Thursday, June 23, 2011

Personal Use is UnEthical - #iPads in Schools @vanhoose74


An Apple representative tweeted at me after reading Manifesting Our Fears in iPad Use:
wow, we need to talk... cynicism continues to reign, eh?

For Apple folks reading this, wake up and read the next paragraph carefully. You know this is out there but you don't have solid, comprehensive solutions yet. Until you do, folks can make remarks like the following and the rest of the world has to listen:
"More challenging is making the change on the iPad in a way that a savvy user cannot change," Mayorga said. "That is still an unresolved issue. To this point, the Apple devices do not play nice in corporate networks where security restrictions need to be enforced."
When will Apple devices like the iPad play nice on the school network?

I immediately re-read my post. Was cynicism--an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity--present in that blog entry? It certainly is possible. As a technologist, I feel an obligation to not simply embrace a technology because millions of dollars have been spent marketing that technology to the masses. As slick a product as the iPad is, as educators and technologists, we should at least ask ourselves 3 questions:
  1. Can this consumer device be made to be effective in schools? A tough question because you have to consider the rich variety of cultural approaches schools take to technology. In some places, technology must support the status quo, while in others, it supports a culture of change. Bringing in a device and hoping it will change the culture is foolhardy.
  2. Can teachers make effective use of this device to achieve instructional objectives? As nice as the iPad is--and there's plenty of evidence that the iPad CAN be used to support instructional objectives, if not the ones schools or state departments believe teachers should be indoctrinating--we have to ask what is the purpose or plan developed ahead of purchase and deployment. Looking at a blog entry of a few districts are doing and saying, Yes, this is what we want to do, too fails to take into account the complex differences in stakeholder roles, motivations, culture. If it's about making change, the process isn't a mystery as the tale shows, right?
  3. Can the District's Technology Department adequately support a technology that makes it touching each device one by one? The back-end question here is, what happens when this technology takes off and every staff member and student wants one? If you have 8000 staff members, each using the iPad in a different way, how do you handle the various uses and implementations? For example, the maintenance, transportation departments may have different ways of using the iPad than the Special Education folks who require special software such as Proloquo2go that has a hefty price tag (no, it's not your $1.99 app...more like $190). And, of course, as great as it is to have 10 great digital storytelling apps, is that the ONLY thing students and teachers need to be doing?
Image Source: Question,

Yesterday, Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog) responded to my blog post about cozying up to school owned iPad--Manifesting Our Fears in iPad Use--with the following comment:
I am not convinced that personal use of school owned equipment is ethical - by teachers, tech directors or superintendents - unless there is some benefit to students because of it. 
And, of course, I'm inclined to agree. But Doug hedges a bit, doesn't he? (smile) There's a way out of that absolute argument...and Ewan McIntosh makes this point:
You cannot get the most out of an iPad without letting the student own it, and harness their personal accounts, tastes and media for some creative learning. Putting it in a lab…takes away from the iPad’s principle boon: it helps us move further away from the office metaphor of learning and into new, personalised, anytime anywhere learning metaphors.
Source: Ewan Mcintosh via GeekDad 
If you're letting a student "own it," then certainly, the same goes for a classroom teacher, no? 

Curious about the opinions of other educators, I decided to ask the question via my social networks to see what wisdom might come back to me. 
Is personal use of school-owned mobile devices (ipads, netbooks) ethical? (e.g. running netflix on a school-owned iPad after hours)
Here are some of the points made (click this link to Plurk conversation thread for who said what):

  1. I don't. I'm to paranoid that they'll dig into they can with email.
  2. Our policy does not allow it. Further, our policy requires using only your district email acct. to be registered with Apple to use on device...In our district, a person cannot authorize a mobile device with an account created by an external email address- thus, a paper trail.
  3. our district does not allow personal use for the school owned devices. You cannot download anything without preapproval.
  4. I don't believe it is ethical. It is provided for district use not personal use.

  1.  I not only don't have a problem with it, I encourage our teachers to do it - provided I haven't locked it down for security reasons. Why? Because the more of that person's time they spend using that device, the better they get with it & can do great things with it in the clssrm...Moreover tech has a "life" of 3-5y whether its used or not. WHY not fully utilize a device in that time frame, rather than recycle hardly...used machines that cost a lot, but never produced much.
  2. I agree with this.. if I want to be totally useful to my students, I also need to be aware of what works well with the device
  3. use it fully so you learn what can be done and how to
  4. Amen!! When we stop making people paranoid, they'll be able to relax and actually *learn* how to use the technology!
  5. You know the saying, "Emotionally locked; learning is blocked." Goes for adults, too. We, in education, continue to hold ourselves back.
  6. Kevin H said it best, "Innovation in education dies from domestic abuse." That MUST change.
  7. this is just fine. A teacher needs to treat it as their "own" to see what it can do.

