Homework solutions, digital citizenship, and math education (EDTC 6101, Digital readiness project)

It stretches my thinking to imagine how Ribble’s (2013) nine elements of digital citizenship can be meaningfully incorporated into math education. Digital citizenship is a concept that relates respecting, educating, and protecting yourself and others while in an online world through nine elements: digital etiquette, digital access, digital law, digital communication, digital literacy, digital commerce, digital rights and responsibility, digital safety, and digital health and welfare. Technology is a large part of our culture and I believe that being a thoughtful digital citizen is as important as being a thoughtful citizen of the physical world, so I think it is important to teach digital citizenship where applicable. In my day to day life, digital citizenship feels like a highly relevant and core skill. However, during my math classes as an undergrad, I don’t feel like digital citizenship was ever addressed.

Pre-interview preparation

Since I was struggling to think of ways in which digital citizenship could be taught within a math class, I wanted to use the interview portion of EDU 6101’s Digital Readiness Project as a way to uncover some of the inherent connections. Therefore, I developed a list of questions based on the ways I thought technology could intersect with math education – including topics like gender-related differences in calculator/math software use, and accepting students as friends on Facebook – but I left the interview open enough to follow unexpected connections. For this project I interviewed math professor Dr. James Lambers of University of Southern Mississippi.

Post-interview infographic

This infographic represents some general information about technology and math education. What I chose to include was based on my interview with Dr. Lambers.


Post-interview reflection

Upon reflecting about the interview, one connection between digital citizenship and math education stood out to me as the most meaningful, and that is the connection to digital law with digitally accessible homework solutions. The connection is possibly more in spirit than technically an issue of copyright law, but the issue of students using digital homework solutions is morally and ethically similar to the problem of stealing content since both are an issue of presenting unoriginal work as your own.

As math educators, we want students to take ownership of their learning, and digitally obtained homework solutions via resources like Wolfram Alpha, Chegg, or past students can exasperate the problem of students working to “get the grade” instead of working to learn. I don’t mean to say that using solutions is always negative for the learning process – it’s how solutions are used that makes the difference. I’m specifically referring to when students copy solutions without understanding what they’re copying, and this is the kind of behavior we want to prevent. I’m envisioning a connection where helping students develop their moral and ethical thinking for citing sources of digitally or otherwise obtained solutions could promote a shift from focusing on “getting the answer” to being responsible for the learning process.

James (2014) gives us some insight that may be useful for understanding students’ moral and ethical considerations regarding instructor-developed homework problems and solutions. Her research suggests that knowing the content creator can increase young peoples’ moral and ethical sensitivity (p. 63), and one study showed that students were more likely to use digital content without permission as opposed to physical content (p. 67). This makes me wonder if students may be more likely to respect a teacher’s request to not distribute solutions simply because the students know the teacher, and if the students may be more likely to not distribute physical handouts of solutions, as opposed to electronic solutions. Furthermore, her work suggests that young people who have created content within a community feel more responsibility towards that community and are more likely to employ moral and ethical considerations. This makes me wonder if developing a sense of community in a math class where students are also content creators could support their moral and ethical thinking about copying and distributing homework solutions.

Beyond the direct parallels made between James’ work and math education, these questions also got me asking broader questions about using solutions: How can we utilize James’ research to help us teach moral and ethical use? How are students thinking about the use of digital homework solutions? Are they making consequence-based decisions or employing moral and ethical thinking? When do they employ moral and ethical thinking? What activities increase the moral and ethical thinking of math students? Do they have a free-for-all mindset regarding solutions (p. 56)? These questions are very interesting to me and could inform possible directions for future dissertation work.



James, C., & Jenkins, H. (2014). Disconnected: Youth, new media, and the ethics gap. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lyublinskaya, I., & Tournaki, N. (2011). The effect of teaching and learning with Texas Instruments handheld devices on student achievement in algebra. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching30(1), 5-35. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ924358

Munger, G. F., & Loyd, B. H. (1989). Gender and attitudes toward computers and calculators: Their relationship to math performance. Journal of Educational Computing Research5(2), 167-177. http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/R1HL-LG9J-1YN5-AQ4N

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). (2016). Mathematics literacy: Gender. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2015/pisa2015highlights_5c.asp

Ribble, M., & Miller, T. N. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of asynchronous learning networks, 17(1), 137-145. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1011379

Svadilfari, Sean. (2008). Homework. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/22280677@N07/2272656387