Digital citizenship for education leaders
A pilot program across Los Angeles Unified illustrates how to support system-level digital citizenship education
By Vanessa Monterosa | January | February 2021
In 2015, I published an article in ACSA’s Leadership magazine sharing Los Angeles Unified School District’s proposed approach to developing system-level digital citizenship practices (Monterosa, 2015). Our best thinking at the time called for an increased focus on the opportunities afforded by social media: identifying key terms to guide efforts; establishing policies and partnerships; and creating a culture that welcomes digital citizenship as an integral part of being a 21st-century leader and learner. During the five years since that article, our teams as learned about many actionable insights from engaging in the system-level implementation of digital citizenship.
Creating conditions for #DigCitLeaders
In 2015, digital citizenship was a growing effort across our LA Unified classrooms, but there was no system in place to ensure district-wide support at all levels. To create the conditions for a successful digital citizenship program district-wide, we learned that you need a strategic change management approach to the following: policies, partnerships and professional learning.
Identify a change management approach to support a paradigm shift: Digital citizenship education is not only for our students, it is for our leaders at all levels. Designing a system-level approach to digital citizenship across a district requires an instructional paradigm shift that is gradual in its implementation and supported by a policy and human resource infrastructure that is prepared to address it. Over the last five years, LA Unified has leveraged the ADKAR Prosci Change Management framework to support this shift toward district-wide digital citizenship practices for all learners.
The ADKAR Model (Hiatt, 2006) addresses the following goals for change:
  • Awareness of the need to change.
  • Desire to participate and support the change.
  • Knowledge of how to change.
  • Ability to implement the change.
  • Reinforcement to keep the change in place.
For example, creating digital citizenship awareness at all levels of the district is founded on answering the following questions: Why do we need to change? What is the purpose? Why is this change needed at this time? The compelling reason guiding the need for an instructional paradigm shift is a district goal for preparing students for a 21st-century workforce. Without a system where leaders model and exemplify 21st-century digital citizenship programs, students will miss out on opportunities to observe and practice real-world skills needed to thrive in an increasingly digital world.
Ensure district-wide policies support digital citizenship practices: Since 2015, LA Unified created a Social Media Policy for Students, added an instructional component to an already-existing Social Media Policy for Employees and redesigned a longstanding, high-profile Acceptable Use Policy to a Responsible Use Policy. There was also an instructional conversation starter to support educators in discussing digital citizenship at the beginning of the school year. An important distinction to be made when it comes to district policy development is ensuring education technology-focused policies educate and empower all stakeholders, creating opportunities to explore 21st-century digital literacy practice. To ensure these policies are well understood throughout the school community, it is critical to have a central team dedicated to the system-level implementation of digital citizenship as well.
Leverage key partnerships to cultivate a digital citizenship culture: In June 2016, LA Unified became the first district in the nation to adopt the refreshed International Society for Technology in Education Standards for Students, which was the start of a robust partnership to support digital citizenship education for all stakeholders. We also leveraged Common Sense Education resources, especially the Digital Citizenship Certification opportunities. Moreover, we partnered with Common Sense to celebrate the annual Digital Citizenship Week held in October, showcasing a school’s commitment to fostering a digital citizenship culture within their school community. Cultivating a digital citizenship culture in the nation’s second-largest school district means this work cannot be done alone.
Build digital citizenship capacity of education leaders through professional learning: There are a plethora of resources designed to support teachers in building the digital literacy capacity of our students. However, where are the resources specifically targeting our school and executive leaders? To implement a system-level approach to digital citizenship, all stakeholders must engage in rigorous, personalized work (Mendoza, Caguioa & Jonas, 2019). In Fall 2018, LA Unified piloted a professional learning program for principals and executive leaders to determine what system-level leaders need to know about digital citizenship to support its implementation across district schools. What we learned was that system-level leaders needed a digital presence with the purpose to understand and experience the nuances of digital citizenship that our students live and breathe each day.
Cultivating #DigCitLeaders
Opportunities, resources and research focused on education leaders are limited when it comes to building the digital citizenship capacity of system-level district leaders. Through my research (Monterosa, 2017), I identified this gap and have been working toward addressing it by designing a leader-focused professional learning experience that positions social media as a critical space for professional growth and engagement.
