Digital citizenship

Summary: Digital citizenship is the state of having access to the Internet and communication technologies that help promote equal opportunity, democracy, technology skills, and human rights.

Originators and Key Contributors: Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, Ramona S. McNeal

Keywords: citizenship, civic engagement, community, online society, rights

Digital citizenship is the state of having access to Internet and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that help promote equal opportunity, democracy, technology skills, and human rights.

Mossberger, Tolbert, and McNeal developed the phrase “digital citizenship” in response to the Internet becoming a place where many people consumed and discussed media and information[1]. Having consistent Internet access meant more exposure to a wider range of information and viewpoints and the opportunity to engage in dialog.

When people have “full” digital citizenship, they have consistent access to the Web, and they use it regularly to learn skills, gain information, participate in conversations around issues that matter to them, create media about topics of concern, and perhaps even communicate with an elected official about their issues or concerns. They have more economic stability, which is based on having access to skills and information that may directly benefit their lives.

When people do not have Internet access, they get less information and, therefore, cannot make as informed decisions for themselves or their wider communities. They also have less economic opportunity and lower skills, which creates harmful economic inequity. This creates lower levels of participation in the political process.

In order to support a healthy democracy in the Internet age, it is recommended that governments provide their citizens with the digital tools to help them be fully included in socio-political processes to make their lives and extended communities better. When groups in society have widely varying states of digital citizenship, this can create a “digital divide” in which wealthier, more educated group have more Internet access than more poor, less educated groups. One solution for supporting widespread digital citizenship is by promoting more Internet access in people’s homes.

To read more about digital citizenship, check out this book: Digital Citizenship–The Internet, Society, and Participation


  1. Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & McNeal, R. S. (2007). Digital citizenship: The Internet, society, and participation. MIT Press.

Classical Conditioning (Pavlov)

Classical conditioning is a reflexive or automatic type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus.


  • Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936)
  • John B. Watson (1878 – 1958)

Key Concepts

Several types of learning exist. The most basic form is associative learning, i.e., making a new association between events in the environment[1]. There are two forms of associative learning: classical conditioning (made famous by Ivan Pavlov’s experiments with dogs) and operant conditioning.

Pavlov’s Dogs

In the early twentieth century, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov did Nobel prize-winning work on digestion[2]. While studying the role of saliva in dogs’ digestive processes, he stumbled upon a phenomenon he labeled “psychic reflexes.” While an accidental discovery, he had the foresight to see the importance of it. Pavlov’s dogs, restrained in an experimental chamber, were presented with meat powder and they had their saliva collected via a surgically implanted tube in their saliva glands. Over time, he noticed that his dogs who begin salivation before the meat powder was even presented, whether it was by the presence of the handler or merely by a clicking noise produced by the device that distributed the meat powder.

Fascinated by this finding, Pavlov paired the meat powder with various stimuli such as the ringing of a bell. After the meat powder and bell (auditory stimulus) were presented together several times, the bell was used alone. Pavlov’s dogs, as predicted, responded by salivating to the sound of the bell (without the food). The bell began as a neutral stimulus (i.e. the bell itself did not produce the dogs’ salivation). However, by pairing the bell with the stimulus that did produce the salivation response, the bell was able to acquire the ability to trigger the salivation response. Pavlov therefore demonstrated how stimulus-response bonds (which some consider as the basic building blocks of learning) are formed. He dedicated much of the rest of his career further exploring this finding.

In technical terms, the meat powder is considered an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) and the dog’s salivation is the unconditioned response (UCR). The bell is a neutral stimulus until the dog learns to associate the bell with food. Then the bell becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) which produces the conditioned response (CR) of salivation after repeated pairings between the bell and food.

Pavlov’s Dogs

John B. Watson: Early Classical Conditioning with Humans

John B. Watson further extended Pavlov’s work and applied it to human beings[3]. In 1921, Watson studied Albert, an 11 month old infant child. The goal of the study was to condition Albert to become afraid of a white rat by pairing the white rat with a very loud, jarring noise (UCS). At first, Albert showed no sign of fear when he was presented with rats, but once the rat was repeatedly paired with the loud noise (UCS), Albert developed a fear of rats. It could be said that the loud noise (UCS) induced fear (UCR). The implications of Watson’s experiment suggested that classical conditioning could cause some phobias in humans.

Additional Resources and References



  1. Mackintosh, N. J. (1983). Conditioning and associative learning (p. 316). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  2. Pavlov, I. P., & Anrep, G. V. (2003). Conditioned reflexes. Courier Corporation.
  3. Watson, J. B. (2013). Behaviorism. Read Books Ltd.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom)

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a model that is a hierarchy — a way to classify thinking according to six cognitive levels of complexity.


  • Benjamin S. Bloom (1913-1999)

Key Concepts

Bloom’s model consists of six levels, with the three lower levels (knowledge, comprehension, and application) being more basic than the higher levels (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation)[1]. Some think of the levels as a stairway, in which learners are encouraged to achieve a higher level of thinking. If a student has mastered a higher level, then he or she is considered to have mastered the levels below.

Bloom’s model has been updated to account for 21st century needs[2]. The old model and new model are depicted below.

Old Model


New Model


Additional Resources and References


  1. Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals.
  2. Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., & Bloom, B. S. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Allyn & Bacon.

Identity Status Theory (Marcia)

Refining and extending Erik Erikson’s work, James Marcia came up with four Identity Statuses of psychological identity development. The main idea is that one’s sense of identity is determined largely by the choices and commitments made regarding certain personal and social traits.


