I’m deep into writing my next ebook, “Mapping Media to the Common Core,” and had an interesting discussion this evening. The issue I discussed with a friend was whether or not the following sentence should be struck/removed from the initial section of my introductory chapter:

While there have been and will continue to inevitably be older teachers who will retire from education rather than learn “new ways” of teaching and learning in the digital information landscape, that choice is not a moral one for those of us who choose to remain twenty-first century educators.

My friend felt the choice to use digital tools in teaching isn’t a “moral” one because it doesn’t relate to “sin.” My response was that it’s an issue of right and wrong, and I do think it’s a moral/ethical issue. The teachers who teach my own children TODAY who aren’t embracing the uses of digital media in various forms are doing them a disservice, because they are inadequately preparing them for today as well as the world of tomorrow.

My friend pointed out this statement could alienate members of my readership who are NOT enthusiastic about the use of digital tools for learning. I responded that it’s an issue I’d love to see both in-service and pre-service teachers discuss (as well as parents / administrators / school board members) because I’m sure there are lots of viewpoints on it out there.

What do you think? Should I take this sentence out of the introduction? I’m considering adding some “Questions for discussion” at the end of each chapter. This could be a statement put forth for discussion. I’d value your input on this.

Mapping Media to the Common Core

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.

On this day..

Share →

17 Responses to Is Embracing Digital Learning a Moral Issue for Educators?

  1. Neil Pettitt says:

    I wouldn’t say it is a “moral” issue any more than any other factor in education that educators may choose or choose not to embrace. There are many aspects to teaching and those who are good educators choose not to at least be open to change of any kind. What could be deemed a “moral” issue is who is allowed to teach or not…… discuss.

  2. Sherry Hegstrom says:

    I think you should leave it. If you are teaching “media” or “technology”, that usually means you are online. I am in the process of mapping and creating curriculum for “social media and responsiblity in education”. With this being a new course, I have left two weeks at the beginning to teach digital identity, that is how to be responsible when using online tools. Who you are when you are online is extremely important! Morally we have to teach our students how to play with and learn “new media”, I will refer to an old read but still quite valid. Young People, Ethics and New Media. Thanks for the great post.

  3. Aaron Ross says:

    Gotta disagree with you on this one, Wes. Take a broader view – there are plenty of ways that your children will be trained in technology, including self-training that they do at the kitchen table. Teachers who use “older” methods may be imparting other skills, and may imparting those skills in very effective ways. I can think of several teachers who have been doing the same thing for many years and do not adopt technology, but the total package is so good that I would never want to replace them.

  4. EdTechSandyK says:

    Wow! Interesting discussion. It sent me off to the dictionary to look up “moral” and “ethical”. I didn’t realize how closely related they are in their definitions to the point of being almost interchangable. I think although the could technically be interchangeable, I’m like your friend in that to me “moral” has a connotation of relating to right and wrong at the level of sin, as in something that offends God. “Ethical”, on the other hand, has a connotation of relating to right and wrong at the level of what humanity says is acceptable or not.

    I think the sentence you want to include makes more sense if you use “ethical choice” instead of “moral choice” because I don’t think God is offended by teachers who choose not to use technology, but I do think the majority of the education profession recognizes it as an ethical obligation to equip students for the world in which they currently live, and that includes infusion of technology into instruction. I hope that makes sense!

  5. Cindy Sheets says:

    I applaud the teachers who retire because they know they can’t keep up – they understand that change is necessary and they are not willing or able to make the change. I’m not sure “moral” is the right word – perhaps “ethical”. Is it ethical for a doctor to continue to use old practices and methods that haven’t stood the test of time?

  6. Wesley Fryer says:

    Perhaps ‘ethical’ is a better word than moral in this case. I was thinking they are synonymous, but perhaps not.

  7. Wesley Fryer says:

    I agree the more secular “ethical” term might be a better fit.

  8. Wesley Fryer says:

    I definitely agree that a teacher doesn’t have to use technology to be a “good teacher” or an effective one… and simply using technology does not make someone good or effective. I think most often technology is amplifier, so it will amplify whatever is happening currently in the classroom… good or bad. I’m not wanting to make the argument that we should try and kick out any teacher who isn’t embracing the use of technology, either, simply because of that lack of use.

