Technology has always been a part of our classroom experience in the United States; it’s just gotten more and more sophisticated as new technologies are developed. Technology has helped create a more connected workspace for teachers and a more collaborative and accessible environment for students. But using highly-connected tech has brought some liabilities along with it.
While new ways to learn in the classroom have made information more readily available, the way it’s being used has presented some major issues ethically speaking. Understanding these issues affecting our classrooms will help administrators, teachers, parents and students better understand how to address them.
In the digital age, it’s too easy to go online and download multimedia files, whether legally or illegally. There are certain subscription sites that allow for unlimited downloading, which can create a grey area as to what is free and what is copyrighted. Students have even been guilty of copying and pasting text from websites, essentially plagiarizing work.
Plagiarism in the classroom, while it’s always been relevant, has seen a bigger concern in recent years with the boost in the amount readily available online resources. Having this much access has made it easier for students to steal work and even fake sources for their schoolwork. What’s more, a lot of classrooms are now providing laptops or online blackboards where students turn in their work online instead of paper printouts.
Social media, while a fun tool with a number of platforms, has created a great deal of concern for parents and teachers alike. Students who use apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have used it at the expense of their peers’ emotional, physical or mental health. Facebook pages, which are meant to connect students with each other (through school clubs, groups, events) typically don’t have guidelines for use on the pages, creating ethical problems, such as cyberbullying.
Teachers and administrators should be aware of the possible dangers of using these sites and apps within the classroom. This opens the door for the possibility of legal risk, in which case educators liability insurance can help to provide financial protection for school officials in the event of legal action. Parents and students can claim responsibility at the hands of the school and its teachers for not doing enough to combat bullying online, which can rock a school’s reputation.
From online forums to social media to other online uses, schools are gathering plenty of information on students. The Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) from the U.S. Department of Education outlines the best way for teachers to follow when bringing new students into the classroom and uploading sensitive personal information. The text describes how schools can review the contract for data use and retention as well as what’s being collected and how it’s being used.
When it comes to ethics of digital use in the classroom, teachers and administrators should utilize their best judgement when recognizing types of situations that pose harmful outcomes to overall integrity of student work and behavior. It’s also important for teachers to outline both technology rules and the reasons behind the rules to create an atmosphere of transparency and support. Teachers can focus on how technology can enhance student learning and help them understand how technology can connect and build on real-life activities.
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