Diarmaid Mooney | Blog | 21.03.18

Ethical Considerations for the Digital Natives

“Our students today are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet” (Prensky, 2001, P.1), this observation resulted in Marc Prensky labelling these students as digital natives. As we have nearly experienced the first two decades of the 21st century, this concept of a digital native has become increasing more ubiquitous. The technologies which students encounter are no longer confined to the video games and phones in their personal lives; they have become an increasing aspect of their education and daily school pedagogy. While the integration of technologies into education has been proven to achieve many successes such as personalising the education experience of the student, increasing student engagement and being used as a resource for a more inclusive learning environment, it has also opened a Pandora’s box to ethical and personal safety issues.

Common classroom practices now include students (and teachers) exploring the world of classroom blogging, social media, ePortfolios and internet-based research. As part of an established curriculum, students have been formally taught competence and confidence in subject areas. However, students are being left to explore cyberspace without any require prerequisite knowledge or education, as they are deemed to be of the digital native generation. Arguments can be made that through the study of Social Personal and Health Education, there is scope to include the ethics associated with the use of cyberspace, but this is reliant on the individual teacher delivering the subject rather than a formal approach.

The Alliance for Childhood (2004) found that advancements in technology are progressing faster than adults can understand the associated ethical ramifications. This is not a negative reflection on adults, but a consequence of the exponential growth of technology, a factor which was acknowledged in James H. Moor’s paper Why we need better ethics for emerging technologies. The paper highlighted to the fact that “the number of ethical problems we be greater as the revolution [technological] progresses” (Moor, 2005, P.116). Ethical considerations of cyberspace in the evolving 21st century classroom requires a much wider lens that covers areas such as plagiarism to the impact of sharing personal material online. The far-reaching areas do not challenge the need for ethical awareness but poses the question of where one would start and where one would end terms of educating the student or raising and awareness of ethical considerations.

Starr (2003) “Educators do need to address cyber ethics, but they can address it in the context of their current curriculum and incorporate the lessons into ongoing programs.” Perhaps a solution may lie in dissolving the boundaries between the students’ real life and cyberspace. If students are educated on the impacts of their daily decisions and guided on how they can inform their cyber decisions, the vast task of addressing the ethical considerations of cyberspace may become more achievable. The challenge then arises to ensure that there is an agreed approach rather than a fragmented one. Not all educators may have the same level of confidence in linking their teaching to cyber decisions and may also have contradicting outcomes compared to other lessons.

If ethical considerations of cyberspace is a genuine knowledge we want to instil in students, this idea of integration may hold the key. Gordon (2009, p.49) references John Dewey’s belief that “genuine knowledge comes neither by thinking about something abstractly nor by acting uncritically, but rather by integrating thinking and doing, by getting the mind to reflect on the act”. While this belief supports the idea of integration in terms of embedding ethical considerations of cyberspace, there needs to be genuine evidence visible within the curriculum that supports integration to make the experience meaningful for the students.

Diarmaid Mooney | Bio

Diarmuid Mooney is currently a seconded Education Officer to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) with particular focus on post-primary education. A graduate of the University of Limerick, Diarmuid is a post-primary teacher and further education programme coordinator with the Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board in Coláiste Chathail Noafa, Dungarvan. Diarmuid has taught a range of post-primary subjects and further education programmes in the disciplines of Engineering, Mathematics, Technical Drawing and ICT.

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  • Alliance for Childhood (2004) Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology. Accessed at http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/pdf/projects/computeco/pdf_files/tech_tonic.pdf
  • Gordan, M. (2009). Toward A Pragmatic Disco
  • urse of Constructivism: Reflections on Lessons from Practice. Educational Studies, Vol. 45(1), 39-58. Available to download from https://doi.org/10.1080/00131940802546894
  • Moor, J.H. (2005). Why We Need Better Ethics for Emerging Technologies. Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 7(3), 111-119. Available to download from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-006-0008-0. Springer
  • Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, Vol. 9(5), 1-6. Available to download from www.emeraldinsight.com. Bingley: MCB University Press.
  • Starr, L. (2003). Tools for Teaching Cyber Ethics. Accessed at http://educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech055.shtml

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