March 2010

Ethical Use of Modern Technologies

Today, as I was reading blogs of my students in the ETEC533 course, I noticed a recurring issue: schools ban the use of different technologies, various social web sites, etc. For example, as one of my students mentioned, his school doesn’t allow the students to use i-phones, i-pods, FB, etc. I keep thinking about it. My first reaction is not to limit the ban to schools. Why not to ban the use of laptops at conferences, so to prevent the participants to get distracted, to ban the use of cell phones in public transportation, where the rest of the passengers are forced to listen to conversations (sometimes very private) of other people they don’t want to listen to, to ban people from e-mailing everybody on their e-mail list very private messages without asking the recipients if they even want to get such an e-mail, and what about people who hit the “reply all button” and use professional e-mail lists to discuss private matters. In other words, there is no limit to misuse of technology, yet I think to ban it all WILL NOT BE A SOLUTION. In my view, THE solution will be to try and gradually develop societal norms of what is an appropriate use of technology and what isn’t. The same way, we in Canada (at least in Vancouver) have social norms that tell us not to throw garbage on a street, even though we have to look for a garbage can. This is part of our culture – to respect our environment and to respect everybody’s right to live in a clean and beautiful country. May be we should think of the same thing with respect to technology. We have to teach our students and ourselves to use it respectfully. If we do that, we will not need to ban it, yet we will be able to benefit from amazing opportunities technology offers us. And FB like many other social web sites is just a tool. We will not be able to ban our students from using it, as teachers and educators, we will need to teach them how to use it effectively and how to respect others while using it. What do you all think?

3 Responses to Ethical Use of Modern Technologies

  1. Kathleen

    Hi Dr. M.
    This is an interesting point. My final thought on it is not set, but upon consideration, I find that many (not all) people are not always ready to respect others and the environment. Everyone knows it is wrong to litter, but my street is a dumping ground for bottles, hamburger wrappers and even live kittens as people drive by. My neighbours know their dog barking for 12 hrs. is annoying to the neighbours, but not attended to?
    Not to sound like an old curmudgeon, but though you and I both place a high emphasis on respect and learning, and operate in a bit of protected academic environment, these ongoing issues with basic respect for the neighbours and neighbourhood don’t go away. Stopping my clients from taking calls while I am in the middle of a professional consult seems a distant future too…
    A ban is not the answer because it is not enforceable. Teaching basic respectful behaviour is the answer I believe at least for now, on first pass. Cheers, Kathleen

  2. Marina Milner-Bolotin

    Thanks Kathleen, I am with you. May be being respectful of other people is something we have to emphasize more in our education – in all places…
    Regards, M.

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