  1. I don't have a personal problem with it, but it'd probably be best to have a policy that stated whether or not it was allowable.
  2. I get caught up with the same situation as I am using school iPad but want to purchase some apps.
As an illustration of how difficult a question this is, consider this response from one person with the caveat of appropriateness:
Yes and No...yes if apropriate if not. (Lacey Gosch via Facebook)
I liked the twist one Twitter response put on my original question, the person posing their own version:
Is the non-use of school-owned technology ethical? Is the spending of school money for impractical technology ethical?
That's a great question, isn't it? Is spending school money for impractical technology, ethical?  If we define ethical as being in accordance with the accepted definitions of right and/or wrong, determining what is ethical is dependent on so many variables as to make the discussion worthless...except for a blog post.

You know, questions like this make one appreciate that graduate business ethics course. For now, a quick Google search reveals 3 steps to solve an ethical dilemma. For fun, let's go through these. First, let's consider the trade-offs of this ethical dilemma and what it means (disclaimer: That's a 20 page blog entry I'm not qualified to write so feel free to add on):
Ethical decisions are often trade-offs between: 1) Utility – the value delivered to the stakeholders in your organization; 2) Rights – entitlement to something; and 3) Justice – equitable sharing of pain and pleasure 
(Read Source - 3 Steps to Solve an Ethical Dilemma)
Here goes...

#1 - Utility
If you're not aware of the value of an iPad these days, how useful it is in just about any situation, then you've been living under a rock. Would everyone agree that an iPad is really as useful as the phenomenal apps that it has available? Since everyone acknowledges that iTunes has all the great apps, unrivaled by even the Android Marketplace, for iPads and more being developed every day, it's difficult to imagine that an iPad could not be made useful in one way or another.

Of course, there are things it's missing but the essential question might be, does the iPad deliver enough value to the organization, to the people in that organization and it's customers (students) that we should ignore price, proprietary systems (not "free" in the FOSS sense), etc.? Will using the iPad for personal use allow me to improve it's value to enhance education? If I start using it to access Netflix movies and play games but end up plotting the parabola of Angry Birds for a class lesson, does this make it OK for me to install?

#2 - Rights
I'm not sure I understand entitlement. But I get the idea that entitlement is what we think we're owed. If I'm a technology director, then I think I'm owed the opportunity to offer a deciding opinion on whether we adopt a technology for use in a school system. If I'm a teacher, I'm owed the opportunity to use the tools I think will best get the job done, especially if other educators agree with me. Is that entitlement working for you? 

So, do I have the right to use an iPad the way I want--within professional guidelines, that is no porn or inappropriate stuff--so long as there is an educational payoff? Hmm...should we take the chance? Can you expect the right to privacy on an iPad?
If you use your work Blackberry or work laptop for all your personal email and phone calls and so forth, your employer can search through your messages, cancel your service, intercept email coming to your email address, and more. That may not matter to you much today but what about if you leave your job, get stuck with a crazy boss or even see your employer go out of business? How are you even backing up personal stuff like digital photos you might be keeping on a work laptop? You could lose access to much of your entire digital history. It’s not a good way to live. (Read More and Playboy on iPad)
Of course, my understanding of the word "entitlement" is imperfect. Maybe I'm not grasping the exact meaning intended. Do I have a right, as an educator, to use a device like I owned it so I can learn to better use it in the classroom? As some point out, the answer is NO. It's not ethical to use a school purchased device for personal use.

#3 - Justice
You know, this whole idea of equitable sharing of pleasure and pain is important. We like to think that the benefits of granting teachers and students access to iPads is worth the pain it will cause the technology department and the District (if a breach of privacy or inappropriate use case arises) during implementation. 

In every case I've heard of, there have been some creative solutions to bypass the lack of management tools (not that there aren't some but that none does everything needed). Still, I haven't read of one tech director in a large implementation who said, "Yes, this has been painless." The perspective is still one reflected in a quote: "Apple devices do not play nice in corporate networks where security restrictions need to be enforced."

Should schools invest in these devices if they cannot be managed effectively? That's a trade-off, isn't it?

Just because we like using a consumer device like the iPad doesn't mean we redefine education so that it can be used, does it?

Ah well, maybe if we applied the problem-solving approach for ethical dilemmas we would end up somewhere.
Ethical leaders, then, are those women and men who possess an abiding interest in forging a shared purpose and set of values among contending factions of followers in practice episodes, not making them subservient and acquiescent functionaries...When an organizational leader's decision causes harm—and it is quite likely that any decision made in an ethical dilemma will cause some degree of harm—it is entirely natural that the leader will wonder if one is at fault, even if to outsiders it is patently obvious that the organizational leader bears no ethical responsibility for that harm. (Read source)
In light of such interesting approaches, it's important to clarify purpose and values. What should our purpose in education be, and what values do we hold?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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