If teachers are to play a role in their student’s moral development, how can they go about doing this? How can they equip their students to make ethical decisions as they interact with the Internet? Over the next two posts I will explore three aspects to morality that might help them to do this: moral reasoning, conscience and empathy.
Berkowitz and Grych (1998) describe Kohlberg’s model of moral reasoning (referred to in post 2) as “a developmental progression of increasingly more effective ways of thinking about and resolving moral problems and issues” (Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, p.378). Teachers, then, who want to equip their students to resolve moral problems and issues that arise when using the internet, need to move these students along Kohlberg’s scale.
I mentioned in post 2 that, when it comes to Internet use, students may not have progressed to stage 4 of Kholberg’s scale: authority and social order obedience driven. One suggestion to help them progress to this level might be to familiarise students with national law and how it relates to their internet usage. This would foster awareness that their choices on the internet do have consequences, sometimes even criminal ones. Meyenn (2000) also suggests that schools set up a set of ethical principles that students are to adhere to (Meyenn, A 2000, p.70). These steps would provide students with an ethical framework to adhere to.
While this is a good start, students will still be functioning at a fairly basic level of morality. The next stage in Kholberg’s model introduces empathy into the ethical framework. Kagan (1984) identifies empathy as one of the “core moral emotions” (Kagan, J. 1984) and Damon (1988) considers it “one of morality’s primary emotional supports” (Damon, W 1977, p.14). How then do teachers encourage empathy in their students? Meyenn (2000) encourages teachers to work through a series of questions and reflections with students that require an “empathy step” (Meyenn, A 2000, p.69). An example of this would be to ask “are you treating others as you would want to be treated.” (Meyenn, A 2000, p.69)
Black (2004) believes that “electronic communication risks eroding empathy” (Black, R. 2004) Conversely, I would like to suggest that the ethical challenges posed by the Internet offers adolescents a chance to grow in their empathy. Students are now in the position to learn a sense of global empathy: called to empathise not merely with people in their classrooms or workplaces, but with people they have never met: people who live in different countries and come from different cultures, yet are connected through the internet.
Carroll, S and Collins, J F 2005, ‘The human person, information technology and religious education,’ Religious Education Journal of Australia, vol 21, no. 1, p33-37
Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, ‘Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children’s Moral Development,’ Journal of Moral Education, vol 23, no.3, p371-391
Meyenn, A 2000, ‘a proposed methodology for the teaching of Information Technology ethics in schools.’ Darlinghurst, Australia: Australian Computer Society, Inc.
Kagan, J 1984, ‘The nature of the child.’ New York: Basic Books.
Damon, W 1977, ‘The social world of the child,’ San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Black, R. 2004, Community in an electronic age. Eureka Street, jan Feb, pp30-33