Ensuring our children develop positive values and a sense of ethical and responsible use of technology is our responsibility as adults. Many educators shared their ideas for accomplishing this in their classrooms in a Computer Learning Month 1990 contest. The strategies described below are only a sampling of the many outstanding ideas the Foundation received, and are intended to help teachers begin meeting this important challenge.
Many teachers seized the opportunity to introduce responsible computing into their classrooms with the Computer Learning Month 1990 student storybook competition. Teachers introduced the Foundation’s Code of Responsible Computing, lead class discussions on the different legal and ethical issues addressed in the Code, then directed students to create storybooks on responsible computing. Storybooks included hero/heroines championing positive computer ethics, fables where the moral of the story is to be an ethical computer user, and serious essays on the importance of ethical computing.
Donald Bullock of Knolls Elementary School in Simi Valley, California, was the grand prize winner in the elementary category of the teaching strategies contest with his teaching units based on the Foundation’s Code of Responsible Computing. In each unit, concepts are first introduced, including their definition, relevant legal and historical information (such as the right to privacy as addressed in the Bill of Rights and interpreted by the Supreme Court), and examples relevant to students (such as other students going through their desks, lockers and belongings, taking their belongings or borrowing them without their permission, and copying their school work or answers to problems).
Students then complete thought-provoking worksheets on how they would feel if their rights were violated, what the consequences should be for the violator, whether all people’s rights, personal information and property should be respected and protected, and whether all people’s work and information on computer, in addition to physical property, should be protected. After completing the worksheets, students discuss their answers as a class.
Classification activities are included in two units. In one unit, students classify items and information as public or private (e.g., student’s desk, library book, newspaper). In another unit, students classify actions as requiring or not requiring permission (e.g., borrowing a sibling’s bicycle, reviewing a classmate’s story on a disk, reading a bulletin on a bulletin board). After each activity, the class discusses their rationale for classifying each item the way they did.
Alleta Baltes from Arapahoe School District #38 in Arapahoe, Wyoming, took top honors in the secondary school category of the teaching strategy competition. Her students participate in a mock trial of a case involving unethical use of technology. After a class discussion of relevant concepts (e.g., court procedures and U.S. beliefs in trial by jury and innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt), students assume different roles — lawyers, judge, jury, witnesses, plaintiff, and defendent. Each student then researches the issues and positions of their roles. During the trial, all students practice writing by taking notes. Lawyers prepare and present opening and closing statements. The class debates the case and issues during their social studies class. The mock trial experience allows students to discover and learn about different viewpoints and legal aspects of responsible and irresponsible use of technology.
Additional teaching strategies submitted in the contest include having students research and discuss news stories on computer crime, list pros and cons of pirating software, and discuss which facts they would be comfortable with other organizations having about them and whether this information should be available for sale to others (David Heath, Friends School of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland).
Jeanine DeLay from Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has students develop billboards/posters to communicate ethical messages and standards to other students. She also has students conduct surveys of other students’ attitudes about computer ethics issues and brings in speakers for career day and asks them to address ethical issues in their talks.
Several teachers have students watch War Games, then followup with activities, including student ranking of actions observed in the movie on a continuum of most to least harmful and class discussion of the consequences of computer crimes. Reviewing software license agreements and discussing them as a class helps students understand the law and variations in policies across companies (Margaret Snyder, All Saints Catholic, Pottsville, Pennsylvania).
Class discussions are important in most strategies for teaching children computer ethics, as students have the opportunity to discover and better understand all sides of ethical issues and develop their own values. Other ethical issues teaching strategies addressed include anti-technology issues, such as job displacement, the impact of automation, health issues, using technology as tools of war, and equity issues.
Pleasant County Middle School (Pamela Mitchell, Belmont, West Virginia) issues student licenses after students have been introduced to and demonstrated an understanding of responsible use of technology. Licenses allow students to use the computer lab during class or study halls and are suspended for violations of responsible computing. Only 8 of 1,425 licenses issued have been suspended.
Suzy Bagley of Kaley Elementary School in Orlando, Florida, ties the teaching of computer ethics to the theme of pirates and Captain Hook. Students prepare stories that are to be shared with other students in the class. When they come to class the next day, however, their stories are on the bulletin board with the author named as Captain Hook. This leads to a discussion on how it feels to have someone take credit for your work and the consequences today if Captain Hook stole another’s ideas or work.
Louise Kaan from Dildine Elementary School in Cheyenne, Wyoming, captures students’ attention and increases their understanding of the importance of responsible computing with a short musical with raps and songs. The characters, created by attaching cardboard characters to garbage bags, include “Computerbug” who deletes and adds bugs to software programs; students who want to use diskettes as frisbees and put fingerpaint on the computer screen; “Bender” who bends and snatches disks from the disk drive when the “busy” light is on; “Copycat” who copies everyone’s disks and sends them to all his friends; and “Snatcher” who takes information and ideas as his own from other’s disks and from computers with a modem over phone lines. In each scenario, the computer monitor talks and explains to students why they want to keep these villains away from the computer.
Robbi Ray from Bruce Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky, sets up a database, then has students input their personal information, to be printed out and shared the next day with other students. When the students return to class, the teacher has made changes in each student’s information which leads to a discussion of how it feels to have your information tampered with and the importance of responsible computing.