Hicks, D., Sears, P., Gao, H., Goodmans, P., & Manning, J. (2004). Preparing tomorrow's teachers to be socially and ethically aware producers and consumers
of interactive technologies.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher
Education [Online serial], 3(4).
Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Be Socially and Ethically Aware Producers and Consumers
of Interactive Technologies
Technological literacy will be a necessity — not a frill — in the
21st century. The most important single benefit that the communications revolution
can deliver to each and every child in this country is an advanced
cutting-edge 21st century education. The way to do this is to provide
modern communications technology to every teacher and every student in
every classroom in every school in the country. (Raney, 1997, para. 3)
Preparing tomorrow's teachers to recognize and harness the potential
of technology within their content areas is seen as a vital role of
teacher education institutions throughout the United States (International
Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 2000; National Council for
Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997; President's Committee of Advisors
on Science and Technology, 1997). In fact, it is hard to ignore the
pervasiveness of information technology (IT) within education, on both a
national and international scale.
Diem (1999) argued that over the last several years a great deal of
progress has been made toward integrating technology and education and that
we are "living in a time of instructional revolution, [where] the changing
nature of information and new techniques of presenting it to children enable us
to change teaching environments" (p. 2). In 2000, the National Center
for Education Statistics released data that shows, as of fall 2000, 98% of
public schools were connected to the Internet with a
student-to-instructional computer with Internet access ratio of 7:1 (Cattagni & Farris, 2001).
Research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2001)
revealed, "The Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the
learning environment for teenagers" (p. 2). The development of this
networked infrastructure in schools and homes over the last decade goes a long
way toward explaining the potential of IT within the classrooms (Becker,
Ravitz, & Wong 1999).
However, care needs to be taken to avoid blindly integrating
technology into the classroom without paying attention to important issues relating
to the social and ethical uses of technology by teachers and students.
Cunningham (2002) was correct and thought provoking when she stated,
Teachers with no practical preparation or experience in social, ethical,
and legal issues surrounding digital technologies create another area of
concern. Even if teacher candidates are capable of using a variety of
technologies, the belief that they are cognizant of the ethical and legal issues
surrounding emerging technologies is questionable
How do we ensure that
our classroom teachers are prepared to model and enforce legal and ethical
use of digital resources? (p. 31-32)
Valid concerns have been raised with regard to issues of Internet safety
and the need to help young people use information and communication
technologies in an ethical and socially responsible manner (Berson, Berson,
& Ralston, 1999; Hoj, 1998; Kleg, 1997).
Stories of students downloading pornographic images onto
laptops provided to them by their school district (O'Dell, 2001) and a
sixth-grade student in Florida arrested on felony charges for altering his grades on
his reading teacher's electronic grade book (SysAdmin, Audit, Network
Security Institute, 2003), the possibility of young people being preyed upon
online, and concerns regarding the reliability, credibility, and appropriateness
of many sites (Burke, 2001) reveal some of the dangers and difficulties
facing schools, teachers, and parents when they allow children to go online.
Institutes such as the Responsible Netizen in the Center for
Advanced Technology at the University of Oregon
(http://responsiblenetizen.org/), and the Bertelsmann Foundation
project.cfm?nId=831&aId=2422&lan=en) have begun to develop a
literature base regarding Internet safety, Internet responsibility, and the social
and ethical uses of communication technologies in schools. According to
survey by the National School Board Foundation (2002), a growing
number of school's leaders (9 out of 10) are taking the concept of Internet
safety seriously, considering "more than 90% of school districts have
installed filtering software" (p. 11).
Although such filters can help protect children, Berson et al. (1999)
stressed the vital role teachers and adults must play in supervising children's
online activities "for the sake of safety and learning" (p. 161). If teachers are to
be held ultimately responsible for safety issues within their classrooms,
teacher education institutions have the responsibility for preparing
beginning teachers to use technology as a partner in their classrooms in a safe
and ethically responsible manner.
