Standing a Good Chance with Digital Ethics?

In the midst of the Corona-crisis and the shut down after March this year many universities, schools and workplaces have had to act before thinking, and they may have chosen digital alternatives that they maybe would not have chosen in normal circumstances. It is not new that teaching is founded on ethics, but the new situation forces educators to take ethical consideration in a wider area than before. How can we ensure the core ethical dimensions underlying the success and achievements of our longstanding education systems are maintained in the digital transfer? 

We have interviewed the leader of NORDE – Norsk råd for digital etikk/Norwegian Council for Digital Ethics – Leonora Onarheim Bergsjø about some of the many facets of digital ethics in higher education and workplace training. 

What do you mean by digital ethics in education and training? 

To reflect upon the ethics of technology, digital ethics, is to analyse and understand new tech, what it can do, and to discuss how it may affect society, in order to decide how we should and must use it to live up to the goal: AI for good. To integrate digital ethics in education and training is pivotal to reach this goal. 

How does digitalization affect education practitioners? 

I would say that digitalization affects education practitioners in every way. 

What would you choose in a perfect world: Better user experience systems or higher digital skills in the population? 

These are two typical approaches – to focus on the user or the system. I don’t think it is an either – or. We need to strengthen the digital skills of individual users, but we should also make the systems more transparent and easier to understand, as well as more ethical. There are many ways to make systems more ethical, as we will discuss during our session, Digital Ethics in Education and Training.

How can educators make a difference in bridging the digital divide/gap (by increasing the competence and the user experience for both students and education professionals)? 

We need to empower students at all levels as well as professional practitioners by teaching and practicing digital ethics. 

Does the increased use of technology lead to expectations that professionals will need to be available 24/7? 

Since it is now possible to be available around the clock, many people think that they should be. But considering how being online and reacting to notifications all the time is bad for our health; I don’t think we should be. I would even say that it would be unethical to expect us to be available all the time. 

Digital ethics is part of the curriculum in most countries – is this enough or should the focus be elsewhere? 

Is it, really? My impression is that there is not enough training in ethical reflection on new technology.  

Are you an optimist regarding digital ethics? 

I call myself an “optimist by choice”.  Some people say that privacy is dead, that too much power is already at the hands of the multinational corporates, and that normal people like us can’t do anything to change it. I hope that they’re wrong and I plan on working hard to show it. 

What are the main obstacles for digital ethics in education in 2020? 

Yes, this is a great question! And a question that every practitioner should be discussing with their colleagues. I think the answer will differ between different institutions and countries. 

There is one thing that is for sure, and that is that the COVID-19 has led to changes we may never have seen under other circumstances. But now it is time to roll up one’s sleeves and base further practices on an ethical ground, because, as Leonora says, digitalization affects education practitioners in every way. 

Meet Leonora Onarheim Bergsjø and her two international colleagues Meeri Haataja and Gry Hasselbalch in a conversation led by Elisabeth Bøe about digital ethics in education and training at OEB 20 on Monday Nov 30th from 16:00 – 17:00. 

Written by Katrine Utgård, senior advisor and Karoline Tellum-Djarrayain Skills Norway

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