Constructor Lab
Leadership Summit
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Paper1: #DigCitLA: Cultivating Digital Citizenship District-Wide From Policy to Practice

Location: W179a, Table 1

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper

Tuesday, June 26, 10:15–11:15 am
Location: W179a, Table 1

Vanessa Monterosa  
In this session, attendees will gain a deeper understanding of district-level complexities and systemic practices that both hinder and support the integration of digital citizenship throughout district-level policies and instructional practices.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Digital citizenship
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Administrators:
Digital Citizenship
  • Promote, model and establish policies for safe, legal and ethical use of digital information and technology.
Visionary Leadership
  • Advocate on local, state and national levels for policies, programs and funding to support implementation of a technology-infused vision and strategic plan.

Proposal summary


Change at an organizational level is a systematic yet complex undertaking, especially when the change is centered on an initiative, such as digital citizenship, that requires significant capacity-building among stakeholders. The Four-Frame Model (Bolman & Deal, 2013) provides an innovative lens through which to examine and critique a district’s organizational approach to designing and implementing a digital citizenship initiative. Most of the literature on digital citizenship implementation provides classroom-level, localized perspectives, but an organizational perspective remains to be utilized. Using the Four-Frame Model provided a method of unpacking the complexities of an organizational change initiative, allowing the subtle nuances of cultivating a digital citizenship initiative to emerge.


The purpose of this study was to examine a large, urban school district’s approach to defining, developing, and maintaining a digital citizenship initiative focused on empowerment over the course of four years. The research questions guiding this study centered on unearthing the organizational practices and processes that undergirded the evolution of this initiative over time. Three research questions framed this study:
1. What does the implementation of a digital citizenship initiative look like over a four-year period in a large, urban school district?
2. What organizational efforts (i.e. programs, policies, processes) are needed to develop and sustain a comprehensive digital citizenship initiative?
3. What organizational elements facilitate and/or hinder a culture of digital citizenship that moves beyond safety and security?
The evolution of this digital citizenship initiative was studied using a case study approach, examining the historical processes and procedures put in place, such as investigating key policies developed, assessing the district’s political climate through board meetings and documents, and examining the dynamics of the district’s culture throughout the initiative’s evolution from 2013 to 2016.

Due to the exploratory nature of this study, a single-case study approach was most appropriate to explore this topic (Creswell, 2012; Stake, 1995; Yin, 2013). With case study methodology, the phenomenon was contextualized and explored more deeply. A representative single-case study approach was selected in order capture the conditions of an initiative demonstrating growth and transformation as they cultivate a digital citizenship culture district-wide. Digital citizenship has yet to be a widely-taught element of the curriculum or embedded across district-wide practices; thus, a representative single-case study approach helped shed light on organizational challenges faced by stakeholders when pursuing a culture of digital citizenship.

Regarding data sources, artifacts were collected and analyzed to determine how the district developed and sustained their digital citizenship efforts over the course of four years, from 2013 to 2016. Human participants were not interviewed nor observed. Artifacts examined ranged from memos to district plans and district policies, which were then subjected to analysis that provided insight into the process of change. Additionally, integrative memos (Emerson et al., 2011) were included as a data source serving as critical reflection pieces due to the researcher’s integral part on the digital citizenship team. All aspects of the district’s digital citizenship program, from resources developed to support implementation to the annual events organized to increase stakeholder awareness around this initiative, were documented and explored.

Due to a lack of instrumentation focused on digital citizenship, a content analysis protocol aligned to the theoretical framework was developed to provide meaningful insight regarding digital citizenship understanding. Validity for the content analysis protocol used for analysis was established through expert review and use of a theoretical framework (Bolman & Deal, 2013) as well as the literature to guide its design. The protocol was designed to identify elements as described by the political frame and the symbolic frame in order to analyze critical points of organizational change or lack thereof throughout the evolution of the initiative. The content analysis protocol also helped focus data collected across a variety of documents, which ranged from policies to staff memorandums that focused on the district’s digital citizenship efforts.

Data analysis occurred through four cycles of coding and analysis, allowing themes to emerge from the data alongside the theoretical framework that guided this study with the final analysis occurring through member checking and calibration, ensuring the analysis embedded participant interpretation and reflection (Boyatzis, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yin, 2013). The four cycles of coding and analysis were conducted (Stringer, 2013): 1) identify units of meaning through categorizing data; 2) use categories to create broader themes across the data; 3) enrich analysis by applying a theoretical framework; and 4) calibrate analysis with participants. Data analysis was conducted using qualitative research software, specifically Nvivo. As previously shared, 281 artifacts were analyzed for this study in total, of which I contributed to 181; of which I was the sole author of 53; and where 47 artifacts were created by others that were not under my or the team’s control in design and development.

Several steps were taken throughout the study to ensure trustworthiness, such as addressing confirmability, transferability, credibility, and dependability (Guba, 1981; Shenton, 2004). Confirmability was addressed by using multiple sources of evidence, such as member checking analyzed data with integral members of the digital citizenship team, collecting artifacts from both district leaders and external partners, and examining internal staff memorandums in order to triangulate data. The individuals responsible for the development and maintenance of the digital citizenship initiative were also invited to review a draft of study findings. Transferability was addressed through expert review of protocols and coding scheme by a senior researcher in addition to the use and application of an organizational leadership framework alongside a comprehensive review of the literature, which facilitated the transferability of study findings. Credibility was addressed through explanation-building using theoretical memos as an analytic strategy. Dependability was demonstrated through developing a protocol based on the theory and research. Additionally, dependability was addressed through the documentation of all procedures.


Findings revealed that the district’s complex organizational efforts were rooted in political and symbolic decisions that facilitated the influence of digital citizenship across policy and program implementation efforts. There were critical phases of organizational growth that emerged using a political and symbolic lens in order to provide a helpful guide for ways to engage in developing and sustaining an initiative as important and paradigm-shifting as digital citizenship.


District leaders play a pivotal role in shaping federally-mandated policies that impact how digital citizenship curriculum is developed and implemented in schools. Yet, for many school leaders, teaching about digital participation may appear as a daunting and unfamiliar practice. In fact, most educators do not participate in digital communities, in contrast to the large number of youth who do.

For educators who want to delve into digital citizenship, there currently exists a plethora of resources to support teachers in classroom-level integration of digital citizenship, but supports and resources for system-level, implementation remain limited. Moreover, these resources represent varied conceptualizations of digital citizenship, which results in inconsistent implementations of digital citizenship across classrooms, schools, and districts. Thus, how can district leaders such as superintendents, chief academic officers, or chief technology officers provide a cohesive and comprehensive digital citizenship program when the very conceptualization of digital citizenship remains unclear? Thus, this study aimed to address this important educational leadership need.


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Vanessa Monterosa, Los Angeles Unified School District

As a scholar-practitioner, Dr. Vanessa Monterosa works at the intersection of education, access, and technology. She currently serves as a Program & Policy Development Specialist for the Los Angeles Unified School District, coordinating the ITI Task Force and producing district-wide reports on instructional technology practices. Dr. Monterosa received an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation, Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she focused her studies on developing mobile learning games. She received her doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University, Long Beach, where she engaged in praxis, leveraging her digital citizenship work for a qualitative dissertation case study.

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