The purpose of this paper is to detail the efforts of one teacher
education institution to meet the ISTE (2000) standards that focus on
preparing teachers to "Design student learning activities that foster equitable,
ethical, and legal use of technology by students .
Practice responsible, ethical
and legal use of technology, information, and software resources." This
paper discusses (a) the rationale, design, structure, and resources used in
the Ethics and Technology in the Classroom (ETC) WebQuest in relation to
the goals and needs of the teacher education program at Virginia Tech,
(b) elementary and secondary preservice graduate teachers' responses
and reactions to the ETC WebQuest, and (c) key implications with regard
to ethics and safety for teacher educators as they begin to prepare
preservice teachers to use technology in the
In order to help prepare beginning teachers within the teacher
education program at Virginia Tech to explore such important emerging issues in
the classroom, an Ethics and Technology in the Classroom (ETC)
was designed for both elementary and secondary graduate preservice
teachers. There is a growing body of literature on the value of WebQuests as
an instructional approach that integrates structured inquiry and the use
of technology (Gohagan, 1999; March, 2000; Milson; 2002; Milson &
Downey, 2001; Molebash & Dodge, 2003).
Developed in 1995 by Bernie Dodge and Tom March, a WebQuest is
an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information
used by learners is drawn from the Web. WebQuests are designed to
use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for
it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis
and evaluation. (Dodge, n.d.)
It is an inquiry-based model, using resources from the World Wide
Web. Dodge (1997) noted that WebQuests should contain at least the
An introduction that sets the stage and provides some
A task that is doable and interesting.
A set of information sources needed to complete the task.
Many (though not necessarily all) of the resources are embedded in
the WebQuest document itself as anchors pointing to information on
the World Wide Web. Information sources might include web
documents, experts available via e-mail or real-time conferencing,
searchable databases on the net, and books and other documents
physically available in the learner's setting. Because links to resources
are included, the learner is not left to wander through web space
A description of the process through which the learners should go
in accomplishing the task. The process should be divided into
clearly described steps.
Some guidance on how to organize the information acquired.
This guidance can range from guiding questions, or directions, to
complete organizational frameworks such as timelines, concept maps, or
A conclusion that brings closure to the quest, reminds the
learners about what they have learned, and perhaps encourages them to
extend the experience into other domains.
The rationale for using a structured inquiry approach via the
WebQuest design arises from Bruner's cognitive development theory. For Bruner,
the outcome of cognitive development is thinking. "Knowledge is a process,
not a product" (Bruner, 1966, p. 72). The learners create their knowledge
by "rearranging or transforming evidence in such a way that one is enabled
to go beyond the evidence so assembled to additional new insights"
(Bruner, 1961, 22).
In the ETC WebQuest project, there is no single place that tells the
learners what is correct and what is wrong. Instead, ethical and social
responsibilities relating to technology and the classroom are divided into several
subcategories and illustrated by five different scenarios. Using the guiding
questions and resources provided, preservice teachers begin to develop
possible solutions to each of the five scenarios:
Copyright and plagiarism
Critical thinking and the Internet
Acceptable use policies in the classroom
Online safety and ethics in the classroom and at home
Other related issues
Bruner's discovery learning and inquiry teaching methods are applied
to each scenario. For example, in the copyright and plagiarism
scenario, following a story about technology issues in a classroom, five
scaffolding questions are asked that, when answered using the available
sources, provide the basis for preservice teachers to complete a series of
predetermined tasks (http://www.tandl.vt.edu/technology-ethicswebquest/task.htm).
The learning process is guided by the step-by-step questions and
supporting online resources designed to help the learners become "autonomous
and self-propelled thinkers" (Bruner, 1961, p.
WebQuests can be short or long term, depending on how long
students have to work with the material. In this case, the ETC WebQuest is a
longer term project of several weeks or months, with a goal that Marzano
(1992) called "Dimension 3: extending and refining knowledge" (see pp.
