This came from the discussion "Making Meaning" started by Julia Osteen. She's responding to this question:

"One more thing we could bring into the discussion: What are the ethics involved, the ethics of the style we take on as "guides" into this new world. Should we teach "caring," for instance, and "activism for a good future"? What are our jobs in the ethical sphere? (from Connie)

"Ethics, you raise a very important point. Ethics is extremely important ~ maybe more important to be explicit about ethics now than ever due to the nature of our world. I sat in on a session with David Warlick at NECC where he made this point. He said (paraphrasing here) that ethical use of information needs to include the following:

Seek truth and express it
To minimize harm
To be accountable
To respect and protect information infrastructure - ideas and information

His talk was on Contemporary Literacy where the 3R's become the 4E's -- employing, exposing, expressing and ethics.

Before we can determine 'our jobs in the ethical sphere,' I think we need to agree upon a definition of citizenship - global and digital citizenship. Here's a phrase I found on Dell's website, 'social and environmental stewardship.' So, what is global digital citizenship or digital citizenship in a global society?" (from Julie)

Anybody else working on figuring this out? I pushed the "answer, please" slot on my thinking machine, and nothing came out. The machine sent me back the notice "This answer is not clearly defined yet; work in progress."

Global guides, maybe we're global guides for the kids, teaching them how to go after "social and environmental stewardship."


Tags: ethics, learning, meaning, purpose

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I'm reposting this forum, mostly due to curiosity on my part about whether the timing is good for this discussion now. Is there something about ethics that makes us not want to talk? Can we talk about it more easily in midsummer, when we get some perspective by being on break?
If everyone would say some short sentence like "I think we need to do this or that, primarily," then we'd have a read on what CR2.0 people are thinking about the topic of ethics. Seems pretty important to be processing--it's one of the key variables to have in focus and think through as we head into a new age, wouldn't you say?

Anyhow, would you be willing to just write a bit about what we "should be doing" in this new age? do you agree with David Warlick's view, as stated above?
Who is it that is so often quoted as saying something about the next generation leading us right down the path to distruction? Socrates? Someone of that era, I believe. My point being that every generation seems to look at the next--or the current--as being the worst ever and leading us to sure doom. I agree with what you say about our egoism and how truly awful American society seems to be these days--so unaware of our short falls and so eager to impose them on others. However, we need to get beyond the point of talking and on to the doing. I think it is not completely fair to "blame" broken families or our false optimism.
That said, I wish that I had a nifty answer to the problem--because there is a problem. Will teaching ethics solve or even address the problem? As above, I think that teaching ethics is too vague--especially if one works in a secular setting. How about teaching about how technology can put is all in touch with the world's realities--from not just a purely American point of view--and then helping kids to find their own judgements of how to deal with that? We may not always agree with what they decide is the "right" way to respond but we can warn them when they cross the line to illegal and we can expose them to lots of ways of thinking. When we are able see other points of view doesn't that push us most often down the road to what is "ethically" correct? Isn't "ethically correct" more important that "politically correct"? Not to mention or leaning toward what is "marketably correct" whether in why we get an education or why we use technology?
Skip! You had me clapping and doing hand stands. Thanks for articulating that (and now I don't have to....). I was also going to say to Connie's original post - perhaps it isn't the answer that hasn't been phrased yet but rather, has the question? Skip, you hit it abruptly and fully - What is education?

Too often it is content and ownership. Too often ego and degrees and what I am not what I be. Too often technology is a way to a buck and not a way to create not a better world but a more aware and inspired, curious, fulfilled world (ah yes, better but I don't mean higher or lower....).

Ethics as said one wise man long ago, is a way to avoid having to be ethical. I prefer less commandments and guidelines and organizations to more people doing the right thing. Allowing teachers to develop and use technology for a better world -- instead of throwing out collection plates, membership fees and getting kids hooked on the latest disposable gadget.

Anyways, I'm off topic. Thanks for that post - Steve should get ning to have a highlighter and we could put it in gold.


I'd like to add - there is no solution, just the ever inspired heart that keeps lightly going forward, to its own drummer.
How can this be? I both strongly agree and disagree with what both Connie and Skip have said about this issue. There is the dilemma when discussing ethics--whether in general or in a specialized realm such as the digital worl. I guess the problem, as I see it, is that the list Connie gives to "seek truth, minimize harm, be accountable, respect and protect" all sound good and are vague enough that we can all pretty much view them on our own terms. What I see as truth (as in various religions) may be not what you see as truth. When I express my "truth" you may be really peeved by that--peeved enough to do me harm but to do it in the name of righteousness and then be proudly accountable for it, even put it on an information structure from which you would proudly defend your actions as necessary "evils". How do we teach this to kids? How do we teach this to ourselves?
Putting this into a global framework helps me some, but still not enough because that darn definition of truth--and then what is ethical--keeps getting in the way. I am an atheist who subscribes to a whole lot of Buddhist and Hindo philosophy. My daughter is devoutly Catholic. I don't know that she and I could agree on vast quantitites of what is ethical use of technology--and we both think the other is a pretty darn good, clear headed person.
Define, please "social and environmental stewardship". I bet you really can't do it in concrete terms--kids and I need concrete.
Well, Skip, Linda, and David,

