Digital Citizenship Knowledge Among Teachers


Contemporary information and communication tools have transformed the world into a small village by ensuring that people are able to share their hopes, dreams, concerns and even their disappointments across geographical locations and time considerations. In the education sector, the massive use of technology in the 21st century has served to not only increase teachers’ interaction with the digital world (Berardi, 2015), but also to provide opportunities for online learning and knowledge transfer (Al-Zahrani, 2015). However, as the technology revolution takes root, it is not uncommon to see students and teachers misusing or abusing emerging information and technology solutions due to lack of awareness and education on the appropriate behaviors in technology use (Ribble, 2011).

The positive use of technology in home or school environments is directly associated with one’s current knowledge and awareness of digital citizenship (Snyder, 2016). Teachers, in particular, are expected to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and awareness on the nine general areas of behavior proposed by Ribble (2011), which include etiquette (electronic standards of conduct or procedure), communication (electronic exchange of information), education (the process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology), access (full electronic participation), and commerce (electronic buying and selling of goods). Other general areas of behavior include responsibility (electronic responsibility for actions and deeds), rights (those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world), safety (physical well-being in a digital technology world), and security (self-protection). However, although the use of digital tools for educational, social, economic, and cultural activities has increased dramatically in recent years to coincide with the important role played by the Internet as a triggering agent for socialization and modernization (Al-Zahrani, 2015), available scholarship shows that many digital natives are “very comfortable using digital tools without understanding the complexities and risks that are associated with their use” (Berardi, 2015, p. 2). To date, no substantive studies have been undertaken to investigate the perceptions of teachers on their current knowledge and awareness of digital citizenship, which is increasingly important in ensuring appropriate use behaviors as well as addressing the complexities and risks associated with contemporary digital tools (Al-Zahrani, 2015).

Statement of the Problem

Available literature demonstrates that “the attitudes and beliefs of other educators regarding teachers who embrace the instruction of digital citizenship was the most impactful variable on student measures of success in relation to desirable digital behaviors” (Berardi, 2015, p. 5). School teachers must demonstrate knowledge of, and awareness for, digital citizenship if they are to guide students to become responsible adults in terms of demonstrating appropriate behavior when using technology tools for education and socialization (Ribble, Bailey, & Ross, 2004). Research is consistent that, “if students are to become productive global citizens who communicate with each other in a highly networked world, then studies are needed to determine how digital citizenship can be leveraged to foster responsible use of technologies for global collaboration, information exchange, and learning” (Snyder, 2016, p. 2). This, in turn, means that teachers must assume a frontline role in encouraging students to internalize responsible technology use behaviors in various online learning and socialization contexts. Indeed, according to Ribble et al. (2004), teachers must have the necessary skills and knowledge to ensure that students do not use technology in a way that compromises their security, online reputations, as well as future employability.

Although teachers have been prompted to incorporate various strategies into classroom settings to guide student online behaviors and reduce misuse of available technology tools, incorporating digital citizenship into contemporary learning environments may not be an easy undertaking since both educators and learners are unclear about digital citizenship (Snyder, 2016). Indeed, available literature underscores a disconnect between teachers’ perceptions of digital citizenship and their use of technology in educational and social contexts due to a misalignment of their own technology use behaviors with the twenty-first-century practices (Lawrence & Calhoun, 2013). Research is also consistent that the level of knowledge and awareness of digital citizenship demonstrated by educators is important in determining if they are able to use technology appropriately and responsibly according to Ribble’s thematic characterizations (Ribble, 2011), guide students on appropriate technology use behaviors (Simsek, 2013), and ensure that learning takes place in an environment that safeguards the digital reputation of learners and educators (Al-Zahrani, 2015).

To date, however, concepts of digital citizenship have been inconsistent (Ribble, 2011), and research on the current knowledge and awareness regarding digital citizenship in the Saudi Arabia context remains scanty and largely fragmented (Al-Zahrani, 2015). Specifically, there is lack of research studies that explore Saudi Arabia teachers’ perceptions of digital citizenship awareness according to demographic characteristics such as gender and years of experience. More research is needed to explore the scope of knowledge and understanding about digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers with the view to developing an evidence base that could be used by stakeholders in the education sector to develop policies and action plans that will ensure that technology tools for learning and teaching are used in an appropriate and responsible manner.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the proposed mixed-methods study is to compare Saudi teachers’ perceptions of their current knowledge and comprehension of digital citizenship and introduce the analysis of different points of view using qualitative and quantitative information gathered with the help of two different research methods. Additionally, this study seeks to explain how gender, grade level of teaching, and years of experience influence the perceptions of Saudi teachers about digital citizenship awareness. Ribble’s characterization of the essential elements of digital citizenship (respect, educate, and protect) will be used to assess the extent of comprehension and knowledge of digital citizenship demonstrated by teachers practicing in Saudi Arabia.

