5b – Safe, Ethical, and Legal Use

“Model and facilitate safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses of digital information and technologies”ISTE Coaching Indicator 5b

A hammer can be used to build a house, but it can also be used to break a window.  It is a tool. How that tool is used is up to user.  So too with digital education, and my studies in the Digital Education Leadership Program have made me acutely aware of this fact. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in ISTE coaching indicator 5b which deals with how we help others use technology. I addressed this, in part, in my post on The Digital Divide.  Safe, healthy, legal, and ethical use must be part of the educational program and the “social envelope” Mark Warschauerbut discusses in the Americas Quarterly article I reference in the post. It is impossible to acknowledge, for instance, that ethical use must be taught if one doesn’t first acknowledge that there is a need to teach students (and teachers) how to use the technology in the first place.  It’s like assuming someone will instinctively know how to use a hammer. They might figure it out eventually, but they’re probably going to brake a lot of windows on the way to hammering that first nail. Let’s make it easier for them.

I also address this issue in my blog post Be Prepared!: Troubleshooting by Looking at Current Issues and Problems in Education Technology.  In it, I stress the importance of staying abreast of current developments in technology as a way to troubleshoot potential problems (as discussed in ISTE Coaching Standard 3), but in that context, I spend the last portion of the post looking at what was then a recent tragedy involving cyber-bullying.  A twelve year-old girl committed suicide after extensive cyber-bullying and the parents were suing the school for not doing enough to stop it. While my emphasis was on potential issues schools and administrators must attempt to anticipate, the fact remains that this is a clear example of how unhealthy and unethical use of technology can generate devastating results. It’s impossible to say if more effective modeling and facilitating of safe, healthy, legal, and ethical digital behaviors would have stopped the bullying and saved this girl’s life, but it paints a powerful picture of what is at stake if we do nothing.