I think the question is big, but I was trying to take it in maybe a slightly less philosophical direction (forgive me, Skip) than "What is education for?"---I was wondering what in the world we're doing in this new age of so much access to information, what are we doing for the children, as their guides? I mean we can't just throw open a giant window into everything that's going on in the world and say, "Kids, here it is, open access, deal with it and come up with your own conclusions." Please don't get me wrong, I don't mean raunchy stuff, but real information. Who are we, in our jobs as educators now--and I do think our jobs are qualitatively different in this age of technology than ever before (that's an open area for argument, but that's what I think)--who are we in the roles we play as guides in this new age?

I do like David Warlick's words, "seek truth, minimize harm, be accountable, respect and protect," very much. Linda is critical because it's vague. What needs to be illuminated, Linda? Let's struggle with the quest for illumination together. We share in these struggles (in the real world as well as online) and may turn to sources like Teaching Tolerance ( for roadsigns. But even that award-winning site will mostly help us with the human aspect of respectfulness, not the earth-side of caring for the environment, as expressed in the Native American phrase: "We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Environmental stewardship is equally important.

Concrete? Give more than you take, make things go as well as you can. Guide kids towards these ends. Do Good Work (see the GoodWork project,, get involved in groups that are making a positive difference, such as the WorldChanging network ( Smile, radiate warmth, give comfort to people in their struggles, try to save a species, a local habitat, have kids do service work with elders or anyone, anything at all. Join in E.O. Wilson's Encyclopedia of Life project (on, a video:

Concrete enough? We don't need to agree, we just need to be working towards positive ends, and checking within a caring social network or context that that is, in fact, what we're doing. There are many positive ends, and enough work to go around for us all, in many endeavors.

Thanks for all the comments. This debate seems essential within the broader context of being enabled with very fancy technological tools. What in the world are we aiming for?
Ok, you're right Skip, the question really IS "What is education for?"

I really, fundamentally reject "concrete" and "framework" when talking about ethics and the responsibility of a teacher in this regard. I am glad Connie mentioned David Warlick's "seek truth, minimize harm, be accountable, respect and protect,". This to me is enough, that educators desire to be ethical and guide students.

Things go wrong when there are guidelines unless when applied to very, very specific situations. I prefer my ethics from the ground up -- organically evolved by the actions, every day actions of educators. No gatekeeper, just that feeling of "doing the right thing".

Yes, technology is daunting and there are some very real and scary implications. But I prefer open access with educators as facilitators, discussing this with students and with education departments, fostering this awareness in teachers. But no Dos and Don'ts list for me. Ethics to me, is something that always comes in the backdoor.

Education is for a person to help others, through their own increase in "awareness". It is a light that shines a way to others. A path that leads to community and humanity. If as my fav. poet Gyorgy Faludy said, "the library is the headquarters of civilization", I feel I.T. is the ecosphere of the mind. It is imperative that both good and bad dwell there (for its own evolution) but that we be eternally vigilant.

I think my whole arguement can be summed up in that old phrase, "cultivez votre jardin", "tend your own garden", small steps make a difference, like that story of the boy flinging starfish back into the ocean.

Thanks Connie for the Wilson link, I'm gonna look the moment I have a moment.


What beautiful words, what a way of expressing it--

" I prefer my ethics from the ground up -- organically evolved by the actions, every day actions of educators. No gatekeeper, just that feeling of "doing the right thing."

I agree entirely. It's going after a feeling of common purpose, of joining in to make things go well, or make them go better. Ethics are actually teamwork, with the future in mind.

David, you wrote, "But no Dos and Don'ts list for me. Ethics to me, is something that always comes in the backdoor." Yeah, I'd say it's that sense of being a person who's trying, and who keeps trying, sensing out the various contributions s/he could make in the various social settings or networks s/he's a part of.

And this comment you wrote: "I feel I.T. is the ecosphere of the mind. It is imperative that both good and bad dwell there (for its own evolution) but that we be eternally vigilant."--well, that sums a lot of things up. "I.T. as the ecosphere of the mind" is so dramatically profound; it seems we are part of an evolving "world mind." The nature of our species' intelligence is changing.

To me, this means huge opportunity, huge challenge. Educators have to play a part as guides in the sorting of information, no longer sticking with the old model of dispensing the knowledge. We delude ourselves when we think we know just what has to be known-- it's more about constantly sifting and evaluating incoming knowledge. I'm consumed with thinking through what my job is in this changing world intelligence, as are many on this network. Being a teacher with decades of experience, I know what "being an educator" is about. Now, here, in this new land of such I.T. capabilities, I'm evolving a new style as educator. (Sometimes I see myself on horseback, out ahead of the wagon train, as a scout. Where's water? Where's safety? What vast opportunities lie ahead?) Does anyone else feel this way, or have a different analogy?