Research Questions

The proposed study will be guided by the following research questions and sub-questions:

  1. What are the perceptions of citizenship awareness among Saudi Arabia teachers based on Ribble’s categorization of respect, education, and protection?
  2. What scope of digital citizenship awareness do Saudi Arabia teachers demonstrate based on Ribble’s characterization of respect, education, and protection?
    • Is there a significant mean difference among levels of digital citizenship awareness for Saudi Arabia teachers based on Ribble’s categories of respect, education, and protection?
    • Is there a significant mean difference in digital citizenship awareness based on the gender of the teacher?
    • Is there a significant mean difference in digital citizenship awareness based on the teachers’ grade level of teaching (elementary, middle, and high school)?
    • Is there a significant mean difference in digital citizenship awareness based on the teachers’ years of experience?

Significance of the Study

In contemporary educational settings, it is the role of teachers “to teach current learners about cyber safety in order to address and prevent technology misuse” (Al-Zahrani, 2015, p. 204). Such a role lies at the core of digital citizenship, thus the need for teachers and other educators to demonstrate key skills and competencies on how they can use technology according to Ribble’s characterization of respect, educate, and protect (Simsek, 2013). However, available educational scholarship shows that teachers have varying definitions of digital citizenship that do not completely align with contemporary technology practices (Lawrence & Calhoun, 2013), and that teachers are yet still unable to relate their perceptions of digital citizenship to the use of technology in contemporary contexts (Berardi, 2015). By exploring Saudi teachers’ perceptions of their current knowledge and comprehension of digital citizenship, the proposed study aims to develop an evidence base that could be used by education stakeholders in Saudi Arabia to introduce measures for increasing digital citizenship awareness among teachers. Additionally, it is felt that developing the knowledge on the perceptions of digital citizenship awareness among Saudi Arabia teachers will contribute immensely toward identifying the gaps that may hinder sufficient comprehension and knowledge of digital citizenship in the targeted population.

Definition of Terms

In the context of the proposed study, the following definitions apply:

Digital citizenship – “The use of digital tools in respectful, safe, and productive manners with regard to self and others” (Berardi, 2015, p. 8).

Digital Etiquette – The awareness of electronic codes or the standards of conduct that make one become a responsible online citizen (Snyder, 2016)

Digital literacy – The process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology (Snyder, 2016), or the capability to employ information and communication technologies and one’s cognitive and technical competencies to identify, create, and communicate information in digital contexts (Berardi, 2015).

Digital Native – “The label given to a person born during a time period of immersion in technology as a means of problem-solving, exploring, and living the routine and novel aspects of his or her life” (Berardi, 2015, p. 8)

Limitations of the Study

There are several constraints related to the proposed study. The mixed-method design requires that a small sample be used for the depth of inquiry of the qualitative data collection. This small sample size ensures that the researcher will be able to solicit details from participants to include thick descriptions in the findings. The convenience sampling of the quantitative data opens the possibility for uneven representation of the teacher population across Saudi Arabia. This limitation will be addressed by ensuring the use of appropriate research design, sampling strategies, and data collection and reporting methods. Lastly, time constraints and financial limitations may limit the capacity of the researcher to collect data. These challenges will be addressed by using a detailed research plan and requesting funding to support the research process. Every effort will be made by the researcher to employ the design that seeks to collect information from a balanced representation of teachers across Saudi Arabia.


This section has set the stage for exploring the extent of comprehension and knowledge of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers. The section has provided background information and identified the need to conduct a study that aims to explore the perceptions of Saudi teachers with regard to digital citizenship awareness. The section has also identified the research questions that are expected to guide the research process, after which a description of the significance of the study is provided. The next section will provide a theoretical framework for the study and review available literature on digital citizenship.

Literature Review

This section reviews literature related to digital citizenship and perceptions of knowledge, comprehension, and awareness of digital citizenship in contemporary educational settings. The section commences by discussing the theory of planned behavior (TBP) as the preferred theoretical framework for guiding the research process. Afterward, the section reviews concepts of digital citizenship and digital citizens, before discussing Ribble’s characterization of digital citizenship according to the subgroups of respect, educate, and protect. Later, the section evaluates and reviews current research on digital citizenship awareness.

Theoretical Framework

The Theory of Planned Behavior

Since the overarching aim of the theoretical framework is to bridge theory to practice (Grant & Osanloo, 2014), the proposed study will apply the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to explore the extent of comprehension and knowledge of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers. The TPB posits that human action is guided by three kinds of considerations, namely behavioral beliefs (beliefs about the likely consequences of the behavior), normative beliefs (beliefs about the normative expectations of others), and control beliefs (beliefs about the presence of factors that may facilitate or impede the performance of the behavior) (Yang, 2013). The behavioral beliefs or values generate a constructive or unconstructive attitude towards the behavior and guide considerations of positive and negative outcomes, while the normative beliefs result in apparent social (or peer) pressure or subjective norm; however, the control beliefs and values are known to generate a behavioral control by influencing behavioral performance (Teo & Lee, 2010). In the TPB framework, behavioral intention is the most significant forecaster of behavior based on the fact that it encompasses the factors or issues that describe how hard or challenging individuals are willing to perform a particular behavior. Attitudes toward use (ATU) guide behavioral orientation and are described as the way people are positively or negatively disposed towards an object, while subjective norm (SN) is defined as one’s perception of whether people important to the individual think the behavior should be performed (Yang, 2013).

