disclaimer: not an actual letter – an EDT-520 project

Dear Incoming Freshman,


Welcome to Colgate University. This letter is designed to help you navigate the technology resources available on campus and to understand the ways we support all students to become strong digital citizens as they utilize Colgate’s network, online databases, software, blogosphere, media services resources.

While in high school you probably developed an online presence. If you were responsible utilizing technology, you maintained proper digital citizenship – an important skill that will be vital during your years here on campus and beyond. Author Terry Heick defines digital citizenship as “the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on.” (2016, March 5)

Now that you’re here on the Colgate campus we ask if you received any training in digital citizenship while in high school? Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, believes “for the most part, students in college today never received any form of digital citizenship training when they were in high school or middle school.”(2012, July) Regardless of your answer, this is a very good point, because the expectectation is you’ll behave properly when you arrive at college, often without any training. We are offering several sessions on how to formulate a digital citizenship plan in Case Library in the coming weeks. An email will be forthcoming with more details and to sign up.

Digital Citizenship. (2012), by Dan Callahan, retrieved from http://bit.ly/2lTu3Kp

In his blog post, The Importance of Digital Citizenship in Social Media, Andrew Marcinek wrote that students “must understand the repercussions of irresponsibly using social and digital media and what affects it may have on their future.” How often have you used tech devices without considering any potential negative consequences? We want to encourage you to be aware of the importance of developing a proactive approach to managing your online activities as it will have a direct impact on your Colgate class work, as well as future graduate school or career opportunities.



R. (2012, March 16). Infamy Just a Screenshot Away [Digital image]. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://bit.ly/2malXzd
We encourage you to begin to formulate a digital citizenship plan to heighten your awareness of how important it is to manage your reputation. Most students spend a great deal of time online, leaving behind a digital trail of evidence from their posts, comments, tweets and status updates. You may present yourself one way, academically or on the job and then by a web search another side emerges where there is a conflict with your reputation. If you don’t make an effort to be careful with your online activities you may ruin your reputation without being aware that it is even happening.

Please take a moment to read about the Five Important Components of Digital Citizenship written by Professor Jason Ohler, from the University of Alaska. (2011, February 1) He asks: “Should we teach our kids to have two lives, or one?” The five most important components of digital citizenship answer this question. This is part of the library session we will be offering in the next few weeks as you settle in as a student here at Colgate.  These sessions are designed to attain our goal to help every Colgate student utilize technology in a responsible manner.

Students don’t have separate lives – one unplugged from technology at school and one digitally connected outside of school. It’s very obvious that students are always connected. You will find that each of your professors has their own policy about the use of digital devices in class. Some may not allow technology use during class time. However, many use digital devices as a main component of class session. Colgate suggests the five components below be used as a guide for you to learn what it means to be digitally responsible:


Ohler refers to this component as “a sense of balance that considers opportunity as well as responsibility, empowerment as well as caution, personal fulfillment as well as community and global well-being.” (2011, February 1) You can think of it as online ethical behavior; a set of standards that each of us follow, guiding our interactions with others. Colgate has a set of behavioral standards that students are to adhere to while interacting with others, allowing you to make ethical decisions. You decide to either act ethically or unethically, which means you will follow the school’s standards or not.

On the other hand, morals are used to determine right or wrong. You decide based on your belief system, religion and upbringing. Educators Mike S. Ribble and Dr. Gerald D. Bailey state that “true north tells us when we are going in the right direction and when we are going in some other direction.” (2005, August) The use of technology has complicated our internal compass because different rules are needed. So, if you post something online in a moment of frustration, it can be viewed by perfect strangers.

2. Safety and Security

There are two parts to this: First, understand how your actions may harm others and consider if your online behavior is inappropriate. Second, protect your own privacy. Robert Madden from Pew Research reports that 63 percent of adults are on social media and 58 percent set their Facebook settings as “private” so only their friends can view it. (2012, February 23) You should consider that friends of your friends on Facebook may be able to view your posts.

The same Pew research found that students recognize the importance of monitoring comments they post, along with comments posted by others. According to the report, 56 percent of social media users ages 18 to 29 have deleted comments. This could be because potential employers are checking social media when evaluating new hires.

