M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series: Ethics and Technology

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  Today I’m going to talk about the Ethical and Human Issues and Technology performance indicator.

I felt this was the most difficult performance indicator to talk about, because of the nature of the topic.  When we talk about ethics and some of the human issues with technology, we really are talking about some heavy topics.  Everything from bullying, to cheating, to child safety, to preparing students for the future are all fair game in this topic.  I struggled to find a topic initially, but then I started thinking more about what I felt this competency meant and I came to the conclusion that this is my chance to stand on my soap box and steer the conversation to a place where I thought it was important, where I thought it needed more attention.  So for me, this competency meant talking about three topics: unblocking social networking software, helping students develop an online presence, and helping students develop information literacy.  Influencing my decision was the fact that I hadn’t seen much on a 21st century perspective of this competency in either my conversations with other educators or in my actions.  Instead, I typically saw these topics discussed in a 20th century perspective, which I feel is much different.

I landed on unblocking social networking software, because often we have the wrong reasons at heart when we make decisions to block certain Web sites.  From my experiences as a technology director in a K-12 school, our decision to block social networking sites was based on classroom management considerations supported through the guise of protecting students.  However, what we failed to realize is the shift that is (was?) taking place in how our students learn.  Our students are social beings, but we don’t teach using social tools.  When we introduce social technologies into the classroom there is an inevitable butting of heads.  The easy solution was to block the social technology, when the right solution is to change how we teach to become more social.  Socializing isn’t a bad thing for education, but really is just the next evolution.  Eventually my school began to understand (not that we fully understood) the benefit of changing how we teach to leverage social networking sites.  There was an opportunity to reach our students in a way we had previously dismissed, thus dismissing a part of who our students are.

The second topic I landed on grew out of the first, developing student online presence.  Something we miss when we don’t use social networking software is how students develop their online presence.  Often they are left to do this themselves, alone, which is a breading ground for trouble.  All we need to do to find evidence of this is do a google search for cyber bullying and I all but guarantee the medium used to bully is social.  Here I advocate for teaching our students how to use social software so we can begin to instill our values into this new layer of society.  While some people may think this isn’t the job of school, but when we look at what schools are truly preparing students for, it clearly is being a successful citizen. With social networking sites not going anywhere anytime soon, it’s time schools begin helping students succeed in this arena as well.

Finally, I decided to talk about developing student information literacy.  Knowledge and information is expanding at an unimaginable rate and everyone needs to know how to both search and use that information.  However, by continuing to stick with instruction that doesn’t allow students to search and use that information, this literacy will not begin to develop in our students.  Teachers are no longer the only source of information, but we continue to teach in ways that still support this notion.  My belief is that we as educators have an ethical obligation to provide learning opportunities for students that allow them to be engaged in data and research.  This is likely only possible by drastically changing how we teach and maybe to an extent what we teach.

Ethical and human issues of technology is such an important area in education, but we often don’t talk about it enough.  Here’s your chance!  What’s on your mind?  What do you think is an important ethics or human issue surrounding technology, but isn’t being discussed?  My three certainly aren’t exhaustive.  Add to the conversation and help everyone learn by adding a comment!

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