In the proposed study, SN will be taken as the extent to which a teacher perceives the demands of the ‘important’ others (peers and colleagues) on that teacher to use or demonstrate awareness of digital citizenship, while perceived behavioral control (PBC) will be used to denote the perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior of using digital citizenship in learning contexts. Research is consistent that “in the context of technology-based behaviors, PBC has been found to correlate well with perceived ease of use or difficulty related to particular technology, which has been shown to be major factors predicting intention to use that technology” (Teo & Lee, 2010, p. 969). Since the proposed study aims to explore the extent of comprehension and knowledge with respect to digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers, the researcher will attempt to demonstrate how the three independent variables of TPB (ATU, SN, and PBC) exert significant influence on the behavioral intentions of Saudi teachers to use digital citizenship according to Ribble’s subgroups of respect, educate, and protect.

Understanding Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship has been defined in the literature “as the norms of behavior with regard to technology use” (Ribble et al., 2004, p. 7). Snyder (2016) defines digital citizenship as “the ethical, moral, and responsible use of technology to ensure the safety of oneself and others when collaborating in an increasingly digital, networked, and global society” (p. 30). Digital citizenship, also known as the e-citizenship, involves regular access to networks and their effective use that requires several conditions such as the presence of access to the Internet, the availability of computers or gadgets, the ability to use technology properly, and the critical thinking skills to evaluate the reliability of information found online (Ribble et al., 2004). At its core, digital citizenship aims to not only give young people the tools and ethical code to make good choices in online environments, but also to keep the future safer and allow positive communications and relationships to emerge from social media connections (Berardi, 2015). The main objective of digital citizenship, according to Snyder (2016), is to assist each member of the society to develop a certain level of awareness of the dangers and hazards as well as the positive outcomes related to assuming the role of digital citizen in a networked world.

It is also important to consider the role of cultural norms and cultural understandings that exist around digital media and citizenship. The Communication and Information Technology Commission (n.d.) developed the Anti-Cyber Crime Law according to which people could clarify their roles in the cyberspace and choose the directions in regards to their needs, goals, and expectations. However, the law does not cover the cultural heritage of cyberspace in Saudi Arabia. Understanding Saudi Arabian cultural traditions should be an obligation for all people, who live in the country or want to visit it for some period of time because all of them are based on religious dictates. In general, the use of technologies is supported by the citizens of Saudi Arabia in case it does not contradict the traditions and religious norms of the country. Though Saudi Arabia remains to be a country with definite, conservative beliefs and rules, its richness and perspectives promote the usage of technologies and the development of digital media and citizenship. The country grows fast, and the impact of technology implementation is considerable indeed. People cannot neglect their chances to become educated, properly aware, and able to use as many opportunities as possible. The technological-cultural clash should not be a threat to the country but an opportunity to improve the quality of life and share Arabian beliefs and norms worldwide. Regarding such attitudes to the digital revolution, the development of digital citizenship in Saudi Arabia should be defined as a crucial process for people, who respect their culture and do not reduce the importance of traditions at the expense of digital opportunities.

Who is a Digital Citizen?

A digital citizen has also been defined as an individual who “practices conscientious use of technology, demonstrates responsible use of information, and maintains a good attitude for learning with technology” (Richards, 2010, p. 518). A digital citizen is a confident user of the digital technology, who uses it to participate in educational, cultural, and economic activities of the digital community. Available literature demonstrates that a digital citizen not only develops critical thinking skills in cyberspace and competently speaks the language of the community, but also communicates with others in an honest and ethical behavior that respects the concepts of privacy and freedom of expression in the digital world and actively promotes the value of e-citizenship (Snyder, 2016). Drawing from these definitions, Al-Zahrani (2015) has proposed that a digital citizen should not only advocate for equal human rights for all, but also treat others courteously or considerately, actively pursue an education and develop habits for lifelong learning, and spend and manage money responsibly.

Ribble’s Concept of Respect, Educate, and Protect

Ribble (2011) suggests teaching digital citizenship using the subgroups of respect, educate, and protect (REPs), with each REP containing three topics that should form the basis for digital citizenship awareness and understanding. The broad concept of REPs functions as a way to explain as well as teach the themes of digital citizenship, which include etiquette, access, law, communication, literacy, commerce, rights and responsibility, safety (security), as well as health and welfare. Each of the three subgroups in the REPs framework has three themes that explain the appropriate behavior in online environments, hence the need to explore these subgroups and themes in more detail. Available literature demonstrates that the REPs framework could be used in educational settings to create awareness of the expectations for demonstrating respectful and responsible use of available technology tools to learn and share knowledge (Mossberger, Tolbert, & McNeal, 2008).

The first subgroup, respect, contains the themes of etiquette (electronic standards or procedure), access (full electronic participation in society), and law (electronic responsibility for actions and deeds). Research is consistent that higher levels of perceived Internet attitude and computer self-efficacy enhance the capacity of technology users to respect themselves and others online by demonstrating greater propriety and responsibility for own actions (Ribble, 2011). In their study, Lawrence and Calhoun (2013) argue that respect should be a main issue for students and teachers engaged in virtual communities as it underscores the importance or value of respecting others’ identities, cultures, and human rights. Indeed, “the literature suggests that respect, especially for others, is vital in digital societies since it is becoming much easier to infringe others’ rights due to advances of ICTs” (Al-Zahrani, 2015, p. 210).

