ISTE Standard 1: Change Agent ISTE Standard 2: Connected Learner ISTE Standard 3: Collaborator ISTE Standard 4: Learning Designer ISTE Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator ISTE Standard 6: Data-Driven Decision-Maker ISTE Standard 7: Digital Citizen Advocate ISTE Standards for Coaching

Social responsibility and utilization of digital media among dietetics professionals to reduce health disparities

Due to rapid advancements in information and communication technology (ICT), dietetics professionals have seemingly endless opportunities to provide evidence-based recommendations, dialogue, support, resources, and partnerships via digital media that foster civic engagement, which may play a role in reducing health disparities afflicting communities.   

In the Code of Ethics (COE) for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession, dietetics professionals are expected to adhere to several core values, including social responsibility. Principle #4 in the COE pertains to “Social responsibility for local, regional, national, global nutrition and well-being” (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). The following ethical standards reflect the core value of social responsibility:

“a. Collaborate with others to reduce health disparities and protect human rights.

b. Promote fairness and objectivity with fair and equitable treatment.

c. Contribute time and expertise to activities that promote respect, integrity, and competence of the profession.

d. Promote the unique role of nutrition and dietetics practitioners.

e. Engage in service that benefits the community and to enhance the public’s trust in the profession.

f. Seek leadership opportunities in professional, community, and service organizations to enhance health and nutritional status while protecting the public” (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

In our duties aimed at addressing social justice issues pertaining to food and nutrition, dietetics professionals can utilize digital technology as a powerful tool for civic engagement to address the COE standards, as described above.  

Utilizing digital media as a tool for civic engagement with a focus on community health aligns with the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standard for Coaches 7a: Digital Citizen Advocate: “Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities” (International society for Technology in Education).

In a peer-reviewed journal article titled, “Shaping Social Networks to Reduce Health Disparities: The Nexus between Information Dissemination and Valid Discussion,” the following considerations are discussed, which may apply to the efforts of dietetics professionals when partnering with communities, via digital media platforms, to join forces in the collective efforts directed at reducing health disparities:  

  • Establish local online health-focused communities: Community members, rather than thought of as having a passive role in healthcare, must be viewed and respected as “smart and capable collaborators” (p. 2);
  • Community members should have opportunities to engage with others who have similar health-related needs;
  • Health-focused online communities can be designed as virtual groups or networks, and are implemented to provide social support and interpersonal communications, resources, community engagement, and collaboration;
  • Social media sites can be used as two-way communication tools (vs. one way communication tools) to engage communities on issues that affect their collective health and livelihood;
  • Social media sites can be utilized to promote social norms, which may enhance health and reduce risk of disease (Starland-Davenport et al., 2016).

Further, community members with similar healthcare needs may benefit from online social networks by receiving encouragement, emotional support, and sharing of information, which may result in increased self-efficacy and empowerment towards goal attainment.  In a blog post on the use of social media in healthcare, Newberry (2020) states that “nearly 40% of young people (ages 14 to 22) have used online tools to connect with others with similar health challenges. That includes social media groups.”

Virtual social support, whether organized as community groups with similar healthcare needs, one-on-one communications with a healthcare provider, or a community group including a healthcare moderator, may augment traditional healthcare, which may enhance the overall health and well-being of communities.  Additionally, Newberry (2020) asserts that Facebook groups are being created to bring patients together with similar healthcare experiences to offer support, education, and opportunities for group discussions with healthcare moderators.

In conclusion, dietetics professionals are charged with a social responsibility to provide their expertise in ways that enhance the health and wellness of communities. Digital technology tools provide the ability to connect, engage, and support community members in new and promising ways in our efforts to reduce health disparities.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Code of Ethics for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession.

International Society for Technology in Education. ISTE Standards for Coaches.

Newberry, C. (2020). How to use social media in healthcare: A guide for health professionals.

Starland-Davenport, A, Booth, B, Kieber-Emmons, A, Topologlo, U, Hogan, W, Thomas Kieber-Emmons. (2016). Shaping Social Networks to Reduce Health Disparities: The Nexus between Information Dissemination and Valid Discussion. Health Systems and Policy Research, 3(2), 1-10.  

