Teaching empathy in an online world

A California school focuses on computer and online ethics.

You can protect a classroom computer from malware and viruses, but how do you prevent students from using a classroom computer to harm someone else?

One school thinks it has an answer. Journey School in Aliso Viejo, a city in southern California, puts increased emphasis on teaching computer ethics. This task is made all the more interesting considering the school contains zero internet-ready devices for its sixth through eighth graders.

“As the children mature we recognize that, as they get into middle school, we want them to use these tools that we have for the good and for their learning,” Journey School administrator Shaheer Faltas said to The Orange County Register. “We don’t think they need a lot of instruction in how you use Excel or Microsoft Word – what they need to know is what is the appropriate use of these resources.”

Instead of technical instruction, students learn how to treat others better when online. This, school officials and teachers told the Register, focuses more on what best serves the students. The students presumably have all the technological know-how already, they said.

“Put a kid alone in a room with an iPad for 10 minutes and tell me how proficient they are with the tools,” Diane Graber, who teaches part-time at Journey School, said to the newspaper. “What’s really more important for kids is that they have the social and behavioral skills that they bring to the tools. So when they’re going on Facebook, they think twice about uploading an inappropriate picture.”

Online ethical education gains greater importance with the rise of teen issues like sexting and cyber-bullying. A National Crime Prevention Council report found 43 percent of teenagers experienced cyber-bullying. As a result of the rise of this activity, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a requirement for public schools to have a standard response for cyber-bullying, according to The Associated Press.

Should this type of education be mandatory before a student uses any classroom computer? Let us know what you think about this in the comments section!

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.