Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« BFTP: Technology look-fors in teacher evaluations | Main | Lab-less is good »

Consequence thinking - effective but short sighted?

Our safety messaging (in many countries) has to date almost exclusively modeled what Harvard researchers call “consequence thinking” (consequences to self) rather than moral thinking (consequences for known others) and ethical thinking (consequences for unknown others, e.g., one’s community or planet). To be crystal clear, let’s call it “future consequence thinking”: with messages like, what you share online will be there forever, don’t post that because it could hurt your future prospects, turn it off and go outside or you’ll get fat, anti-social, or socially excluded, etc. Do we think about the laser focus on consequences to self and whether that supports social emotional health, deep connection with others and civic engagement? Do we think – and help our children think – about how their activities in this moment are providing or supporting meaningful connection and collaboration right now? Anne Collier 6 takeaways from 20 years of Net Safety: Part 2 July 19, 2017

Is WIIFM the basis of your digital citizenship teaching strategy? Collier's observation above made me think hard about how I get others to take Internet safe and ethical use seriously. And yes, it's been mostly about how safe and ethical use benefits the user - consequence thinking as Collier puts it. Do we owe it to those we teach to include moral and ethical thinking as well - how our actions might impact others? Do we have faith that those we teach care about not just themselves, but others as well. It would take a true misanthrope to do otherwise. And while experiences sometime turns teachers into misanthropes, misanthropes don't make very good or effective teachers.

A second reaction I had to Collier's divisions of "safety messaging" made me think about my decisions as a educational technology administrator. When asked to make a decision, do I choose:

  • What most benefits me? (does not cause controversy, stays in budget, does not cause disruption, leads to job security)
  • What most benefits those in my department and those I interact with often? (give others what they ask for, keeps work loads managable, suit personal interests)
  • What benefits the students and communities, local and global, I serve? (creates needed positive change, helps empower students and teach critical skills, builds equity)

It's a happy day when I can make a choice that meets all three criteria. But it doesn't happen very often.

In the column linked above, WIIFM?, I observed:


One most excellent thing makes the job of the technology advocate easier. Teachers respond not just to a WIIFM approach. In fact, the WIIFMS  argument is often far more persuasive: What’s In It For My Students? (We are still the most altruistic profession on the face of the earth, regardless of the political rhetoric.)

I still believe that is true.

Stop next time you make a choice and ask if you are making it based on consequence, morality, or ethics. You need to answer to no one but yourself.

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>