There has been no ambivalence on the position of the past three Popes regarding the value of the Internet to human society. Most recently Pope Francis weighed in by proclaiming that the Internet is a “gift from God” (Kington, 2014). Previously, Pope Benedict had claimed that if the Internet had been around during the time of St. Paul that he would have used every tool available as a result of this technology. Pope Benedict (2013) also taught that the Internet itself is an extraordinarily powerful but morally neutral means of communication that can be used as a tool to achieve unprecedented good. At the same time Benedict recognized that there are great evils that are associated with the ways in which humanity uses the Internet. It is with this dichotomy of possibilities that the discussion regarding the Internet follows a path similar to that of nuclear energy as society recognizes the great potential for good existing simultaneously with the great potential for evil.
It is instructive that we see this same pattern evolving with the use of technology in the realm of education. For the purposes of this assignment in which we have been asked to blog about the ethical issues related to the use of technology in education I decided to turn to the local team of experts with whom I live (also known as my children) to get their perspectives based on their own experiences of education today. One just graduated from college, two will be returning to college next month, and the fourth will be a junior in high school.
It is interesting to me that the most common response I got was exemplified by my daughter who said “It turns kids into scatterbrained idiots.” This is admittedly a pretty harsh judgment. When I probed for details I was given countless anecdotes related to classmates using cell phones, visiting Pinterest sites, Instagram accounts, playing Candy Crush, and actively Facebooking during class. When I asked my children why they felt this was an ethical issue they responded that it all became an enormous distraction. It robbed the students of their best opportunities to learn. Additionally, their fellow classmates were unable to actively participate in class because they were not actually paying attention to the subject matter the instructor was trying to teach. They also felt that there were ethical issues related to the individual schools touting their ability to develop technologically savvy graduates when in reality the technical expertise had little to do with the areas in which students were studying for degrees.
The second most common response that I got was that the technology offered numerous temptations to be dishonest. This dishonesty can take place in many ways. Fellow classmates can take pictures of test questions for students who will be taking the test the next period, week, or semester. Another means by which dishonesty takes place is, of course, plagiarism. I did not have to go to my children to understand this one. However, it was instructive that they each knew it was possible to not only “copy and paste” text from a web source into their own paper but that it was not unheard of for people to purchase papers over the Internet. This practice can be curbed somewhat through the use of websites such as turnitin.com commonly used by English composition teachers. This website compares the text from papers that students submit to a massive database of papers that have been seriously published. However, even turnitin.com is no match for the student who wants to go out and purchase one of the many services available that will provide you with a freshly researched and written original term paper at a cost of $12.00 – $40.00 per page depending upon how fast you need it.
The final issue, which I hear about nearly every week in my role as a school administrator, is cyber-bullying. Bullying has been with us for millennia. However, there is something about the pervasiveness of social media combined with the adolescent tendency to be harshly critical of peers, along with the lack of face-to-face contact when we type messages on computer screens which combines to bring out the worst instincts in teenagers. For some of the worst examples of the results of such bullying you can visit this resource provided by nobullying.com.
Just as nuclear fission and fusion are not going anywhere in the near future, the use of technology in education has similarly become rooted in our way of doing things. The wise practitioner in the field of education learns where the pitfalls are, tries to protect the integrity of the teaching–learning process, and instructs their students in the prudent use of the resources provided by technology. It is a tall task but one that must be addressed vigorously.
Kington, T. (2014, January 23). Pope Francis says the Internet is a “gift from God” Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-internet-pope-gift-god-20140123-story.html
Pope Benedict XVI. (2013, May 12). Message for the 47th World Communications Day. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/index_en.htm
Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying Cases. (n.d.). Retrieved August 1, 2014, from http://nobullying.com/six-unforgettable-cyber-bullying-cases/