Call: Brave New Worlds – the Ethics of Education in Popular Digital Technologies

‘Brave New Worlds – the Ethics of Education in Popular Digital Technologies’

The Higher Education Academy has funded the Learning Lab to support a Special Interest Group (SIG) that explores the ‘informal’ ethics of educational interventions in popular digital technologies and as part of its activity, a one-day event has been planned to discuss and explore this area.  A more detailed overview is below.

Event Details

This event be hosted by Kathryn Trinder at Glasgow Caledonian University on Wednesday 27 October 2010 between 10am – 3pm.  Places are available at £40 per person which is inclusive of refreshments and lunch. 

Presenters include:

  • Prof Vic Lally – University of Glasgow
  • Fran Tracey – University of Cambridge
  • Dr Sian Bayne – University of Edinburgh
  • Prof John Traxler – University of Wolverhampton
  • Dr Lesley Gourlay – University of Coventry

Places are limited to 40 to encourage open discussion and to book please visit the Learning Lab website here

Follow the pre-event discussions online at #heethicsweb2.0conf on Twitter!

For more information, please feel free to contact Abi Redmond at the Learning Lab on 01902 32992 or at


Educators are now using popular digital technologies, including mobile devices mainly phones and media players; social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook; blogging sites such as Twitter and Jaiku, immersive virtual environments, usually Second Life, and gaming platforms such as Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft and DoomEd.

These technologies are creating more and more digital worlds that people inhabit, where communities form, and where ideas, images and information are produced, stored, shared, discussed and consumed. Each has its own rules and regulations, for example concerning privacy, expressed in the appropriate terms and conditions to which users sign up. They also have their own communities’ customs and practices, in effect informal ethics about appropriate or ‘right’ language, humour, posture, taste, fashion, etiquette and behaviour. This is different from using educational or institutional technologies such as interactive whiteboards, e-portfolios or VLEs, where educators and institutions have control and lay down the rules. With popular digital technologies, those beyond the walled garden of the institution, other rules have already developed and other regulators operate. These informal ethics, that is the standards and expectations, of people in online or connected communities continue to grow, multiply and evolve whilst laws and regulations are misunderstood and perhaps inappropriate.

Educators are taking learners into these worlds, virtual field trips in effect, and institutions are using these technologies for ‘outreach’, recruitment and advertising.  Educators are also researching these interventions in these new worlds.  These activities raise ethical issues, and possibly legal questions, in  terms of duty of care.

Ethics are fundamentally about trying to do good and avoiding doing harm; harm may be physical or objective harm but also distress, upset, embarrassment and shame, and thus are important for educational researchers because of the need to align their methods to the informal ethical expectations of the communities with whom they work; these expectations are however volatile, tacit, transient, chaotic and local to each community.

These events are designed to present an informal, accessible yet authoritative account of issues informed by educators’ experience in an area of growing importance.

These events will consist of short presentations followed by open discussions to establish the issues surrounding the informal ethics of educational interventions in popular digital technologies and will include personal accounts and experiences of using Web 2.0 technologies.  There will also be an open panel discussion at the end of the day to allow further discussion.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Best wishes

Learning Lab

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