The second subgroup, education, encompasses the themes of communication (electronic exchange of information), literacy (process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology), and commerce (electronic buying and selling of goods). The study by Al-Zahrani (2015) found that students with higher levels of computer experience and skills are “more involved in activities related to educating oneself and connecting with others compared with students with less computer experience” (p. 210). Computer knowledge, skills, awareness, and experience have been found to play an important role in ensuring that people are able to exchange and share information with others in online contexts.

The third subgroup, protect, contains the themes of rights and responsibility (those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world), safety (electronic precautions to guarantee safety and security), and health and welfare (physical and psychological wellbeing in a digital technology world). Here, one particular study found that “students with higher levels of daily average technology use tend to protect themselves and others in the digital environments more compared with students with lower daily average technology use” (Al-Zahrani, 2015, p. 211).

In exploring the extent of comprehension and knowledge concerning digital citizenship, it is important to evaluate some contemporary issues related to digital citizenship. These issues could be used in practice settings to identify the perceptions, knowledge, and awareness of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers. A full description of the issues based on Ribble’s REPs concept is demonstrated in Table 1, next page.

Table 1: Contemporary Issues of Digital Citizenship (Source: Ribble, 2011)

REPs Subgroups Themes of Digital Citizenship Contemporary Issues
Respect Etiquette Using technology in ways that minimize the negative effects on others; using technology when it is contextually appropriate; and respecting others online by not engaging in cyberbullying, flaming, inflammatory language, and other digital infringements
Access Equitable access for all students; accommodations for students with special needs; and programs for increasing access outside schools
Law Using file-sharing sites; pirating software; subverting Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies; hacking into systems or networks; stealing someone’s identity; and sexting and sharing of illicit photos
Educate Communication Email; cell phones; personal video calls (Skype); instant messaging; text messaging; blogs; and wikis
Literacy Learning the digital basics (browsers, search engines, download engines, and email); evaluating online resources to determine their accuracy of content and trustworthiness of online vendors; and exploring and developing online learning modes and distance education
Commerce Online buying and selling through commercial sites, auction sites, and other Internet locations; media subscriptions and purchases made through media software such as iTunes; and buying and selling virtual merchandise for online games
Protect Rights and Responsibilities Following acceptable use policies and using technology responsibly both inside and outside school, using online material ethically, including citing sources and requesting permissions; using technology to cheat on tests and assignments; and reporting cyberbullies, threats, and other inappropriate use
Safety/Security Protecting hardware and network security; ensuring personal security from identity theft, phishing, and online stalking; ensuring school security from hackers and viruses, and protecting communities from terrorist threats
Health and Wellbeing Using proper ergonomics; avoiding repetitive motion injuries; becoming addicted to the Internet or to video games; and withdrawing from society

Current research on Digital Citizenship Awareness

Although the majority of teachers and other educators believe that schools’ integration of technology in teaching and learning is vital to keeping up with the current trends of the increasingly networked world, research is consistent that “making technology effective in the classroom requires much more than merely equipping students with Internet access and devices” (Dotterer, Hedges, & Parker, 2016, p. 59). For these authors, “students must understand how to use personal technology in ways that enhance their learning experience and lead to self-empowerment and awareness, and schools must ensure that they protect students while guiding their exploration of the digital landscape” (p. 59).

The importance of digital citizenship awareness has been documented in several research studies. In their study, Hollandsworth, Dowdy, and Donovan (2011) argue that the “lack of digital awareness and education can, and has, led to problematic, even dangerous student conduct.” (p. 37). On their part, Weigel, James, and Gardner (2009) note that “the Internet’s potential for learning may be curtailed if youth lack key skills for navigating it, if they consistently engage with Internet resources in a shallow fashion, and/or if they limit their explorations to a narrow band of things they believe are worth knowing” (p. 3). Having sufficient knowledge and awareness of digital citizenship empower users to make smart, responsible, and respectful decisions when interacting with others in online contexts (Orth & Chen, 2013), exercise the values of good judgment and kindness when using the Internet to learn and socialize (Hollandsworth et al., 2011), and understand the consequences behind the decisions that individuals make online (Dotterer et al., 2016). According to the standards developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), digital citizenship awareness helps students to (1) understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior, (2) advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology, (3) exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity, (4) demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning, and (5) exhibit leadership for digital citizenship (Snyder, 2016).

The ISTE has also provided standards that could be used by teachers to promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility in educational settings. These standards underscore the various skills and knowledge of digital citizenship that teachers must demonstrate in order to guide students toward appropriate and responsible use of technology (Hollandsworth et al., 2011).To achieve competency in digital citizenship, teachers must not only understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and display legal and ethical behavior in their professional undertakings, but also advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources (Snyder, 2016). Teachers are also expected to (1) address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered approaches providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources, (2) promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions associated with the use of technology and information, and (3) develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by interacting with peers and learners of other cultures using digital age communication and collaboration tools (Snyder, 2016).