  • James Marcia

Key Concepts

Based on Erik Erikson’s groundbreaking work on identity and psychosocial development in the 1960s, Canadian developmental psychologist James Marcia refined and extended Erikson’s model, primarily focusing on adolescent development[1][2]. Addressing Erikson’s notion of identity crisis, Marcia posited that the adolescent stage consists neither of identity resolution nor identity confusion, but rather the degree to which one has explored and committed to an identity in a variety of life domains from vocation, religion, relational choices, gender roles, and so on. Marcia’s theory of identity achievement argues that two distinct parts form an adolescent’s identity: crisis (i. e. a time when one’s values and choices are being reevaluated) and commitment. He defined a crisis as a time of upheaval where old values or choices are being reexamined. The end outcome of a crisis leads to a commitment made to a certain role or value.

Identity Statuses of psychological identity development

Upon developing a semi-structured interview for identity research, Marcia proposed Identity Statuses of psychological identity development:

  • Identity Diffusion – the status in which the adolescent does no have a sense of having choices; he or she has not yet made (nor is attempting/willing to make) a commitment
  • Identity Foreclosure – the status in which the adolescent seems willing to commit to some relevant roles, values, or goals for the future. Adolescents in this stage have not experienced an identity crisis. They tend to conform to the expectations of others regarding their future (e. g. allowing a parent to determine a career direction) As such, these individuals have not explored a range of options.
  • Identity Moratorium – the status in which the adolescent is currently in a crisis, exploring various commitments and is ready to make choices, but has not made a commitment to these choices yet.
  • Identity Achievement – the status in which adolescent has gone through a identity crisis and has made a commitment to a sense of identity (i.e. certain role or value) that he or she has chosen

Note that the above status are not stages and should not viewed as a sequential process.

Identity Formation Process

The core idea is that one’s sense of identity is determined largely by the choices and commitments made regarding certain personal and social traits. The work done in this paradigm considers how much one has made certain choices, and how much he or she displays a commitment to those choices. Identity involves the adoption of 1) a sexual orientation, 2) a set of values and ideals and 3) a vocational direction. A well-developed identity gives on a sense of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and individual uniqueness. A person with a less well-developed identity is not able to define his or her personal strengths and weaknesses, and does not have a well articulated sense of self.

To better understand the identity formation process, Marcia conducted interviews with young people. He asked whether the participants in his study (1) had established a commitment to an occupation and ideology and (2) had experienced, or were presently experiencing, a decision making period (adolescent identity crisis). Marcia developed a framework for thinking about identity in terms of four identity statuses.

Additional Resources and References


  • Marcia et al.: Ego Identity: A Handbook for Psychosocial Research: This useful book contains an integrated presentation of identity theory, including literature reviews that span hundreds of of research studies, a discussion of the techniques of interviewing for psychosocial constructs, and model Identity Status Interviews and scoring manuals for a variety of age groups.
  • Schwartz et al.: Handbook of Identity Theory and Research [2 Volume Set]: This impressive handbook brings “unity and clarity to a diverse and fragmented literature.” presenting perspectives from many different theoretical schools and empirical approaches: psychology (e.g., narrative, social identity theory, neo-Eriksonian) and from other disciplines (e.g., sociology, political science, ethnic studies).


  1. Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status.Journal of personality and social psychology, 3(5), 551.
  2. Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. Handbook of adolescent psychology, 9(11), 159-187.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an instructional method of hands-on, active learning centered on the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems.


  • Late 1960s at the medical school at McMaster University in Canada

Key Concepts

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a pedagogical approach and curriculum design methodology often used in higher education and K-12 settings[1][2].

The following are some of the defining characteristics of PBL:

  • Learning is driven by challenging, open-ended problems with no one “right” answer
  • Problems/cases are context specific
  • Students work as self-directed, active investigators and problem-solvers in small collaborative groups (typically of about five students)
  • A key problem is identified and a solution is agreed upon and implemented
  • Teachers adopt the role as facilitators of learning, guiding the learning process and promoting an environment of inquiry

Rather than having a teacher provide facts and then testing students ability to recall these facts via memorization, PBL attempts to get students to apply knowledge to new situations. Students are faced with contextualized, ill-structured problems and are asked to investigate and discover meaningful solutions.

Proponents believe that PBL:

  • develops critical thinking and creative skills
  • improves problem-solving skills
  • increases motivation
  • helps students learn to transfer knowledge to new situations


PBL’s more recent influence can be traced to the late 1960s at the medical school at McMaster University in Canada[3][4]. Shortly thereafter, three other medical schools — the University of Limburg at Maastricht (the Netherlands), the University of Newcastle (Australia), and the University of New Mexico (United States) took on the McMaster model of problem-based learning. Various adaptations were made and the model soon found its way to various other disciplines — business, dentistry, health sciences, law, engineering, education, and so on.


One common criticism of PBL is that students cannot really know what might be important for them to learn, especially in areas which they have no prior experience[3]. Therefore teachers, as facilitators, must be careful to assess and account for the prior knowledge that students bring to the classroom.

Another criticism is that a teacher adopting a PBL approach may not be able to cover as much material as a conventional lecture-based course[3]. PBL can be very challenging to implement, as it requires a lot of planning and hard work for the teacher. It can be difficult at first for the teacher to “relinquish control” and become a facilitator, encouraging the students to ask the right questions rather than handing them solutions.

Additional Resources and References



  1. Barrows, H. S. (1986). A taxonomy of problem?based learning methods.Medical education, 20(6), 481-486.
  2. Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational technology, 35(5), 31-38.
  3. Boud, D., & Feletti, G. (1997). The challenge of problem-based learning. Psychology Press.
  4. Barrows, H. S. (1996). Problem?based learning in medicine and beyond: A brief overview. New directions for teaching and learning, 1996(68), 3-12.