ISTE Standard 1: Change Agent ISTE Standard 2: Connected Learner ISTE Standard 3: Collaborator ISTE Standard 4: Learning Designer ISTE Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator ISTE Standard 6: Data-Driven Decision-Maker ISTE Standard 7: Digital Citizen Advocate

Digital literacy: An essential component of professional competence in the nutrition and dietetics profession

In an era of evolving digital technology, it is essential that university dietetics programs incorporate curriculum on digital literacy in preparation of student contributions to the collective digital media environment.  This instruction is an important aspect of professional competence, as it will provide students with tools needed to critically navigate sources of information available on the Internet, and subsequently increase their competence as providers of evidence-based food and nutrition information available to the public.  When thinking of outcomes succeeding instruction on digital literacy, a component of digital professionalism, Ellaway et al. (2015) state that “professionals should maintain the capacity for deliberate, ethical, and accountable practice when using digital media” (p. 844).  

Deye (2017) defines digital literacy as “. . . the use and security of interactive digital tools and searchable networks. This includes the ability to use digital tools safely and effectively for learning, collaborating and producing.”  Digital literacy is reflected in the International Society for Technology in Education’s Coaching Standard Digital Citizen Advocate (7c): “Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions” (International Society for Technology in Education). 

Prior to becoming credentialed practitioners, dietetics students should be able to demonstrate competence in digital literacy through proper access, utilization, and referencing of online sources. Skills acquired in digital literacy will enable dietetics students to critically evaluate online nutrition and health information prior to referencing their curated digital communications intended for consumer communications.  Paulus, Baker, and Langford (2019) assert that “. . . we should enable our students to use [information and communications technology] ICTs to create contributions to public knowledge while they are still in school.  ‘. . . Students work best when they know their work is for their future beyond school…when they realize their work contributes (p. 55).’” An earlier start to contributing to the collection of digitally accessed, evidence-based food and nutrition information may further enhance identity formation as professionals while students are still in college.   

However, for dietetics students to be competent in digital literacy, it is essential that they understand the ethical considerations when making contributions to the digital media landscape.  Regarding competencies related to access, utilization, and referencing of online sources, Helm (2016) describes this as “content credibility,” and states the best practices in this area are as follows (p. 1828):

  • “Always provide accurate and truthful information.
  • Distinguish between science-based facts and a personal point of view.
  • Share only information from credible sources.
  • Include the source of nutrition studies or claims cited.
  • Place results of new studies in context.
  • Correct misinformation and respond to inaccuracies.”

Helm’s words of wisdom reflect several principles housed within the Code of Ethics for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession, which are listed here:

  • “1a. Practice using an evidence-based approach within areas of competence, continuously develop and enhance expertise, and recognize limitations
  • 1b.Demonstrate in depth scientific knowledge of food, human nutrition and behavior.
  • 1c. Assess the validity and applicability of scientific evidence without personal bias.
  • 2d. Respect intellectual property rights, including citation and recognition of the ideas and work of others, regardless of the medium (e.g. written, oral, electronic).
  • 2e. Provide accurate and truthful information in all communications.
  • 3d.Refrain from communicating false, fraudulent, deceptive, misleading, disparaging or unfair statements or claims” (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

Additionally, Helm (2016) discusses the importance of giving proper credit and providing citations to the original source of information. In the case of citing other blogs, the author pointed out that there must be a link to the original source of information as well as proper credit to the author or organization for which the author works.

In summary, when instructing students on the use of digital media tools to communicate evidence-based information, we must recognize that they are still learning core content, including key concepts in food and nutritional sciences as well as methods used and ethics involved in accessing digital information. Thus, it is important that students are knowledgeable in digital literacy and ethics as well as applicable core content before they publish information online, but these experiences are encouraged to increase to the contributions of evidence-based food and nutrition available to consumers as well as aid in the development of students’ professional identity formation.  


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Code of Ethics for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession.

Deye, S. (2017). Promoting digital literacy and citizenship in school. National Conference of State Legislators, 25(7).