Research is consistent that “teachers need professional development opportunities to learn the basics about digital technologies as they often come to the classroom without proper understanding about the digital technologies on which they are asked to provide instruction” (Snyder, 2016, pp. 41-42). In one particular study, Pusey and Sadera (2012) found that teachers in pre-service settings lack the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to teach learners how to use contemporary technology tools for learning and socialization. In another study, Guo and Stevens (2011) found that teachers who demonstrate positive attitudes toward emergent technology tools are more able to positively impact students’ use of these tools than teachers with negative attitudes or low self-efficacy. Other studies show a link between the level of digital citizenship awareness and knowledge among users and the capacity to use technology tools without any problems, communicate appropriately and responsibly when using technology tools, and safeguard own identity as well as the identities of other collaborators in online contexts (Kolensinski, Nelson-Weaver, & Diamond, 2014). These studies point to a direct connection between teachers’ attitudes, understanding, and perceptions about technology and level of respect for oneself and others communicating and interacting in online contexts.

Much of the research on digital citizenship awareness and perceptions of use has focused on students at the expense of teachers. In one particular study, Al-Zahrani (2015) found that “students with good levels of attitudes toward the Internet can be better digital citizens who respect themselves and others and may effectively engage in more activities relevant to educating themselves and others online” (p. 211). Specifically, this study found that students with higher levels of confidence and trust in their technological capabilities tend to respect themselves and others online, learn and share information in respectable virtual environments, and protect themselves and others from digital infringements such as cyberbullying, use of abusive language, and unauthorized access. In one study focusing on teachers, Sadaf, Newby, and Ertmer (2012) found that “the ability of teachers to use technological tools for personal use does not hold the same effective value as a professional’s self-efficacy in using the same tools for instructional purposes” (p. 241). Since professional self-efficacy is gained through experience, it is possible for teachers’ level of experience to become an important variable in determining the level of digital citizenship awareness among teachers.

Lastly, several research studies have attempted to investigate how demographic variables such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status affect the use of technology. Findings from these studies demonstrate that racial and ethnic considerations, systematic dissimilarities in the opportunities available to individuals and communities, income and educational levels, and type of occupation contribute significantly to lower rates of home computer and Internet access and use (Mossberger et al., 2008), meaning that these demographic characteristics influence the formation of attitudes and awareness of how to use technology for learning and socialization. Motivational issues, cultural perceptions, time constraints, and family responsibilities have also been found to influence the use of technology. In gender, Mossberger et al. (2008) note that “survey data reveal almost no substantive difference between men and women in self-reported technical competence, information literacy, or the ability to use the Internet to find information” (p. 105). Overall, these findings demonstrate that demographic variables may serve as a useful starting point for understanding issues of digital citizenship awareness and comprehension.


This chapter describes the research methodology that will be used in the proposed study, including the researcher’s stance, study design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques. Issues of research dependability, credibility, transferability, validity, and reliability will also be discussed in this section.

Purpose Overview and Research Questions

The purpose of the proposed research study is to explore Saudi teachers’ perceptions of their current knowledge and comprehension of digital citizenship. Additionally, the proposed study will seek to evaluate how demographic characteristics such as gender, grade level of teaching, and years of experience influence the perceptions of Saudi Arabia teachers about digital citizenship awareness. The specific research questions that will guide this particular research study relate to exploring the scope and perceptions of digital citizenship awareness among Saudi teachers based on Ribble’s characterization of respect, education, and protection.

Researcher Stance

The researcher will assume a pragmatic knowledge stance in designing the research process in a way that will allow the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data equally. In the pragmatic stance, “the researcher bases the inquiry on the assumption that collecting diverse types of data best provides an understanding of a research problem” (Creswell, 2003, p. 21). This philosophical stance postulates that knowledge claims arise out of actions, situations, and consequences rather than antecedent conditions (Mitchell & Jolley, 2013), and that researchers are free to draw liberally from both quantitative and qualitative approaches when they engage in their research (Creswell, 2003). Drawing from these elaborations, it is evident that the pragmatic philosophical stance fits the expectations of the proposed research study since it will provide the researcher with the opportunity to use multiple methods, different worldviews, different assumptions, as well as different types of data collection and analysis to explore the current knowledge and awareness of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers. This is consistent with the observation made by Creswell (2003) that the pragmatic stance is not committed to one system of reality and does not view the world as an absolute unity.