I feel vastly grateful for colleagues on CR2.0 for debate and feedback that can help us join together as pioneers with purpose.

I feel the same and really feel a lot of "personal growth" and education happening from a community such as CR 2.0. And I think the new technology is a "dangerous opportunity" as the Chinese saying goes.

But I do think that the most dire concern is not our students. We educators can look after their interests and guide their actions and I believe for the most part, most do a fantastic job.

I feel the biggest danger is from the BIG interests who like the music industry, might gobble up all the freedom to educate. The risk is immense and I see it happening little by little every day. More protectionism, more get a little of this but give us a lot of that (money). We really need more people speaking up about the potential for technology to enable people on the ground to do good, to help, to be better citizens and more knowing. And promoting it as FREE and a right of all and not something that can be "commodified". It's a large topic but I see this as being the big shark in that water you spoke of.....

Opportunities are vast. Self learning is the basis of all wisdom. The new paradigm of technology releasing the student from authority and into self learning is HUGE for me. A big shift and forget the printing press or even the light bulb. This is a big one.

I thank you for your own efforts here and in the groups you are part of, for promoting this own "light" [not at the end of any tunnel].

Just ask Connie, I hate rules that are written down and I agree with what you are saying about teachers being a path and all of those good things. Nothing to argue with there. I guess my point is that the actual teaching of ethics or doing good or not hurting things still gets caught up in the values of the society. So, how do we teach ethics when they may be learning some slight twist on it at home and something else from the media and something else, perhaps, from their spiritual life, and something else from peers, and so on and on and on. So--here is my big soapbox (or one of them) for 2007--we need to be setting good examples and then kids will follow. I just found this good quote from Marian Wright Edelman. (I may be leading this far, far from where Connie wanted to go but here it is)

"What is wrong with our childreN? - Adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating. Adults telling children not to be violent while marketing and glorifying violence.... I believe adult hypocrisy is the biggest problem children face in America."

Isn't that really ethics?


I do believe that "hypocricy" is abundant in all societies really and not just the day and age we all live in. But you are right, it play a large role in the ethical development of children/students.

I've always believed in the power of "authenticity", meaning that what is important about an action is not the "what" that is undertaken, the content, the thing, the representation. No. The real message to others in all action is deeper and is in the "How", how you undertake something, how you do something. The process, the "dansein" as Heidegger might of described it - the thing behind itself. We tend to think of this very abstractly as "spirit" but I think it is every bit as concrete as the thing itself.

When people are deemed "authentic", they have grace and no matter the action or result itself, there is worth there. Why? Because there is no apparent contradiction between the person and their being. We need this kind of "anti" hypocricy in teachers as mentors and role models. I think a lot of what we admired in the teachers we liked as children was this - not what they did specifically but rather their manner and spirit. The authenticity they oozed.

What does this have to do with ethics and technology? A lot I believe. Skip gets it right in my opinion; the aspirations of Dewey will be forever the goal, no matter how the world changes. It is all about being a better citizen. But you can't teach this directly, overtly. That is where I believe the education system gets it so wrong. You can't make "cultural learning" into a subject. It is done as you say, through collaboration, networking, socialization, through the everyday actions of teachers as role models.

For technology, there is much danger -- even ethically. We risk technology becoming the end not the means. Technology becoming a plaything, a way to pass the controlling the user. I think this is the biggest "ethical" challenge. How to create and promote forms of technology in education (much like the book was promoted first, through cheesy soap opera stories -- yes! this is what got people reading at first too, see Pamela, the first successful novel) which will lead to a better citizen? How to hook people without killing them, killing their soul?

Technology is a two edged sword. It invigorates and sustains democracy and a "better, educated citizenry" (the goal of all education) but it may also limit and control this same citizenry through its very nature.

Wow! The posts on this thread make for some very enlightening reading. I would like to take us back to my original question. Since we have now come back to the importance of being a good citizen, then what does it mean to exhibit digital citizenship in a global society? I'm not trying to put together a list of do's and don'ts but I am trying to create for myself (and anyone else who wants to read this) a vision for what a good citizen in the 21st century really looks like. If we don't know what we are working toward, then how will we know when we've modeled correctly for the students?

I have known some very well-meaning teachers who didn't realize how some of their actions actually projected to their students a lack of regard for intellectual property. Dave, you said,"But I prefer open access with educators as facilitators, discussing this with students and with education departments, fostering this awareness in teachers." I agree with your statement here. I'm not sure we can assume that all teachers will be able to facilitate toward good citizenship if we don't have some type of vision or goal for what we want that to look like at the end.



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