87-105). Learners interact with a large body of knowledge and create
"products," such as posters, presentations, and classroom Acceptable Use
Policies (AUPs) relating to the ethical and safe uses of technology within
the classroom that can be used with students, parents, and other
The Internet serves as the source for this project's resources. A
staggering amount of information exists on the web. The process of choosing
reliable and effective information was a big concern during the design process.
First, the design team, using ISTE standards, brainstormed to outline what
issues needed to be addressed in the ETC WebQuest. Next, each designer
conducted a wide search for Internet sites that would serve as a strong
resource base for each of the five scenarios making up the WebQuest. Then at
weekly meetings, the designers and the project director evaluated each resource
in terms of its relevance, reliability, and appropriateness for preservice
Emphasis was placed on educational, nonprofit, and government web
sites, as these types of sites are most likely to contain reliable information and
are not likely to disappear over time. Then, web sites duplicating
information were weeded out. Considering the length of time the preservice
teachers were expected to spend on the ETC WebQuest, the designers finally
limited the resource web sites to five or six for each category.
After the resource selections were finalized, the design team organized
them and created scenarios to guide the learning process. True stories served
as the basis for scenarios. News sites such as National Public Radio and
CNN were searched. Although they contained relevant news, the news stories
did not cover all the issues the team wanted to include in the project. In the
end, the decision was made to create fictional scenarios
(http://www.tandl.vt.edu/technology-ethicswebquest/scenarios.htm) on the basis of the true
stories. Then, the sequence of the questions was outlined according to the
"from simple to deep" principle, whereby the questions within each scenario
spiral from the basic to the complex in order to facilitate the learning process
and help the learners understand the points of the scenarios.
In the final selection phase, a number of high quality web sites
were removed from the scenario pages in order to avoid overwhelming the
user, and in response to concerns regarding the inordinate download time
certain resources would take when working through a 56k-modem
connection. Rather than discarding such resources, an additional annotated
"Resources" web page
(http://www.tandl.vt.edu/technology-ethicswebquest/resources.htm) was created to provide a more comprehensive list of
relevant web sites for preservice teachers who wanted to further explore ethical
uses of technology.
An evaluation/completion checklist
(http://www.tandl.vt.edu/technology-ethicswebquest/evaluation.htm) was developed to illuminate how
learners' products were to be evaluated. In order to evaluate the potential utility
of the ETC WebQuest, elementary and secondary preservice teachers
were introduced to the ETC WebQuest in an introductory graduate
technology class: Educational Applications of
Educational Application of Microcomputers is an introductory course
for elementary and secondary preservice teachers in the use of technology
in the classroom. The course focuses on computer literacy and
specialized applications of microcomputers in school settings in the areas of
microcomputer hardware, computer assisted instruction, and other
local-school application software. Preservice teachers learn about hardware and
software troubleshooting, the use of other technology devices (PDAs or
handheld devices, scanners, digital cameras, video cameras, SmartBoard
technology, and projectors), file management, software applications (web design,
word processing, database, spreadsheet, FTP, PDF, and others), and
The ETC WebQuest was introduced for the first time as a means to
incorporate both a teaching and leaning strategy. The goal was to
introduce preservice teachers to (a) the potential of the Internet within education,
via modeling a teaching strategy designed to engage learners in an
Internet inquiry-based activity; (b) the rationale, structure, and design of
the WebQuest concept; and (c) ethical and legal issues relating to the use
of technology in the prekindergarten to 12th grade (PK-12) classrooms. By
the end of the course, the preservice teachers not only experienced the
ETC WebQuest but also designed and developed a content area or
grade-specific WebQuest for their own classrooms.
Prior to receiving instructions about the ETC WebQuest, preservice
teachers were asked to bring in an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) from their
internship schools. The AUP served as a focal point for introducing issues of
responsibility and ethics relating to the use of technology in the PK-12 setting.