    I do, however, want to directly take on the assumption (frequently common, in my experience) that “What was good enough for me is good enough for kids today… I didn’t use technology in school, so kids don’t need to either.” I think that’s based on false ideas. At some point “the norm” of what is expected in terms of communication tools needs to change, and that is the change I want to advance. I feel very strongly about this, so that’s why I want to make a clear case. I don’t want people to get the idea that I’m JUST saying “use technology,” however. I’m saying use technology appropriately and effectively to communicate well.

  9. Wesley Fryer says:

    Thanks for the link to that paper. It looks like the “Good Play” research project has not issued their final report yet:


  10. Wesley Fryer says:

    Moral judgements certainly do figure into the question of “who gets to teach,” not only in the formal requirements for degree and certification programs but also in the different unwritten reasons administrators hire or do not hire teachers. I’m thinking “ethical” may be a better word for this than “moral.”

  11. EdTechSandyK says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read my response and reply. Sorry you have to re-moderate my comment. I saw a “the” that should have been “they” and fixed it. Didn’t know it would need to be re-moderated, but it makes sense that it does!

  12. Certainly a complicated issue. I’ve thought for a long time that we have a responsibility to be fluent in the digital culture we are a part of and to help students become fluent, as well. But then we have to ask ourselves, what about parents? What role do they have in that responsibility? How much responsibility do we bear? Is it just the informed that have an obligation to train up children/young adults in the way they should go digitally? When I saw the world “moral” crop up in your post title, it made me think of Dean Shareski’s presentation “Sharing as the Moral Imperative” (http://goo.gl/kuho2). I haven’t watched the presentation, but was part of a webinar he did for #etmooc and I took exception to some of his statements about our responsibility, which I won’t go into here. Next, I decided to look up the definition of “morality” – here’s what Wikipedia had to say:

    “Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics. It may also be synonymous with “goodness” or “rightness”.”

    In this context, it seems that’s what we’re talking about is NOT a “moral” code or system of morality, which is what your friend was trying to connect it with. I’m sure that makes using the word “moral” a hot button for many people. So using the basic definition, can we say that NOT embracing digital learning can have a component of right/wrong if we agree that it is something we feel responsible to pass on, especially if we are “in the know”? Is it in the best interests of students to ignore what students will need in the digital world they’re a part of?

    The place where I am uncomfortable is telling people who are on the end of of the continuum that doesn’t embrace dig. learning (or ignore teaching/sharing what they know) they should feel guilty for NOT embracing the value/practice to the level I think they should. As much as it frustrates me, I just don’t see that as a beneficial way of treating other educators. I think most of us in education feel that sharing/growing students is part of our calling, and ignoring what is going to benefit them goes against that calling. I think having a discussion about that may be helpful in the process of shaping paradigms, not guilting by issuing “right” or “wrong”. I see people on a continuum in their thinking/behavior as it relates to embracing digital learning, and I hope I can influence them further in the direction of embracing & practicing. I think we do have a responsibility as educators. I’m just not sure we need to make it a moral issue.

  13. Wesley Fryer says:

    Great points. Please do take a look at that K12Online presentation by Dean, I think it’s a very powerful one.

    I agree that we do NOT want to alienate and tick off educators who aren’t using digital tools with students now… that is not the objective, and hopefully can be avoided as an “unintended consequence.” The word “moral” is probably too strong in this context. I think your initial line of thinking is spot on, however… We want more educators, parents, and other community members to take seriously our collective responsibility to prepare “the next generation” for literacy and citizenship. So if this isn’t a ‘moral obligation,’ what kind of obligation is it?

  14. Wesley Fryer says:

    No problem 🙂 I’ve experimented with having comment moderation on different settings over the years… it seems to work best when I require everything to be approved. Sometimes I’m slow tho 🙂

  15. Yes. Ethical. Much better, in my opinion. Feels more secular. Less religious.

  16. […] his blog titled Is Embracing Digital Learning a Moral Issue for Educators?, Wesley Fryer (@wfryer) grapples with the issue of the teacher’s role in the use of social […]

  17. […] all may use technology different but we all use it at least once per day.  In the blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity,” he is debating whether or not embracing digital learning is a moral issue for […]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Sharing from Matthews, North Carolina! Connect with Wes on Mastodon.