Special Edition of the Interactive Learning Environments Journal - The Ethics of Educational Interventions in Popular Digital Technologies

Ethics 2010

Ethics Uncategorized

Special Edition of Interactive Learning Environments: the Ethics of Educational Interventions in Popular Digital Technologies

This peer - reviewed academic journal is seeking quality submissions that will contribute to understanding and reflection in this exciting and emergent area. We are also keen to accept book reviews especially ones that explore several different books and perspectives, and 'thought pieces' of a more speculative and open‐ended nature.

Indicative Themes and Topics

Engaging with Learners – Methodologies and Ethics

Investigating the Learning Experience

The Rules of the Game – ethics, learning and gaming

Honesties, trustworthiness and reliability in research

Codes of Practice and Ethical Frameworks

Identity, Self and Self‐Disclosure

Academics and their avatars and their relationships

Post‐positivist ethics and epistemologies in educational interventions

The Nature of Informed Consent, in‐world, on the phone and elsewhere

Participatory and Exploratory Research Methods and Ethics

Negotiating (and policing) acceptable use outside institutional spaces

The Nature of Harm, Distress, Embarrassment and liability

Humour and jokes, in all these different places and spaces.

Background to the Call

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

These are important developments and entirely different from the use of technologies that are purely educational or institutional such as e‐portfolios or VLEs, where educators and their institutions control the technology 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. There is

now also research and evaluation of this educational activity and this is interesting and important from an ethical point of view.

There are ethical dimensions to researching these various pedagogies and technologies and these are lagging behind other aspects of this exciting but emergent and fragmented research area.

In essence, these technologies are creating more and more places and modes that people can inhabit, where communities can form, where ideas, images and information can be produced, stored, shared, transmitted and consumed and thus these technologies, each in their different ways, transform rather than merely reproduce the nature of learning. Each of these technologies may also have its own rules, for example concerning privacy, expressed in the appropriate terms and conditions to which users sign up. These may be at odds with their own communities’ customs and practices and also with educators’ own expectations. Educators are also taking learners into these places, virtual field trips in effect, and this raises ethical issues, and possibly legal questions, in terms of a duty of care.

Ethics in our analysis could embrace everything from laws and regulations at one extreme to standards and frameworks and on to expectations about language, humour, posture, taste, fashion, etiquette and behaviour at the other extreme.

Ethics in the first sense is significant and problematic in this field because of the potential gulf or lag between formal institutional and legal expectations and procedures on the one hand and evolving research practice on the other.

Ethics in the second sense is important to researchers in this field because of the need to align their methods to the ethical expectations of the communities with whom they work; these expectations are however volatile, tacit, transient, chaotic and local to each community. And of course, the learner's experiences and expectations, their ethical expectations, of these educational experiences are obviously informed by the experiences and expectations they bring within from the 'outside' world where they already use many of these technologies. We are perhaps entering an era of ‘user‐generated ethics’.

These informal ethics, that is, the standards and expectations, of people in online or connected communities continue to grow, multiply and evolve; law and regulation are misunderstood and perhaps inappropriate.

Ethics could be characterised as fundamentally about trying to do good, and trying to avoid doing harm; harm may be defined in terms of physical or objective harm but also in terms of distress, upset, embarrassment and shame. Ethical behaviour may have been straightforward in a modernist age where society was assumed to be united by a set of grand narratives including some about the nature of good and bad. The informal and fragmented ethics that we are describing may be symptomatic of a transition to a postmodern society (or they may be simply symptomatic of a transition to an acceptance of more relativist or subjective ethical stances) and they raise questions about the legitimacy of one community deciding what constitutes harm for another community. A related question is whether these ethical issues are merely age‐old research ethics issues in different contexts and environments, for example covert ethnography, ‘old wine in new bottles’, or something radically different, perhaps linked to a postmodern epistemology and ethic.

Furthermore, researchers and indeed teachers are not universally modernist whilst perhaps their institutions are; the epistemologies and thus the ethics of these possibly postmodern researchers may be in sympathy with those of the fragmented and ephemeral communities online in popular digital technologies.


The editor for this Special Edition will be Professor John Traxler, Director, Learning Lab.

Informal discussion of outlines and ideas are welcome ((john.traxler@wlv.ac.uk) and need to be submitted no later than Thursday 1 July 2010 to allow for time for formatting before the submission deadline.

The proposed dates for submission are as follows:

Fully formatted paper submission deadline – Friday 23 July 2010.

Results to authors – Friday 29 October 2010

The intended date for publication is Summer 2011.

For more information and details about the instructions for authors, submission templates and formatting guidelines, please visit http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/journal.asp?issn=1049‐4820&linktype=44