Teaching Students about the Interplay of Ethics and Technology
Philosophers have had thousands of years to ponder the deep issues of human ethics. Modern tech adds unanticipated twists to the classic questions about the relationship of the self to others. It will require not only ethicists but also technical specialists and curriculum experts in order to ensure that today’s students learn what they need to know about the interplay of ethics and technology.
Bullying has always been a problem, but the anonymity of various social media platforms has exacerbated the issue. Traditionally, students escaped their bullies when they went home at the end of the school day, but cyberbullying means that students have no escape. Various anti-bullying efforts seek to teach students how to navigate this treacherous situation.
A key theme is helping students understand that anonymity can’t be a cloak for their worst impulses when there is a real human on the receiving end of their invective. Plus, students can be taught to be “upstanders” instead of bystanders so that they will intervene when they become aware that others are being mistreated.
Privacy and Security
Students may think that their digital communications are private, but there is never anything stopping their conversation partner from copying their communications and making them public. And, of course, once the materials are on the Internet, they’ll never really go away. This can be an excruciatingly difficult lesson for a child to learn. There are a variety of ways that students can protect their privacy, but the bottom line is that once they have chosen to put information into digital format, they are relying on the goodwill of another person or company to actually protect it.
The ease with which any digital media can be copied and distributed has made it difficult for some students to understand that copyright violations actually constitute theft. Often, teachers do not emphasize copyright issues since most of what a student might do in a classroom will be covered under educational fair use carve-outs to the standard copyright law. This means that students are usually ill-prepared to comply with the law when they are out of school. Thus, copyright law is a primary area where students need to be taught not only the legal but also the moral responsibilities that they will have.
Of course, teaching students about bullying, privacy, and copyright can be a complicated affair. Fortunately, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many excellent curricula available that are designed to teach students what they need to know to act ethically in the digital age.