11 May 2022


Ethical Issues in Technology and Social Change

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In the past four decades, technology has fundamentally changed our lives: from the way we communicate, interact with others, and the way we things. With the advent of the internet and cellular devices such as computers and mobile phones, the way people communicate in the society has been completely overhauled. This technological revolution has also been witnessed in the educational sector, with schools focusing on the acquisition of hardware and software applications in pursuit of educational goals and preparing students for the real technological world. The innovations witnessed have ranged from the use of computers/ laptops in the classroom, curriculum-driven software, and online learning. While the increasing use of technology has significantly increased in schools throughout the world and improved the learning process, it has also facilitated digital divide, cheating and lack of focus among students. Thus, this paper examines the positive impact of the use of technology in a social institution such as schools. Moreover, it delves into the ethical issues surrounding technology usage in schools and the future moral consequences.

Historical Trends

One of the earliest forms of formal teaching was the oral communication. In the ancient Greek, for instance, instructors used poetry and speeches to pass information for educational purposes. By fifth century B.C, written documents came into existence supplementing oral teaching with philosophers such as, Socrates and Plato reporting to have used writing to make logical argument and reasoning that were accessible to their students (Collins & Halverson, 2018). Many of the professors continued writing manuscripts that were used during lectures. The advent of printing technology in Europe in the 15th century played a significant impact as written knowledge could not be produced freely and made more accessible. This contributed to the rapid expansion of formal education in Europe (Collins & Halverson, 2018).

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In early 1900, there was the emergence of audio technology such as the radio which led to the expansion of learning with education programs for schools being broadcasted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ( Goldin & Katz, 2018). The British government also established forums such as the Open University (OU) that partnered with to help reproduce university programs that would be integrated into learning. The use of media for education quickly spread all over the world promoting international governmental and non-governmental agencies like the UN and World Bank using it as a panacea for education in developing countries. This, however, was not possible as most of the states lacked the necessary infrastructures, resistance from the locals and cultural issues. However, other countries were open to the changes hence producing and delivering educational television programs in their indigenous language (Goldin & Katz, L. F. (2018).

In the 1990s the cost of producing and creating video contents had drastically reduced leading to more original recording and distribution of videos. Besides, there was the development of lecturer capture systems technology that would enable students to review learning materials easily. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) started producing recorded lecturers and making them accessible to student and the public. This learning style was integrated into many educational institutions with the instructors redesigning the old classroom teaching to a new form of learning (Goldin & Katz, 2018). Instructors could now use PowerPoint to back up oral communication teaching. The launching of the World Wide Web in 1991 allowed users to create and link up documents led to the development of the online learning environment. Applications such as the WebCT provided an online platform where educational content would be organized and uploaded to suit the learners' needs. Lecturers could upload learning materials in the form of PDFs or slides, and the students would complete the assignments and engage in the discussion forums. By 2008, many colleges and universities had created the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) a platform that allowed students to enroll for courses they wanted through virtual learning. Since then his kind of knowledge has expanded all over the world, with many institutions witnessing massive enrolment. 

Current Benefits

As demonstrated education has and continues adopting technology for over an extended period. The technological development like 3D visualization tools, projectors, learning software and computers have become essential tools for teachers and students in the classroom. Networks and the internet help in getting everything they need concerning learning including researching, typing, completing assignments and interacting with the rest of the students, especially in the online discussion. This helps the students in acquiring higher order skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking besides gaining personal knowledge provided by the teacher's content (Merchant et al., 2014). Instructors, on the other hand, use the technological tools to dispense information and facilitate the learning process. The traditional curriculum would focus heavily on equipping students with job-specific skills only that were mainly theoretical. The integration of various technological tools in the student's learning in acquiring other skills besides reading, writing and arithmetic have proven to be a valuable tool in accomplishing other tasks related to sciences, business and other human endeavors.

The use of technology in education has led to the globalization. The method of computers and other cellular gadgets has changed the way the society interacts on a large scale. Traditionally, people would only interact and have distinct relationships with their close friends only at home or work (Collins& Halverson, 2018). This type of interaction was only possible through face to face meetings. The invention of video conferencing and other computer applications have blurred this kind of boundaries. Students in the same learning institution and different geographical locations and diversities can comfortably interact at their convenience changing the nature of human interaction that existed before the emergence of new technology (Merchant et al., 2104). During these interactions, they can form meaningful relationships as well as appreciate the diversities that exist between different cultures. This has led to the prevalence of distance learning and online education as a part of the education system as the students can maintain a flexible schedule that is convenient for them.

The use of technology has also made education to be more enjoyable especially for young children. According to Collin and Halverson (2018), it is often difficult to engage children in learning sometimes. However, the use of laptops, tablets, and whiteboards by the instructors make the whole process of learning interactive and more interesting.

