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Beyond Digital Citizenship: Teaching Technology Ethics for a Better Future

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Snapshot

Tuesday, June 25, 11:45 am–12:45 pm
Location: 109AB

Presentation 1 of 2
Other presentations:
We Be Jammin' — Using Jamboard in the Classroom

Michelle Ciccone  
Our students are tomorrow’s technology developers so we must ensure that they leave our classrooms with an embedded sense of ethics. Explore key concepts and practices within a technology ethics curriculum to be deployed within or alongside a computer science program. No specialized expertise necessary!

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Library media specialists
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Digital citizenship
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Not applicable, Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
  • Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.
  • Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

K-12 schools today take two paths to prepare their students for a technology-embedded life. The first is what is referred to as a “digital citizenship” education, which is aimed at the student-user and most often asks students to consider the interpersonal impact of online actions. The other path is a skill-based computer science education, which aims to train young people -- often with the worthy focus of increasing the pipeline of girls and people of color -- to work in technology fields. The missing piece is a technology ethics education, that asks all students -- future developers and inevitable consumers alike -- to consider the intended and unintended impact that our evolving technology ecosystem has on ourselves, our communities, our institutions, and our society. By creating a space for students to wrestle with the ethical dilemmas we face as technology develops, we invite young people to co-create a vision for our future, which in turn enables more and more young people to see themselves as more than just consumers.

Participants of this session will walk away with a framework from which to build a technology ethics program at their school context. To successfully deploy such a technology ethics program does not require a large investment of new resources or specialized expertise; this pedagogy can be embedded within courses in computer science, the humanities, or the sciences, or within a standalone curriculum. This session will present a scope and sequence, specific lesson ideas, and more general pedagogical practices that develop within students the desired thinking dispositions and sensitivity to the ethical dilemmas embedded within our technology ecosystem. Participants will be provided with links curriculum materials I have created and use in my classroom.

I have taught using this pedagogy for over three years now. I know this approach works in creating technology ethicists because my students show me everyday that it does. When my 8th graders learn about how cookies allow websites to collect data and track activity, they become independently interested in reading the terms of service of websites they use. Students will send me screenshots of problematic details in these ToS and we’ll engage in spirited exchanges about their growing understanding of these issues. I have received emails from students wanting to talk about the latest ups and downs of net neutrality legislation, long after they have been in my class. My students heatedly debate whether technology generally and the Internet of Things specifically makes us more or less human, defining for themselves exactly what it means to be human and how we can maintain those defining characteristics in today’s world. One student told me she is now interested in working in artificial intelligence because she wants to ensure that AI is not weaponized in the future. If we want our technology ecosystem to be more humane, equitable, thoughtful, and ethical, then these are the big ideas that we need young people thinking about today. This session will help you understand how you too can explore these ideas with students, no matter your context or background.


During this session, I will share the scope and sequence of the curriculum I have developed and deployed. Attendees will have the opportunity to play with open resource materials that have generated a lot of engagement in my classroom. Audience members will see that it does not require a specialized background to meaningfully engage with these topics in the classroom.

Below is the scope and sequence that will be presented and explored:
I. What are its parts?
A. Diagramming the Internet
B. How does the Internet work?

II. What are its purposes?
A. History of the Internet
B. How has the Internet changed over time?

III. What are its complexities?
A. Getting connected
1. What does connection look like, in US and around the world? Access, speeds, cost
2. What gets in the way of getting connected? Internet freedom, who is in control?
3. Case study: Net neutrality
4. Digital convo #1: Is access to the Internet a right?
B. Customization of experience
1. Cookies
2. Google ads
3. The filter bubble
4. Digital convo #2: Are you being brainwashed?
C. Rise of automation
1. The Internet of Things
2. Artificial intelligence
3. Case study: Self-driving cars
4. Artificial/virtual reality
5. Digital convo #3: Does the Internet make us more or less human?
D. Surveillance online
1. Hackers
2. Develop a “data bill of rights”
3. Surveillance case studies
4. Digital convo #4: Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor?

Supporting research

Thinking routine used to order the scope and sequence:

Inspiration for importance of technology ethics:

"Digital dilemmas" concept explored by a Harvard University team of researchers:

More [+]


Michelle Ciccone, Foxborough High School

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