Study Design

The proposed study will employ a mixed-methods research approach and the concurrent triangulation research design based on Creswell’s book mixed method to explore Saudi teachers’ perceptions of their current knowledge and comprehension of digital citizenship. In a mixed-methods approach, the researcher tends to not only base knowledge claims on pragmatic underpinnings such as consequence-oriented, problem-centered and pluralistic perspectives, but also to employ strategies of inquiry that involve gathering field data either simultaneously or sequentially to best understand existing research problems (Creswell, 2003). Harwell (2012) argues that the mixed methods research approach “combines qualitative and quantitative methods in ways that ostensibly bridge their differences in the service of addressing a research problem” (p. 151). A mixed-methods approach has been selected for this study due to its capacity to provide multiple insights on digital citizenship awareness through the collection of qualitative and quantitative types of data in ways that will draw on the strengths of both traditions of inquiry. The research design gives equal importance to the qualitative and quantitative data in order to gain a holistic and statistical understanding of teachers’ comprehension of digital citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

As mentioned above, the concurrent triangulation research design will be used to allow the researcher to use the findings to describe and build understanding about the experiences and dispositions of the research participants. Creswell and Plano Clark (2006) note that a researcher, who chooses the “concurrent triangulation design”, has to collect and analyze two types of data, qualitative and quantitative, separately but on the same phenomenon in order to present the results that could be converged in the interpretation process. This research design is suited for this study, as it will help the researcher to use quantitative and qualitative data that will be collected and compared to remove the weaknesses of each other and use the strong aspects to cover the topic. However, the researcher will attempt to understand both the nuances of the topic from in-depth exploration from a few participants through qualitative methods and a broad view of the educational landscape through the quantitative data, which collects information from many participants but is limited in scope. Additionally, this research design will allow both inductive and deductive investigation on digital citizenship awareness to take place in the same project, hence ensuring the researcher will be able to develop a knowledge base on the main research questions.

The following diagram should explain the process of collecting the data on the basis of the concurrent triangulation method developed by Creswell and Plano Clark (2006):

The process of collecting the data on the basis of the concurrent triangulation method developed by Creswell and Plano Clark

First, the interview procedure will be used to identify the perceptions of digital citizenship awareness among Saudi Arabia teachers based on the requirements of the first research question (see appendix A). Specifically, an online interview method (via Skype) will be used in the qualitative phase to explore the perceptions of digital citizenship awareness according to Ribble’s characterization of respect, education, and protection. The administration of the semi-structured interview will assist the researcher to collect textual data from four randomly selected Saudi teachers, after which coding and thematic analysis will be undertaken to develop themes and undertake cross-thematic analysis based on the qualitative research question (Miles & Huberman, 2001). The online interview procedure is not only cost-effective and flexible, but it also provides an opportunity for the researcher to engage more with participants in collecting textual information on the perceptions of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers based on Ribble’s categories of respect, education, and protect.

Then, a survey research design will be used to collect appropriate statistical data that will then be used to investigate the scope of digital citizenship awareness exhibited by Saudi teachers based on Ribble’s characterizations (respect, educate, and protect) and demographic characteristics (gender, grade level of teaching, and years of experience). Specifically, the researcher will make use of an online questionnaire adopted from Al-Zahrani (2015) to quantitatively measure the main variables of interest as indicated in the main quantitative research questions and sub-questions. Survey research, according to Mitchell and Jolley (2013), encompasses “acquiring information about one or more groups of people – perhaps about their characteristics, opinions, attitudes, or previous experiences – by asking them questions and tabulating their answers” (p. 261). The ultimate objective of survey research is to learn about the behavior, opinions, abilities, beliefs and knowledge of a particular population by surveying a sample of that population and generalizing the results (Creswell, 2003). Drawing from these elaborations, it is clear that this research design will be effective in enabling the researcher to collect participant self-report data (filled by the participant as the online questionnaire will be self-administered) by posing a set of questions to the sampled respondents at a particular point in time, before summarizing their responses using quantitative strategies in order to draw inferences about the scope of digital citizenship awareness among Saudi Arabia teachers. Research is consistent that surveys can present an accurate portrayal or account of the main variables or characteristics under investigation by providing a fast and inexpensive way to gather a lot of data and information about a sample’s attitudes, beliefs, value systems, and self-reported behaviors (Mitchell & Jolley, 2013). In the context of the proposed study, the survey design adopted by the researcher will provide an enabling framework through which quantitative self-report data on digital citizenship awareness will be collected using an online-administered questionnaire and analyzed using ANOVA and other statistical analysis techniques to answer the main quantitative research question and sub-questions.

Data Collection Design

Qualitative data for the proposed study will be collected through Skype interviews. Specifically, convenience sampling of two males and two female teachers from schools in Saudi Arabia will be done through the Skype software with the view to assisting the researcher to gain an in-depth understanding of Saudi teachers’ perceptions of digital citizenship awareness based on Ribble’s characterization of respect, educate, and protect. Participants will be requested to take part in individual 45-minute semi-structured video interviews discussing the perceptions of digital citizenship awareness based on Ribble’s subgroups of digital citizenship (see Appendix A). The interview will attempt to explore issues of digital citizenship awareness, perceptions and knowledge among the teachers, such as the meaning of digital citizenship, the importance of digital citizenship, examples of use, and the confidence level in their ability to model and teach digital citizenship in the future. In line with the tenets of the exploratory research design, the qualitative data will be collected and analyzed first to provide useful insights for an in-depth quantitative study on the perceptions of digital citizenship awareness among the teachers, however, one data collection method is not contingent on the other. Additionally, each type of data is important to the collective understanding of the teachers’ comprehension of digital citizenship in Saudi Arabia, thus each contributes different but equal information to the study.