Current Negative Ramifications

The use of technology has had a tremendous negative impact on human interactions. According to Chu (2014) before the emergence of technology the society was homogenous and continuously held together by shared values. The acceptance of technology has created a rapid social change that disconnects people from the reality and pushes them towards a virtual world. The use of emails notably has eliminated a lot of visual and physical cues that are used in communicating with each other. Besides, the young people especially the students are losing the ability to interact appropriately in physical communication as they are accustomed to communicating through the cyberspace. This has therefore reduced meaningful interactions and boundaries that existed between students and their teachers as both of them would prefer making a call or sending an email when communication, thus losing the sense of personal relationship.

The focus of most students and the society at large in disconnecting themselves from the world and no longer building personal relationships leads to loneliness. According to a study by Merchant et al. (2014) on the internet and society, the internet substantially causes people to spend less in real human contact thus, creating feelings of isolation among the student. Chu(2014) .posits that this kind of separation may prompt them to engage in activities that may corrupt their morals such as pornography and cyberbully. The inappropriate absorption of harmful content in the online world may result in lack of focus and concentration in their academics and extra-curricular activities. The result decreases in the overall academic performance.

A growing number of students in universities and colleges with the help of technological devices such as smartwatches and mobile phones are now cheating in exams. Research conducted by the Chu(2014) found out that approximately 42 percent of the students used electronic devices to cheat in an examination. Besides, during assignments more than 15 percent copy and cut texts on the internet without citations leading to academic fraud. This has resulted in the lack of creativity as they do not have to pay much effort on their assignment or projects because of the unlimited source of information on the internet.

In the creation of a technologically advanced school, many factors are considered. Sufficient funds must be provided to purchase the technological equipment, and the necessary training must be submitted to the teachers for them feel comfortable while using the technology. Teachers must have additional capabilities to differentiate student's abilities for better overall learning. Without enough resources, it is difficult for most schools to get a technologically advanced classroom. The weaker students and educational establishments may end up being disadvantaged.

Ethical debates in Educational Technology

Ethical issues in educational technology revolve around different aspects, including, student safety and privacy, proper netiquette, and accessibility. Property is one of the problems that have become prevalent in technological use. In the educational setting, teachers use various curriculum and instructional software programs that are developed by multiple companies. The copyright law protects the computer software programs. It is therefore unlawful for both the students and teacher to make copies of the programs without seeking permission from the producer of the said programs. Any alteration of the program with the aim of reselling may attract legal consequences. Teachers as the stewards of the educational welfare have the responsibility of informing the administrators of software programs of any inappropriate pattern of technology use and change. Moreover, students need to know about the various unethical practices in technology use and how to protect themselves from those practices.

Student safety and privacy is also another critical aspect of technology ethics. According to Lucey and Grant (20009), the Children's Internet Protection Act requires that school administrators develop cyber safety plans addressing the dissemination of information and unauthorized of personal identification regarding children under the age of 18 years. They further posit that the high speed of internet and easier access to computers have made it possible for young people to interact through the internet freely. Many of these children do not have enough knowledge of the potential risks associated with the internet especially cyberbullying and sexual harassment. Teachers are expected to educate the students on the potential dangers that they may encounter and strategies they are supposed to use to enhance their safety. Teachers can improve their security by not authorizing access to individual websites in schools that may pose particular dangers to the students.

Proper network etiquette is also an important skill when it comes to ethics in technology. Cyberethics should be viewed with the same abilities as other skills. Students not only use the computer for learning purposes but also to communicate. Proper network etiquette requires that the user respect other people's privacy when it comes to sharing information. The other rule denotes that you should let students should not pass inappropriate information that is meant to destroy another person's reputation and bullying them. These skills are not only essential to students and also other people using the digital platform to communicate. When children start learning how to use these technological devices, it is necessary for them to acquire such kind of rules as part of their life skills. 

The issue of accessibility is another emerging ethical issue in the educational technology. Inequitable distribution of technological resources among schools has resulted in what is known as the digital divide. Equitable distribution of technology facilitates equality and sharing in communities, however, differentiation in equity and justice has created controversy in the education sector. Most arguing that inequitable distribution of technology results to inequality regarding learning. It is the role of school administrators to make allocation choices concerning school resources. This will determine that how teachers integrate technology as part of the instruction learning. Findings by Lucey and Grant (2009) reveal that despite technology access, teachers use the internet for insignificant things instead of employing for regular purposes. The administration must ensure that such happenings do not occur to promote equity.

In conclusion, technology has had a significant impact on education and the society at large. It has enhanced how education content is disseminated to the students enhancing active learning. Moreover, it has improved the way people interact making the world a global village. Teachers and educational stakeholders should take advantage of the benefits of technology and eliminate the drawbacks that that are pulling technique in achieving excellence. 


The Chu, H. C. (2014). Potential Negative Effects of Mobile Learning on Students' Learning Achievement and Cognitive Load--A Format Assessment Perspective. Journal of Educational Technology & Society , 17 (1).

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2018). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America . Teachers College Press.

Goldin, C., & Katz, L. F. (2018). The race between education and technology. In Inequality in the 21st Century (pp. 49-54). Routledge.

Lucey, T. A., & Grant, M. M. (2009). Ethical issues in instructional technology: an exploratory framework. Multicultural Education & Technology Journal , 3 (3), 196-212.

Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). The effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students' learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education , 70 , 29-40.

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