Ellway, R, Coral J, Topps, D, Topps, M. (2015). Exploring digital professionalism. Medical Teacher, 37(9), 844-849.    

Helm, J. (2016). Practice paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Social media and the dietetics practitioner. Opportunities, challenges, and best practices. J Acad Nutr Diet, 116: 1825-1835. 

International Society for Technology in Education. ISTE Standards for Coaches.

Paulus, M, Jr., Baker, B, Langford, M. (2019). A Framework for digital wisdom in higher education. Christian Scholar’s Review, 49(1): 41-61.

ISTE Standard 1: Change Agent ISTE Standard 2: Connected Learner ISTE Standard 3: Collaborator ISTE Standard 4: Learning Designer ISTE Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator ISTE Standard 6: Data-Driven Decision-Maker ISTE Standard 7: Digital Citizen Advocate ISTE Standards for Coaching

An exploration of student integrity in the digital age

Professionalism is a value that is important to me, and one that I work diligently to impart onto my students in both my actions and in my instruction. As the Nutrition and Dietetics Internship Director at Seattle Pacific University, I oversee supervised learning experiences for a cohort of 10 post-baccalaureate interns placed in a variety of clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management sites across Western Washington. An essential component of pre-requisite knowledge prior to beginning supervised practice is an understanding the Code of Ethics (COE) for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession. There are several principles and standards in our profession’s COE that address my overarching question, which is as follows:

How is integrity demonstrated in students’ digital profiles and communications on social media?

This question aligns with ISTE Standards for Coaches #7d: “Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect” (International Society for Technology in Education).  

The following principles and standards from the Code of Ethics for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession are relevant to the discussion of integrity in students’ online presence (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics):

  • Principle #2 in the COE addresses “integrity in personal and organizational behaviors and practices,” and includes:
    • Standard D: “Respect intellectual property rights, including citation and recognition of the ideas and work of others, regardless of the medium (e.g. written, oral, electronic)  
    •  Standard H: “Respect patients/clients autonomy. Safeguard patient/client confidentiality according to current regulations and laws.”
    • Standard E: “Provide accurate and truthful information in all communications.”
  •  Principle #3 in the COE addresses “professionalism,” and includes:
    •  Standard C: “Demonstrate respect, constructive dialogue, civility and professionalism in all communications, including social media.”

In my quest to understand how dietetics students demonstrate integrity online, it is important to view potential ethical issues within the framework of our profession’s COE.  As outlined above, there are a variety of ethical considerations concerning integrity and professionalism. Following are some examples of how these ethical principles and standards translate into demonstrating integrity online in a student’s online presence:

  • Referencing information correctly in blogs, electronic newsletters, infographics, Tweets, and public service announcements when students are providing nutrition education to the public;
  • Verifying that all information communicated online to the public is accurate and truthful, including in blogs, electronic newsletters, infographics, Tweets, and public service announcements;
  •   Ensuring that students do not discuss confidential information (Peregrin, 2018) or include photos of their patients or clients in their social media posts or blogs;
  • Maintaining confidentiality of supervised practice environments by refraining from posting pictures from clinics and hospitals that may be considered private or containing sensitive information;
  • Refraining from posting or discussing proprietary, internal organizational information in social media posts (Peregrin, 2018);  
  • Keeping online conversations respectful and civil even when there is disagreement or differing perspectives, including both posts and responses to posts.  

Peregrin (2018) asserts that there is no guarantee that private social media posts are actually private, and anything a student posts or says online has the potential to be discovered by an unintended audience, such as a prospective educational program or potential employer. He points out that the content of students’ posts have the potential to affect them adversely in the future, so it is critical that students understand potential consequences for what they choose to communicate on social media.

In the K-12 curriculum “Commonsense Education,” a lesson plan developed on the topic of digital citizenship explains that each of us has a digital footprint, which is our unique public presence in online activities. The curriculum reinforces that one’s digital footprint is an aspect to our identity that can either work for or against us in future opportunities depending on what we post and how we handle ourselves online. This concept of the digital footprint seconds what Peregrin reveals about the impact of an online presence affecting educational and employment decision-making (Commonsense Education).   

