Wednesday, August 05, 2020

As educators, one of our critical tasks has always been to develop within our students the ability to make wise decisions and ethical choices. It’s fair to say that today, as we dig deeper into the complex 21st-century world of emerging technologies, the need to define standards of appropriate cyber behavior for our K-12 students is more important than ever before.  We must each them cyber ethics. 

But before we consider cyber ethics the question remains: Is it worth it?  That is, do the benefits of using technology in the classroom outweigh its disadvantages.  Consider this:

The pros:

1. Technology opens up a new worlds for young learners who through the internet are given the universe to explore right at their fingertips.

2. Technology allows for more interactive and participatory learning. It helps make learning fun.   

3. Technology in the classroom helps ensure full participation — a huge plus for students who are often reticent to take part in classroom discussion.

4. Online engagement systems allow you to regularly check in with students — and parents — for feedback on course study and assignments.

5. Instant access to new, up-to-date information enhances lessons and the learning experience for students. 

6. Technology makes it easier for students to engage in collaborative learning. It enables them to more readily share information and work together on group assignment and projects. 

The cons:

1. When it comes to technology, it is possible for students to have too much of a good thing.  Boundaries that limit the specific projects and class times allowed for the use of technology in the classroom are essential.

2. The debate over whether or not the use of technology — specifically social media — interferes with  students’ ability to develop and hone their verbally communication skills is ongoing. Therefore, assignments ithat rely on technological tools should always include segments that call for social interaction, such as oral presentations and group collaboration.

3. Cheating is as old as the schoolroom itself — and the digital age has made it even easier to cheat by all sorts of means; everything from copying-and-pasting someone else’s work to hiring an online essay-writer. You won’t be able to stop that, but one way to make it more difficult is to make exams open-book and focus on problem-solving and their own analysis of information rather than rote retention. 

4. When it comes to internet information all things are NOT created equal. The quality and accuracy of research and sources varies greatly and students need guidance in identifying appropriate and reliable sources. 

Clearly, technology can make for a more collaborative learning environment. As such, it is an effective tool that can enhance education and promote innovation and creativity.  The key, however, is to remember that technology is a tool…and only a tool. Its ability to be be effective hinges upon the leadership of the teacher. And part of the teacher’s role is to establish from the outset a set of ethical guidelines that allow students to make smart, safe, and responsible decisions on the internet.

Cyber ethics follows the same basic rules that govern acceptable behavior in everyday life. Students should be taught that, as a rule of thumb, if it’s inappropriate behavior in everyday life, it’s inappropriate behavior on the Internet. 

A few basic cyber ethics guidelines: 

· Do not use rude or offensive language. 

· Don’t be a bully. Do not call people names, lie about them, send embarrassing pictures of them, or do anything else to try to hurt them. 

· Do not copy information from the Internet and claim it as yours. 

· Adhere to copyright restrictions when downloading material including software, games, movies, or music. 

· Do not break into someone else’s computer. 

· Do not use someone else’s password. 

· Do not attempt to infect or in any way try to make someone else’s computer unusable. 

Look to the Torah for guidance 

When dealing with the cyber world, keep in mind that the power of speech is terribly amplified – it can be searched and seen, forwarded and read to anyone in the world and in many cases can never be deleted or erased.  This new reality requires each one of us to be much more cognizant of the prohibition of Lashon Harah, harmful speech, at all times when dealing with on-line communications. 

The Talmud  ( Bavli, Arachin 15b) says the following:

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the tongue, all the limbs of man are upright, but you lie prone; all of a person’s limbs are external, yet you are internal. But not only that, I have encompassed you with two walls, one of bone and one of flesh.

God intended us to be guarded in how we communicate. Now that we have opened so many avenues of communication through the world of computer technology we must always remind ourselves that we were created to use our ability to communicate carefully, with great consideration, contemplation and in a guarded fashion. We hope and pray that all of our communication , online and off, be used only for good, and never to harm.  

By Jacqueline Herman



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