The Interviews will be in the primary language of participants, which is Arabic. Interviews will be digitally recorded and transcribed. The interviews will be recorded using an audio device only. No video recordings will be made. After that, the Arabic data will be translated into the English language. No identifying information will be collected either in written notes or on the audio recordings. Additionally, no other data such as observations or artifacts will be taken from the participants. No deception of any kind will be used, and the participants will have full knowledge of the purpose of the study well beforehand. It is important to note that the interviews will be structured around the issues that may be included in the questionnaire with regard to digital citizenship awareness. Overall, the interview data collection method fits into the context of the proposed study by virtue of providing the researcher with the opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of the perceptions of digital citizenship exhibited by Saudi Arabia teachers based on Ribble’s categorization of respect, education, and protect.

Quantitative data for the proposed study will be collected through the administration of an online questionnaire targeting a sample of 200 Saudi Arabia K-12 teachers, who will be selected for the study using a random sampling strategy. The questionnaire will be developed around a data collection tool developed by Al-Zahrani (2015) and the items will be measured using a five-point Likert-type scale. The online questionnaire data collection method provides the benefits of ease of administration, minimal cost outlays, ease of data analysis, and capacity to collect large amounts of data from a large number of geographically-diverse people in a short period of time (Creswell, 2003). Participation in the survey is voluntary and respondents may choose not to respond to any questions that they do not wish to answer.

Data Analysis Design

Audio recordings from the interviews will be transcribed, after which data will be processed and organized using NVivo version 10 for onward analysis of qualitative data according to the most pertinent themes of digital citizenship awareness. NVivo allows the researcher to group typical responses and discover themes in interview data. Data will be coded based on themes that may be developed about the qualitative research question that seeks to use Ribble’s categorization of respect, education, and protection to explore the perceptions of Saudi Arabia teachers about digital citizenship awareness. Specifically, the transcribed data will be imported directly to the software for auto-coding based on a pre-existing structure or patterns that are more likely to provide responses to the main qualitative research question. The researcher will also rely on thematic coding using the NVivo software to understand why various results are interesting to the study; however, data will be coded at multiple nodes with each node encompassing one concept only for ease of understanding and analysis (Miles & Huberman, 2001). Available literature demonstrates that the NVivo software allows the researcher to pursue the relationship between categories of digital citizenship proposed by Ribble (2011) and the identified themes data with the view to increasing the understanding of digital citizenship awareness in Saudi Arabia (Kothari, 2004). Available literature demonstrates that the Nvivo software “reduces a great number of manual tasks and gives the researcher more time to discover tendencies, recognize themes and derive conclusions” (Hilal & Alabri, 2013, p. 182). It is believed that these data analyses techniques will assist the researcher to gain insights into complex phenomena encompassing the perceptions of digital citizenship awareness.

The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS, version 21) will be used to analyze the quantitative data from the questionnaires, after which statistical analyses will be undertaken to explore the scope of digital citizenship awareness among Saudi Arabia teachers based on Ribble’s characterization (respect, educate, and protect) as well as the selected demographic characteristics (gender, grade level of teaching, and years of experience). Specifically, the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) statistical technique using a repeated measures design (within-subjects) will be used to test the mean differences among levels of digital citizenship based on the mentioned demographic variables (Kothari, 2004). This statistical method will assist the researcher to test differences between two or more means in an attempt to identify how perceptions of digital citizenship awareness are influenced by the gender of the teacher (male or female), grade level of teaching (elementary, middle, and high school), as well as years of experience (1-10 years, 11-20 years, and over 20 years). The results of these analyses will be instrumental in responding to the quantitative research question and sub-questions.

Issues in Qualitative Analysis Design


In qualitative research contexts, dependability is defined as “the stability of findings over time” (Anney, 2014, p. 278). This author further posits that “dependability involves participants evaluating the findings and the interpretation and recommendations of the study to make sure that they are all supported by the data received from the informants of the study” (p. 278). The researcher intends to use an effective research design and employ comprehensive data collection techniques to ensure that the processes within the proposed study are “reported in detail, thereby enabling a future researcher to repeat the work, if not necessarily to gain the same results” (Shenton, 2004, pp. 71-72). These strategies, it is felt, will assist greatly in describing what will be planned and executed on a strategic level, addressing the details of what will be done in the field, and ensuring the effectiveness of the process of inquiry undertaken. Additionally, the researcher intends to use the stepwise replication strategy to ensure that qualitative research data are evaluated by two or more researchers with the view to noting any inconsistencies (Anney, 2004)


In qualitative research, credibility attempts to address the issue of “how congruent are the findings with reality” (Shenton, 2004, p. 64). Since credibility is one of the most important factors in establishing trustworthiness, the researcher will take adequate care to ensure that the qualitative results of the proposed study are not only trustworthy and dependable, but can also be supported by recent findings. The following steps will be taken to ensure that qualitative findings are congruent with reality: ensuring that research questions are well defined; following a consistent and appropriate methodology; undertaking a comprehensive review of literature to note trends in digital citizenship awareness; and ensuring appropriate data collection and analysis (Anney, 2004). In the proposed study, validity will be ensured by (1) having a transparent, systematic approach to data collection, (2) maintaining an audit trail to document clearly the flow and processing of data, and (3) member checking to ensure that the approaches and techniques used are valid (Mitchell & Jolly, 2013).


