Engaging with ethics

The growing use of digital technologies in educational contexts is accompanied by an ever-increasing range of ethical questions. There are the many ethical issues centred on data, such as who owns the data, how the data should be interpreted, and how the privacy of learners and teachers should be protected. Several recent incidents (such as ‘data harvesting’ by Cambridge Analytica) have highlighted that data techniques are commonly being used to profile people without their awareness. It is perhaps only a matter of time before this is happening in schools and universities. There is increased pressure on educational institutions to start to develop policies relating to data ethics, to obtain consent from students to use and analyse any data from their interactions with their learning management system, and to provide effective training and support for students and staff. Typically, there is currently no formal training for students enabling them to understand how their data might be used and the possible consequences. When preparing learners for a changing world of ethics and privacy, teachers can enable learners to ‘play’ with their own data and learn what the limitations of sharing data may be. Engaging with data ethics is part of how institutions are developing effective learning cultures in a digital world.

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