In summary, there are many ways in which dietetic students can demonstrate integrity in their digital profiles and communications on social media. A periodic review of the Code of Ethics for Nutrition and Dietetics Profession is essential to ensure that students avoid any potential ethical issues which may stem from what they may post and publish in their online forums.    


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Code of Ethics for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession.

Commonsense Education. Who’s looking at your digital footprint?

International Society for Technology in Education. ISTE Standards for Coaches.

Peregrin, T. Promoting student integrity. Ethical issues in the digital age. (2018). Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 118(8), 1498-1500.   

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Whole System Change

by Joey Freeman

In his essay The Path to Equity: Whole System Change, Michael Fullan (2015) postulates that a whole system approach is necessary to make equitable and sustainable system-wide changes. He provides compelling research on the impact of these efforts on raising test scores and improving graduation rates in under-resourced K-12 school systems.  Fullan (2015) identifies several key factors essential to achieving greater equity in educational systems:

  • Viewing change through a systems lens:  Educators must buy into the idea that all parts of the system need to work collaboratively for positive change. This collective attitude of working together to make all units better is in contrast to educators who choose to focus solely on areas of the system where the need for improvement is most pronounced. When educators across a district or university have a common goal of system-wide improvement, then best practices shared can be used in all areas of the system regardless of their overall performance status. 
  • Simplexity: “Identifying the smallest number of key factors that will make a difference (the simple part), then orchestrating these factors to work in interaction (the complex part)” (Fullan, 2015, p. 46).  The goal is to seek the greatest impact with the least amount of changes and implement them in an inter-related fashion vs. in isolation.
  • Push and pull forces, which work together to create change. The push forces of leadership (i.e. directing) are sought to be equalized with the pull forces of leadership (i.e. coaching and collaboration) which together can build capacity and ownership of a group and lead to system-wide change.
  • Cultivating district-wide engagement to build a collaborative culture while producing a framework of coherence, as opposed to fragmentation across the system. Collaborative cultures are successful because they are motivated to share best practices within the system, and have developed reciprocal partnerships between buildings and central administration. Coherence is important for consistency in implementing quality instructional practices across the system.
  • Using transparent data to improve practice: schools or departments across the system identifying positive outcomes in achievement data must be willing to share their data as well as curricular approaches that may be linked with optimal outcomes. This is opposed to a territorial mindset where instructional methods are not made available to benefit other teachers and administrators within the system.

It is vitally important to initiate whole system change to have the greatest impact on increasing equity in any educational system.  As often occurs in higher education, instructors must resist working in silos, and instead focus on department- and university-wide engagement. These efforts will enable faculty to work towards common goals to improve equity for students. 

Sharing best practices in a deliberate, university-wide effort ensures that equitable learning experiences are provided for students, such as when implementing remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Best practices should include the following: ensuring students have access to all technological requirements; designing learning management systems for easy navigation and utilization; offering flexibility in class meeting schedules, exams, and assignment due dates; and making necessary adjustments to support students with documented disabilities, including extra test time, lecture scripts, and frequent breaks during class sessions. 

Additionally, implementing a systems-wide task force should be considered to ensure that high-impact student experiences are equitable amongst students of color and other under-represented groups. These experiences including undergraduate research, internships, and study abroad experiences (Association of American Colleges and Universities). 

In conclusion, whole system change as a path to equity is a compelling argument, as this approach will likely result in a system of fairness and inclusion, two critical components of educational equity. “Equity in education requires putting systems in place to ensure that every student has an equal chance for success” (Thinking Maps).  A whole system approach to change can lead to greater equity amongst students due to its emphasis on leadership at all levels of the system, a developmental culture, sharing of best practices, system-wide collaboration, and continuous improvement.


Thinking Maps. Equity in education. What it is and why it matters.

Fullan, M. (2015). The path to equity: Whole system change. In A. Blankstein, P. Noguera, & L. Kelly, Excellence through equity: Five principles of courageous leadership to guide achievement for every student (pp. 45-54). Corwin.  

Association of American Colleges and Universities. Step up and lead for equity: What higher education can do to reverse our deepening divides.