3. Cyberbullying

14 states have anti-bullying laws that involve cyberbullying, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. Javiar Pena, director of National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment, believes that bullying has become an issue on college campuses because “students are not willing to step forward and report a bullying incident.” (2011, November 7) This issue has evolved into cyberbullying, harassing others with the use of images or text. At Colgate we believe it is important to understand the devastating effects of cyberbullying and how it violates ethical behavior principles. As a student, please become familiar with cyberbullying and the consequences for this type of behavior.

4. Sexting

As you may know this behavior involves using a cell phone to transmit photos of a sexual nature. We are interested if another Pew Research survey by Parker, Lenhart and Moore of college students aligns with your experience. It found that ‘sexting’ is becoming a big problem. (2011, August 28) Over 50 % of students said they have received sexual images, 80 % received texts and 10 % of those messages were sent without consent of the receiver. Tiffani Kisler, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, said “it is important to help everyone, especially students, to understand the importance of setting boundaries around their use of technology.” (2011, September 1) As a Colgate student we can’t emphasize enough the need for diligence, as your use of technology is not without the possibility of consequences.

5. Copyright and Plagiarism

Another Pew Research Center report, The Digital Revolution and Higher Education says plagiarism is increasing and it is a problem for all schools. Over 1,000 college presidents responded and over half indicated that the issue of plagiarism has continued to increase over the past 10 years.

Facts about plagiarism:

  • – The Center for Academic Integrity conducted a study and concluded that almost 80 percent of college students admitted to cheating at least once.
  • – The Psychological Record conducted a survey and found that 36 % of undergraduates admitted to plagiarizing written material.
  • A poll conducted by US News and World Reports found that 90 percent of students held a belief that those who cheat are not caught and if they are, they are not properly disciplined.

At Colgate students charged with plagiarism face the consequences of an academic violation, which means a failing grade, course, or suspension. See Code of Student Conduct.

We hope from this letter you recognize the importance of cyberbullying and plagiarism, as they are forefront in the media, but please consider the need to manage your online presence and how your online activities and posts impact your academic work, future career, and fellow Colgate students.

At the end of the day, Digital citizenship means you should adapt a personal set of ethics and values to your use of technology. Your responsible behavior and a well-developed reputation are more important than ever because there may be a record of what you say and do. Please don’t live in fear but consider your actions, possible outcomes and consequences, and be proactive in your approach to all your online-based interactions.

Colgate University


Steyer, J. (2012, July 23). Digital Citizenship Basics for College Students. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.onlinecollegecourses.com/2012/07/23/digital-citizenship-basics-for-college-students/

Heick, T. (2016, March 5). Definition Of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/digital-citizenship-the-future-of-learning/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship/

Marcinek, A. (2011, January 26). The Importance of Digital Citizenship in Social Media. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-digital-media-citizenship

Ohler, J. (2011, February 1). Character Education for the Digital Age. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb11/vol68/num05/Character-Education-for-the-Digital-Age.aspx

Ribble, M. S., & Bailey, G. D. (2005, August). Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/uploads/ISTECompass.pdf

Madden, M. (2012, February 23). Privacy management on social media sites. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/02/24/main-findings-12/

Bullying and Cyberbullying Laws Across America. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://cyberbullying.org/bullying-laws

Pena, J. (2011, November 07). Study finds cyberbullying a problem among college students. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.alligator.org/news/campus/article_7cb887a0-0902-11e1-8c39-001cc4c03286.html?mode=print

Kissler, T. S. (2011, September 1) Study Shows More Than Half Of All College Students Have Been ‘Sexted’ Retrieved February 18, 2017, from https://www.collegecentral.com/Article.cfm?CatID=hlt&ArticleID=4065

Adams, S. K. (2011, July 21). Survey Suggests ‘Sexting’ Rampant in College. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/childrens-health/articles/2011/07/21/survey-suggests-sexting-rampant-in-college

Parker, K., Lenhart, A., & Moore, K. (2011, August 28). The Digital Revolution and Higher Education[PDF]. Washington, D.C. 20036: Pew Research Center.

Digital Citizenship Letter To Colgate Freshmen

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