Having a digital presence with purpose is critical to our development as future-ready system-level education leaders. Some may consider this an exercise in personal branding. However, branding often connotes competition, differentiation, and establishing a loyal base. Reframing from branding to a digital presence with purpose is to tap into what educators already do: focus on contribution, community and connection. A digital presence with purpose is more than having a static online profile with a few basic details about you as a professional: It requires being engaged, visible and authentic.
Digital presence with purpose pilot
The first pilot program took place in August 2018 through a training with 27 instructional technology coaches who had varying levels of online engagement interest. This initial group of participants provided valuable insight as their role required supporting both teachers and principals (DigCitCommit, 2020). At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, nearly all pilot participants had established a digital presence with purpose and continued to leverage their digital footprint to connect with their school community, amplify their contributions to their content areas, and collectively demonstrate the #EdTech expertise that exists across LA Unified. Seeing the ripple effect of this pilot program throughout the 2018-2019 school year provided us with invaluable insight into what system-level leaders need to understand and support digital citizenship district-wide.
To invite education leaders to explore what online engagement means for them, we designed the Digital Presence Framework, which focuses on practices of contribution through sharing knowledge, sharing evidence and sharing resources (Monterosa, 2017). While the three areas that comprise the framework have many commonalities, we provide examples of how to use this framework to begin your digital presence with purpose journey.

Having a digital presence with purpose is critical to our development as future ready system-level education leaders.
Sharing knowledge: This sphere invites educators to contribute their learnings at a training session or conference event into meaningful, relevant examples that other educators could benefit from. For example, many of us continue to attend trainings to enhance our instructional leadership practices, especially in an era of remote teaching and learning. Have you gained valuable insight into how you will approach remote teaching and learning moving forward? If so, this is an opportunity to share your knowledge and how you plan to implement key strategies to support students.
Sharing resources: This sphere invites educators to connect with others in sharing artifacts, research, or other media informing their thinking and their practice. More importantly, your digital footprint begins demonstrating your growth mindset toward your identity as an education leader. Sharing resources that inform your instructional leadership practices demonstrates your commitment to your craft and can inspire others to do the same.
Sharing evidence: This sphere invites educators to uplift their school community by showcasing the rigorous, relevant instructional leadership activities they support through media-rich content. Media-rich examples include videos of school-wide events; pictures of culminating student projects; or sharing certificates of the trainings you completed. In a remote learning environment, contributions can range from screencasts of students presenting their learnings to screenshots of Zoom meetings with colleagues planning together, or a link to a webinar you led about a topic that resonates with your work.
The Digital Presence Framework ultimately provides a space to consider your work, insights, and professional interests as your source material for your online engagement and contributions. For live, ongoing examples of what it means to be a digital citizenship leader and role model for the school community, we invite you to observe the digital footprints of three amazing LA Unified #DigCitLeaders:
  • Dominic Caguioa (@DBCaguioa)
  • Renata Keller (@kinderkeller4)
  • Sophia Mendoza (@SMMendoza123)
With the recent experiences of remote teaching and learning, digital citizenship suddenly was thrust into the foreground like never before. Often relegated to our classrooms or maybe just a lesson, we quickly learned as a community of educators that digital citizenship is, in fact, an area of focus for all stakeholders. If you are a system-level leader and you are debating whether or not to take the leap and establish a digital presence, remember that there are countless students, staff and families who can benefit from observing your digital leadership and engagement. As our nation’s school leaders work toward bridging the digital divide, the participatory divide awaits to be addressed as well. Our youth need role models that are accessible and savvy when it comes to participating in our digital economy, and this starts by establishing a digital presence with purpose as a 21st-century education leader.
Hiatt, J. (2006). ADKAR: a model for change in business, government, and our community. Prosci.
Mendoza, S., Caguioa, D., & Jonas, A. (2019). 3 ways the Education Leader Standards develop empowered leaders. Empowered Learner. ISTE.
Monterosa, V. (2015). Developing digital citizens. Leadership, 44(3), 30-32.
Monterosa, V. (2017). Digital citizenship district-wide: Examining the organizational evolution of an initiative. (Doctoral dissertation).
Monterosa, V. (2019). Digital presence framework. Instructional Technology Initiative. DigCitCommit. (2020). Keynote. Retrieved from
Dr. Vanessa Monterosa is a digital strategy and communications expert at Los Angeles Unified School District
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