French
CIO, Woodford County Schools, Kentucky

When we started providing Internet access to our students, we had a one-size-fits-all approach. You got the same access to the network if you were a kindergarten student or a 12th grader. Part of that was due to network limitations, but it was also due to our lack of any kind of digital citizenship program.

Our goal is to ensure that everything we do helps promote learning in the classroom. We want teachers to be able to leverage technology and students to be able to access information, and we want to make sure our IT department does not stand in the way.

Woodford County has 4,000 students and nine campuses. We have a high school 1:1 program that put 1,600 iPads on our network. When we began that initiative in 2011, we realized that our network infrastructure did not allow us to do what we wanted to do. We wanted to have our students go through a digital citizenship course, using a tiered program of usage rights that students could gain as they learned more about digital citizenship.

We met with different networking companies, and found that many of them lacked an understanding about CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act) compliance. When we talked to Enterasys, we found that the company “gets” K12. They understood what we were trying to do and helped us make it happen.

We have five tiers of access based on our digital citizenship program. These progress from Tier 5 (basic elementary students) to Tier 1 (full teacher access and “Digital Drivers License”). As students reach a new tier, they can earn additional perks such as access to a social network or increased bandwidth.

In the 21st century, we can no longer take Internet access away from students who make a mistake or misbehave online. To do so would be a slap in the face to our teachers, who we encourage to use online resources as an integral part of instruction. Now, with this digital citizenship structure, we can instead drop students down a tier and restrict their Internet rights, but without restricting usage completely. To do this, we use Active Directory groups, which talk to Enterasys, which can control their access in the Web filter.

Our system is by no means complete and we will keep tweaking. We are excited about what we can do with the tiers and how creative can we be. Our goal is to do it with the least manpower possible so we can devote our time and attention to the classroom.

Jonathan Kidwell 
Director of K-12 North America, Enterasys Networks

One of the things districts are challenged with is the endpoint explosion. It’s not just about PCs, lab machines or laptop carts. Anything that can join a network or go wireless will do so. A lot of times, the number of personally owned devices on the network are larger than the number of district-owned machines.

We’ve thrown a lot of money and technology at students, faculty and staff. But the teaching of how to responsibly use technology has typically fallen behind. In the past, we tried to block students from access; but now we know that we have to educate them on how to use their tools responsibly.

Programs on digital citizenship across the country, like the Digital Drivers License we’ve discussed here, are encouraging that instruction. The next step is to enforce standards on the network and allow districts to deliver individualized access to students.

Our approach is a personalized learning environment that is compliant with all regulations, but is also easy to access and manage. The OneFabric architecture from Enterasys allows us to key on up to 51 different points of a “digital fingerprint” of a user: who are they, where are they, what time of day is it, what device are they using, what applications ae they trying to use, and what groups do they belong to (integrating with Active Directory). This lets us identify a student who is powering up a Nintendo DS during instructional time and apply limits to them, without affecting others who are legitimately using their devices.

Using those points, we can establish group authorities from basic access to advanced rights. We can also establish a “penalty box” that pulls back their rights and may give them a limited set of access. Essentially, an individualized network for every user—teacher, staff member or student.

Bob Nilsson 
Director of Vertical Solutions Marketing, Enterasys Networks

To provide wide ranging technology and networking to K12 students, we need to “teach, trust, verify and correct.” Ultimately, the goal is a personalized learning environment for each student. Simplifying this potentially chaotic situation is what OneFabric from Enterasys does with easy onboarding, centralized management and consolidated reporting. With our new Mobile IAM appliance, we can handle up to 100,000 endpoint devices, and we guarantee we can get a school district up and running within 10 days or less.

To view this web seminar in its entirety, go to: