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EdTech Update




« Blown away by Students 2.0 | Main | Essential skills - follow-up »

Scenarios 2.0

When doing ethics workshops, one of my favorite activities is using short scenarios with a few discussion questions. As the poster above suggests, you really can "tell" people what values they ought to have, but you can help them clarify their thinking about them. Good discussions usually bring up consequences of actions and suggestions for appropriate behaviors. These work with both adults and kids. Especially kids.

My book Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age uses scenarios as its core. (The handouts for my ethics workshop have the scenarios as well.) Anyone is welcome to use them.

That being said, the book pre-dates Web 2.0 and I need to create some additional situations for discussion revolving around the read-write web. I've done the three below

  • Lisa posts photographs from recent party that involved drinking on the FlickR website along with a really funny video of kids making out on YouTube.
  • Adele “meets” Frank, who shares her interest in figure skating, on MySpace. After several conversations in the following weeks, Frank asks Adele for her home telephone number and address. Adele likes Frank and gives him the information he asked for.
  • Bob feels his teacher treated him unfairly and creates a “Kill This Teacher” blog that invites other students to submit “creative” means of harming teachers in his school.

For each I would use the following discussion starters:

  • What is the unsafe or unethical action?
  • What harm might it cause?
  • How would you counsel/guide those involved?
  • Similar incidents?
I'd love have Blue Skunk Readers suggest other scenarios, especially based on recent experiences they have encountered with students using newer tools on the Web.

My experience tells me that the scenarios that work best are:
  1. Short - not more than three to five sentences
  2. Somewhat ambiguous - no ages, for example
  3. Based on real occurrences
That's it! Give it a try. It's fun!

OK, this is a little like Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence. But it's worth a shot.

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Reader Comments (7)

One thing that bothers me about the way these issues are handled in general is the conflation of ethics and safety. They really don't have much to do with each other.

Also, I'd note that there is no evidence that Adele's action in the second scenario is unsafe (and certainly not unethical).

August 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Hi Tom,

I see ethical and safe as two-sides of the same coin. An ethical action means we treat others so as not to cause harm; a safe action is one in which guard ourselves against the unethical actions of others.

Your observation that Adele's action is unsafe is exactly the kind of thing that gets discussed by using this technique. By being ambiguous about age, situation etc., a realistic assessment of risk results.

Thanks for the comment. Good to hear from you!


August 7, 2008 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Two girls decide, as a joke, to post pictures on a My Space page of them kissing each other, They send an email to their friend, advising her to look at the pictures. The pictures are being viewed by the third girl (their friend) when third girl's mother walks in. She sees the pictures and immediately phone the school demanding that something be done about these pictures of _______________ School students on the internet.

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

A classroom teacher takes digital photos of the pictures in several well known current, picture books. He then has various groups read the text which accompanies the pictures and record the readings using Garageband. He then puts the pictures together with the student readings and posts them on his blog as digital books so the grade twos at another school can listen to them. The grade two teacher, in the spirit of generosity, publicizes these books, and it becomes a popular download site. Several moms download the books rather than having to buy the picture books.

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

A mom, who also happens to be a teacher, takes hundreds of sports photos of her son's team all summer. In September, she decides to create a comic strip for math, and uses the kids sports photos, but changes all photos into cartoon characters using BeFunky. She then publishes the cartoon in a weekly blog. The cartoons are close enough to the real photos to be recognizable IF you knew the original students. The team has disbanded and it is not possible to contact many of the players.

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

A group of students put an end of year slideshow together, and include popular current music. The students then decide to burn mulitple copies of the DVD, and sell them for $2 more than cost as a fundraiser. Everyone wants a copy of the DVD so it looks like they will be able to sell at least 600 DVDs.

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Hi Janice,

Thanks so much for these scenarios. They are great!


August 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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