Transferability encompasses the issues of applying the research to other contexts and situations and applying the findings of the study beyond the boundaries of research (Mitchell & Jolly, 2013). Research is consistent that, “since the findings of a qualitative project are specific to a small number of particular environments and individuals, it is impossible to demonstrate that the findings and conclusions are applicable to other situations and population” (Shenton, 2004, p. 69). The researcher intends to deal with this challenge by providing thick descriptions that enable “judgments about how well the research context fits other contexts” (Anney, 2004, p. 278).

Issues in Quantitative Data Analysis Design


Validity denotes “the strength of our conclusions, inferences or propositions” (Kothari, 2004, p. 165). It is important to ensure that all quantitative measures are able to measure or test what they are intended to measure with the appropriate conditions (internal validity), and that the findings of the proposed study can be applied to a wider population or situation (external validity). The survey will be reviewed by a content expert to ensure each prompt is aligned with valid content from the field. The researcher will ensure the validity of quantitative measures by reviewing available literature to understand the main tenets of Al-Zahrani’s questionnaire.


Reliability denotes “the consistency of your measurement, or the degree to which an instrument measures the same way each time it is used under the same condition with the same subjects” (Kothari, 2004, p. 167). In addressing the issue of reliability, quantitative researchers employ strategies “to show that, if the work were repeated, in the same context, with the same methods and with the same participants, similar results would be obtained” (Shenton, 2004, p. 71). The researcher will ensure the reliability ensuring that the main items that will be included in the instrument will have the capacity to get similar results if the questionnaire is administered to a similar sample (Creswell, 2003). In this study, reliability statistics will be obtained using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient that indicated acceptable internal consistency levels exceeding.7 (Pallant, 2007).

Potential Limitations

Limitations are defined as potential weaknesses and challenges in the study that are outside the control of the researcher (Creswell, 2003). One of the main limitations of the study is that the researcher may be unaware of the problems associated with traditional methods or techniques “as they are modified in a mixed methods environment” (Bazeley, 2002, p. 9). Another limitation deals with the religious and cultural landscape of Saudi Arabia, where research is consistent that the mainstream religious and cultural beliefs significantly influence perceptions related to the use of technology and establishing responsible and safe use behaviors online (Al-Zahrani, 2015). The first limitation by ensuring an in-depth coverage of the methodological designs that will be used in the study, while the limitation of religious and cultural beliefs will be addressed by ensuring that the participants are prepared prior to the commencement of the data collection exercise in order to address these issues. If such limitations surface during the research process, the researcher will adjust the process in order to collect the depth of data needed to respond to the research questions. An example of such a modification might be to hire a female research assistant to conduct interviews with female participants.


Study delimitations are defined as “those characteristics that limit the scope and define the boundaries of your study” (Mitchell & Jolly, 2013, p. 196). Some of the delimitations that affect the proposed study include the choice of variables of interest (Ribble’s characterization and demographic characteristics), the choice of the research questions (exploratory as opposed to explanatory), and the choice of the theoretical framework (the theory of planned behavior, as opposed to other technology adoption and use theories such as the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology). It is important to note that other approaches could have been used to explore the extent of comprehension and knowledge of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers. The participants who enroll in the study must be duly certified Saudi Arabia teachers providing teaching experiences to K-12 students in any part of the Kingdom.


The purpose of the proposed mixed methods study is to gather qualitative and quantitative data, interpret findings, and explore the extent of comprehension and knowledge of digital citizenship among Saudi Arabia teachers. Specifically, the study aims to employ the concurrent triangulation research design to collect both qualitative and quantitative data in a mixed-methods approach with the view to compare the results and corroborate quantitative and qualitative information about such phenomena as the expanse of digital citizenship awareness of Saudi Arabia teachers based on Ribble’s characterization of respect, educate, and protect. Participants for the proposed study comprise four teachers from selected digital citizenship case institutions (two males and two females) for the qualitative study and 200 teachers of K-12 students for the quantitative study. Qualitative data for the proposed study will be gathered through Skype video interviews, while quantitative data will be collected using standardized questionnaires administered to a random sample of Saudi teachers practicing in K-12 contexts. The data collected from this study will be subjected to quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques for categorization and analysis to respond to the key research questions in terms of findings.


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Appendix A

  1. In your own words, describe what “digital citizenship” means?
  2. Describe an example of a teacher behaving irresponsibly or unethically with regard to technology use?
  3. Why do you think it is important for teachers to be good digital citizens?
  4. Describe an example of an elementary or high school student violating these norms?
  5. How can teachers teach their students to be good digital citizens?
  6. How do you think you will be expected to model and teach digital citizenship in the future?
  7. How confident are you in your ability to model and teach digital citizenship in the future?
  8. Is there anything else you’d like to say regarding digital citizenship?


  1. Age
  2. How long have you taught?
  3. What is your specialty area?
  4. Gender
  5. What is the level of your education?
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