Monday, December 6, 2010

What Have We Learned?

"More and more educators are tapping into the power of digital media and technology for teaching and learning. The variety of information resources available online is simply staggering. Teachers and students are using the power of social media to promote students' active engagement, critical thinking and literacy skills" (

Undoubtedly, technology has the ability to change the way that teachers teach and students learn. Technology has the ability to appeal to students with different interests and abilities by motivating them to learn using visual, auditory, and kinestetic learning modalities. With properly integrated technology use in education, failing schools can become an extinct concept. For example, one moving example of how technology can transform teaching and learning watch the following video about How Google Changed a School (

The goal of this blog was to make readers more aware of the ethical issues associated with the important and ever growing topic of using technology in education. These issues include accessibility to electronic data and information, copyright issues, internet use and censorship, cyber bullying, and the use of social networks. In each post, information on a specific important ethical issue was presented, with links to resources for more information for individuals who are responsible for using, implementing, or overseeing technology in education because these 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.

In education, school administrators are often expected to be the school leaders. Yet, with regards to technology use in education, "Ethical Decision Making Occurs at All Levels of the System" (Professor Christopher Unger, Northeaster University). As shown in the blog posts below, many individuals are responsible for providing leadership to students when it relates to ethical behavior related to technology in education. Teachers, parents, students, and others are involved in implementing the policies and procedures to ensure ethical behavior. After all, technology will continue to evolve, and the specifics of the related issues will change. However, the necessity for teachers, parents, and school administrators to teach their students how to behave with the new technologies will not change.

Levels of Ethical Decision Making by Professor Chris Unger, Northeastern University

The following Ten Commandments For Computer Ethics, developed by Arlene Rinaldi for computer network users at Florida Atlantic University, are a good guideline for teachers, administrators, and students (

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.

  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.

  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's files.

  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.

  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.

  6. Thou shalt not use or copy software for which you have not paid.

  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization.

  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.

  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you write.

  10. Thou shalt use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Ethics of Facebook

The statistics on the popularity of social media networks is staggering. The social networking website Facebook, for example, reports that it currently has more than 500 million active users, fifty percent of which log on to website each day. Furthermore, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. (

Initially, Facebook was a website utility that allowed users to connect with other individuals subscribing to the service. However, it has evolved and individuals or organizations are able to create pages promoting something that they care about on Facebook. As a result, Facebook users are now using the website to do things like promote their business, promote a cause for which they are passionate, or promote an event.

With statistics like these, it is apparent that many educators and students are using Facebook, and they are using it often. Today's students find Facebook to be an engaging and useful tool. As a result, many educators have started using Facebook for educational purposes. "Teachers can utilize Facebook for class projects, for enhancing communication, and for engaging students in a manner that might not be entirely possible in traditional classroom settings" ( For example, teachers can create a Facebook page to share multimedia with their class. Or, students can use a class Facebook page to brainstorm and share ideas with their classmates and instructor. Example of some other very innovative ideas for ways to use Facebook in an educational setting can be found at 100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom. Facebook itself also has a page regarding can best use Facebook. Visit to see examples of topics that include setting up blogs for kids, social networking tips for teachers, and ways that specific Facebook games reward the brain.

Some critics have pointed out potential ethical problems with using Facebook in education. For example, a 2009 New York Times column by "The Ethicist" titled A Facebook Teaching Moment ( discusses a teacher who became privy to her student's underage drinking after connecting with them on Facebook. Similarly, in November 2010, the St. Petersburg Times published an article about a Florida "High School English teacher and cheerleading coach who resigned this fall after buying a "morning-after" contraceptive for a student and having inappropriate Facebook discussions with the girl's boyfriend" (

Some of the ethical and privacy issues related to using Facebook in education are addressed in at the websites below, which provide educators with best practices for using Facebook in education are:

Educators who use social networking in their classrooms must make good decisions when it comes to using social media in their classroom. In other words, they must remember that teachers are in leadership roles in the eyes of their students, and they are often held to higher standards than people in other professions because they should be role models for their students.

In the case of Facebook, users sometimes feel a sense of anonymity while on Facebook because they aren't face-to-face with anyone. They feel a sense of comfort, and an ability to share things that they wouldn't necessarily share if they were actually face-to-face. However, teachers must remember that they are ethical leaders.

Dr. Chris Unger, Professor of Education at Northeastern University said in his lecture on Big Ideas on Ethical Decision Making for Educational Leaders, "Decisions are driven by what's inside us, but shaped by our context." In other words, the decisions that teachers make are based on their beliefs, knowledge, and prior experiences. However, they are also influenced by the context of the situation as it presents itself. Therefore, whether or not educators decide to use Facebook in the classroom is in somewhat irrelevant because they must be conscious of trying to make the best decisions that they can in all of the different situations that they encounter.

Contexts of Ethical Decision Making by Professor Chris Unger, Northeastern University