Many preservice teachers expressed surprise at the amount of
responsibility required by the AUP documents. Others expressed concern over
the difficulty of ensuring their students' compliance and the possible
repercussions if they, as future teachers, were not aware of the policies they
were charged to implement. The robust discussions held by the elementary
and secondary preservice teachers set the stage for their exploration
and engagement with the ETC WebQuest.
Evaluation and Findings
After completing the ETC WebQuest assignment, the
preservice teachers were asked to voluntarily evaluate the ETC WebQuest by
participating in an online qualitative survey. Specifically, the survey addressed
the following areas:
Strengths of the ETC WebQuest.
Challenging aspects of the ETC WebQuest.
Important skills, concepts, and dispositions learned through the
Impact of the ETC WebQuest on perceptions/opinions of the
ethical uses of technology.
Changes to the ETC WebQuest that would improve learning,
instruction, and experience about the ethical and responsible use of
Usability of the WebQuest strategy as a tool to integrate
technology into the classroom.
Thirty out of a possible 37 responses were returned. The elementary
and secondary preservice groups consisted of 8 and 22 respondents,
respectively. Comments were generalized across the elementary and
secondary preservice groups, with reactions categorized into three major themes:
(a) Recognition of teacher responsibility related to integrating technology
into the classroom, (b) an increased awareness of social, ethical, and
safety issues relating to the integration of technology in the classroom, and
(c) commentary about the design of the ETC web site.
Several responses revealed that many preservice teachers had a
limited understanding of the responsibilities facing teachers when utilizing
technology within their classroom. As one participant commented, "Using
technology in the classroom is a lot more complicated than I imagined. There are
so many bases to be covered." Recognizing the need to understand
such issues was also reflected in the following participant comments:
"I learned a lot of information I did not know. I never gave this area much
thought because of the field I am studying," and "There are many areas that I
had not thought about in detail previous to the assignment."
The majority of participants pointed out the usefulness of the
ETC WebQuest as a resource to introduce the ethical issues relating to the use
of technology in the classroom:
I already questioned how to address certain legal and ethical issues
when using technology as a learning tool. WebQuest has opened my eyes to
issues and answers the question of how to gain control over a good
portion of other issues.
The ETC WebQuest also provided a number of participants the
opportunity to engage in the process of reflecting critically upon their own
I realize that I may have been doing things wrong with the way I have
used web sites. I realized that I may have to get a better grasp of policies
before I begin to teach my students, so they don't have the same confusion.
Participants also discussed the responsibility involved in
monitoring students' use of the Internet, while suggesting that the ETC
WebQuest helped them develop an awareness of the technological safety
tools available to protect students while using the Internet. One
respondent noted: "The WebQuest touched on important issues that a teacher can
face in the classroom, and as a teacher in training, it is helpful to spend
time thinking and preparing for these issues ahead of time."
Many of the preservice teachers expressed that the ETC WebQuest
gave them an opportunity to explore a range of issues that teachers might face
in the classroom: "I would say the most important concept I took out of
the assignment was that there are several aspects to consider when using
the web/computer as a learning tool."
A number of responses identified specific details and insights that the
ETC WebQuest provided with regard to the preservice teachers' future
understandings and actions in the classroom:
"The most important concepts presented in this WebQuest include
(1) Acceptable Use Policies (AUP); (2) Copyright law; and (3) assistive
and ergonomic technology."
"Students and teachers are frequently confused about copyright
and plagiarism. I found this information to be very helpful."
"I think it was valuable to learn and understand what fair use is
and what constraints teachers and students are under in regards to
"It is important to instill in students the understanding that
online interactions are not free of consequence. They should respect
computers, with regards to how they use them and with what intentions
they use them."
What became clear from the responses was that the ETC WebQuest
created a heightened awareness of issues that had never been explicitly
addressed and discussed with our preservice teachers. The participants began
to develop an awareness of their roles and responsibilities as teachers in
21st- century classrooms with regard to educating their own students as to
their rights, obligations, and responsibilities when using technology as part
of the learning process: "I realize that I am solely responsible for what my
kids do in the classroom regarding computer use."
