Welcome to the blog on ethical issues related to technology use in education! The goal of this blog is to make readers more aware of the ethical issues associated with using technology in education.
A generation ago, computers and related technologies were not widespread. Most communication was either handwritten or typed on paper, and most communication was done face-to-face or through telephones that were hard wired to homes and offices. "Snail mail" took days for people to receive. Today, email and texting are common forms of virtually instantaneous correspondence, and social networking sites and video conferences are popular forms of communication. The majority of people in the United States owns a personal computer with internet access. In fact, in 2010, Nielson reported that 57.7% of adults in the United States own two or more computers (http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/press/nielsen-fact-sheet-2010.pdf). Cell phones are commonplace and can be used in most high or moderately populated areas, and many cell phones are now called "smart phones" because they have the ability to access the internet and function in a manner similar to a computer.
The emergence and growing popularity of various technologies has changed the way that schools do business. Gone are the days when student records were only stored in locked cabinets in a school vaults. Also gone are the days where paper bound books the only way that students receive information. Today, computers are utilized daily by almost every school district by office personnel, faculty, and students, and they have changed the manner in which information is given and received, along with the way that data is collected, stored, and disseminated.
While working as a technology director for a prek-12 school system, I personally became more aware of the use of technology in education. I learned that technology usage was an all day event for most of the districts' staff and students, and that the usage was not limited to the computers that sat on the desks. For example:
- When arriving at the school, staff members would enter the building using electronic badges with permissions set in the software that controlled the hardware to lock and unlock the doors.
- Video surveillance cameras recorded footage of all students, faculty, and visitors entering and leaving the building onto their districts servers.
- During the day, teachers recorded student attendance on their computers and posted homework assignments on their district mandated teacher web page
- Lunch money was no longer collected. (In fact, the cafeteria no longer accepted cash from students.) Instead, parents were required to electronically transfer money into their child's lunch account. Students electronically used money from their account by using an identification badge and pin number when purchasing food.
- In the classroom, student research was done with the assistance of an internet accessible computer.
- Software programs helped students master math concepts and learn to write better.
- To save paper and time, in house district correspondence was sent thought email. Much correspondence with parents was also done using this method of communication.
The wide scope of the use of technology in schools has undoubtedly created some ethical issues for school leaders since school officials are now responsible for the security and accessibility of the technology. Issues that include accessibility to electronic data and information, copyright issues, internet use and censorship, and employee and student monitoring (and related privacy issues) require schools leaders to make good decisions and implement appropriate procedures and/or policies when tough issues related to technology in education arise on a daily basis. For example, school leaders:
- Must ensure that students have the ability to access the information that they need to complete their coursework while also ensuring that these same students don't inadvertently access inappropriate educational material while on school computers
- Must ensure that all necessary data from students is collected and stored while also ensuring that the data remains confidential and secure
- Must ensure that staff and students comply with all laws related to the technologies that they are using