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Ethics for Technology Use in the Classroom

Children learn about ethics in school from their first day of kindergarten. The teacher tells them the rules and the reasons for rules. They learn not to cheat or hurt each other. However, the advent of technology in the classroom adds complexity to classroom ethics.

Many students begin playing with a device before entering elementary school. Every student’s experience with using the technology and the internet differs. Some parents may forbid online interactions unless the child has permission. Some may not allow children to connect to the internet without a parent around.

Technology brings ethical issues to the forefront long before students learn how to handle real-life situations from an ethical standpoint. Children do not have much preparation for cyberbullying and copyright issues. Teachers not only contend with students bringing devices to school but also their various skill levels in using them and the internet.

Christopher McGilvery, an Angelo State University lecturer, recommends one approach that can help teachers demonstrate and guide students in learning how to use technology ethically. He offers the acronym TECH SMART as an option for helping students navigate the ethical waters of their digital world.

Take care of technology equipment.

With malware and viruses running rampant, students must learn to watch what they download, click and share.

Explore appropriate and safe sites for learning and research.

Many websites contain inaccurate or false information. Teachers can provide a list of approved websites. Students need to learn how to evaluate websites and assess whether they can trust the content.

Copyright law, Fair Use Act and Creative Commons matter.

Students learn how to copy and paste without realizing the copyright implications. Understanding copyright and related laws will help ensure students follow the rules in using and sharing content.

Help prevent cyberbullying.

The anonymity of the internet and not seeing faces makes it easy to “say” things one would not utter in person. Teaching students about cyberbullying requires discussing not only its definition but also how hurtful and damaging it can be. Give examples of cyberbullying and encourage students to report any cyberbullying incident to teachers, counselors, administrators or their parents.

Self-image is important.

Without seeing faces, people can easily overshare in a digital world. Kids need to learn how future employers look up candidates’ social media accounts to see how they represent themselves in public.

Make use of netiquette.

Netiquette comprises the rules of an online community. Sloppy writing in online forums, device distraction while in conversation, and sending of unsolicited emails are a few examples of poor netiquette. Learners need to understand what makes good and bad netiquette and why.

Always give credit to original source.

Like citing references in term papers, students learn about the importance of using online citations to respect copyright laws and eschew plagiarism.

Remember to be effective, thoughtful and ethical digital creators.

Teachers can incorporate assignments that use digital tools in the classroom. This allows students to learn how to use technology responsibly with teacher oversight.


Teachers can integrate TECH SMART into their lesson plans and encourage students to think about technology’s purpose in all digital interactions.

The rapid pace of technology advancement makes it challenging for people to evaluate the ethical ramifications of their actions in the digital space. Understanding ethical issues of technology in the classroom and remembering TECH SMART helps students become ethical citizens in a digital world.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s Master of Science in Education in Curriculum and Instruction online.

Sources: Ethical Issues with Using Technology in the Classroom

Education World: Promoting Responsible and Ethical Digital Citizens

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