Another participant clearly saw the need for teachers to be proactive
in teaching students how to use technology responsibly:
"As a teacher, it is fundamental that students understand their responsibilities when
using Internet resources and, more importantly, they know the ethical and
moral consequences of plagiarism."
Overall, the preservice teachers' responses revealed that they gained
a great deal of insight regarding, on the one hand, their future roles
in developing socially and ethically aware producers and consumers
of interactive technologies and, on the other hand, the utility of WebQuests
as a tool to engage students in structured inquiry projects through
participating in the ETC WebQuest experience.
Many participants found the ETC WebQuest design to be an easily
navigable and useable system through which to explore key issues:
"I would not change the navigational aspect of the web site. It was
easy to get to different pages and sites as needed to complete the
"The layout was very user friendly. Having resources that have
already been checked out for validity and content was a time saver. In
addition it made it possible for the user to focus on the topic."
It is interesting to note that, although some preservice teachers
suggested that the guiding questions were not challenging enough, a minority
pressed initially feeling a little lost because they had not previously
explored or completed a WebQuest. This may have had more to do with the fact
that the ETC WebQuest was introduced within a short time frame, while it
is designed to be a long-term endeavor. One participant noted,
It might be good to "portion out" a WebQuest by doing small parts of
it over the course of several class periods in order to integrate it into
other learning and not just have a large period of computer work.
The responses provide baseline data for understanding the future
design, use, and utility of the ETC WebQuest within the teacher
preparation program at Virginia Tech. One area to be explored will involve means
of achieving a balance between supporting preservice teachers who
were initially overwhelmed by the ETC WebQuest and offering other
preservice teachers who felt confined within the ETC WebQuest structure a more
open-ended investigation of issues.
One possible approach is to offer two alternative formats through
which preservice teachers may choose to examine issues of safety and ethics.
The ETC WebQuest will serve as one option. A second option may come in
the form of a Web Inquiry Project (WIP; http://edweb.sdsu.edu/wip/).
Developed by Phillip Molebash at San Diego State University, WIP's are
designed to promote classroom inquiry without the built-in structure of a
WebQuest (see Molebash & Dodge, 2003).
Whether teacher educators use WebQuests or WIP's to prepare
preservice teachers to learn about the legal and ethical uses of computer
technology, the initial evaluation data of the survey revealed the necessity of such
an endeavor. There is scant evidence to suggest that any of the
preservice teachers would have developed any depth of understanding of such
key issues had they not participated in the ETC WebQuest. If teacher
educators are not prepared to offer such opportunities, the question to be asked
is, who will prepare future teachers to "communicate the value of legal
and ethical uses of digital resources for future generations" (Cunningham,
2002, p. 32)?
The initial evaluations suggest that the ETC WebQuest (a)
provided preservice teachers with valuable insights into the roles and
responsibilities facing teachers and schools as they integrate technology into their
classrooms while (b) simultaneously introducing the WebQuest concept as
a teaching and learning strategy. Based upon the positive feedback
provided, the ETC WebQuest will become a requirement on Virginia Tech's
technology competence checklist for all graduating preservice teachers.
As detailed previously, it is clear from the reactions to the ETC
WebQuest that preservice teachers were not fully aware of key safety and ethical
issues inherent in the process of integrating technology into the classroom. In
the process of preparing tomorrow's teachers to use technology, Cuban
(2001) contended that an important question that needs to be continually asked
is, "In what ways can teachers use technology to create better
communities and build strong citizens?" (p. 197).
Identifying and addressing safety and ethical issues as an integral part of
a teacher's role in preparing digitally literate citizens to use technology
within the networked global community in a safe and socially appropriate
manner must be viewed as a keystone supporting wise and thoughtful practice
in the networked classrooms of the 21st century. Promoting
responsible practices will occur only through the explicit preparation of teachers who
are aware of what they are doing, as opposed to those who are not.
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