Ethics of Mobile Phone Technology in Higher Education

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8th Feb 2020 Education Reference this

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The widespread ownership of mobile phones and other portable technology has changed the learning environment. According to research, over 60% of students believe that mobile technology is an important part of their academic success (Gikas & Grant, 2013). The increased development of mobile and portable technology, has made it imperative for institutions to consider changing strategies and policies to stay relevant. However, concerns regarding academic integrity, cyber abuse, and identity theft forces closer examination of the integration of this technology into the educational setting. This paper examines the different ways that mobile technology is being used in higher education and the ethical implications of this technology, and it will provide recommendations on how to address these concerns to the University’s administration.

Mobile technology within education

Firstly, it is necessary to define what mobile technology is. Mobile technology can be defined as any handheld, mobile, computing device; such cell phones, smart phones, and tablets (Gikas & Grant, 2009). These devices are utilized in multiple ways to promote formal and informal learning, and its portability and convenience are two factors that have made it popular (Gikas & Grant, 2009). Learners are able to communicate with professors and classmates and are able to access classroom assignments and documents (Gikas & Grant, 2009). Such programs that allow for this type of access is Blackboard Mobile™ and google classroom. 

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Another way that mobile technology is utilized is through campus emergency alert systems. An institutional text alert can be faster and more reliable than other communication methods (Connelly, 2013). One example of this usage was seen with Hurricane Sandy. Due to the campus text messaging alert system, the president of New York community college was able communicate with staff, faculty, and students, to keep them updated on the status of the campus (Connelly, 2013).

 The use of mobile technology has also transformed how colleges and universities recruit students (Lindbeck & Fodrey, 2010). Generally, recruitment has focused on simple web sites, personalized messages, and individualized contact (Lindbeck & Fodrey, 2010). Through the use of technology, colleges are able to market to broader audiences and make information more readily available. One technology that has proven to be effective is quick response or QR codes. These allow students to access surveys, contact cards, and online applications with their phone camera (Demir, Kaynak, & Demir, 2015). This can be a great tool to utilize at college fairs when students need to fill out information quickly.

Ethical implications of mobile technology utilization

 While mobile technology has been shown to be a useful way in creating effective communication with learners, it is important that educators consider the social and ethical factors.

 Due to the lack of supervision, students are able to convince their friends or family to complete assignments or exams on their behalf through the use of technology. Berkowicz and Myers (2013) discussed the involvement of parents in completing their student’s homework assignments. In one case, an online class was accessed from a non-school IP address, while the student was in class. This situation created concerns about maintaining the integrity of the work submitted (Berkowicz & Myers, 2013). While it is possible that a parent may have accessed the course to check on the student’s progress, there is also the possibility that someone might have been completing work on the student’s behalf.

 Another issue to consider is cyber bullying and discrimination through the use of mobile technology.  Cyber bullying is any intentional or aggressive action in an electronic format (Kokkinos, Antoniadou, and Markos, 2014).  Researchers in 2014 found that, because young people make up the largest group to utilize cyber communication, they are at the most risk of cyber abuse (Kokkinos et al, 2014). Within college aged students, bullying is more likely to occur due to high competition amongst social groups, and political beliefs (Kokkinos et al, 2014). Unfortunately, the extent of any abuse may go unaware if not reported to the institution. It is important for students to be able to trust that their institutional leaders are going to provide a safe and stable learning environment. Learners should be able to discuss concerns without fear of retaliation from peers.

 In some cases, cyber bullying can be accompanied with cyber identity theft. Previous research has shown that many students are pretty relaxed in terms of cyber security, especially with mobile technology (van Schaik, 2017). One study in 2017 found that while students considered identity theft a serious risk of technology usage, they also felt that the most important precautionary behavior they could take was installing anti-virus software (van Schaik et al, 2017). While anti-virus software is important, something as simple as not logging out of school computer in the library can put a student’s identity at risk. Again, students should be able to trust that they are in a safe learning environment, and not fear for lack of cyber privacy from peers.

As a strategic leader with strengths such as contextual analysis, avid learning, focus, and a vision for the future; reviewing current research regarding these dilemmas, is the first step to determining proper implementation of mobile technology. By utilizing the situational leadership theory (Howell, 2013), I am able to take into account the maturity of the students, and their willingness to follow institutional policies. When working with young people we must be able to adapt and adjust our leadership to match the situation. It is important that we clarify task structure, and provide support (Howell, 2013). We also must protect and promote our student’s cyber privacy (Lucey & Grant, 2009). Considering all of this, I have produced four recommendations that will assist in addressing the ethical concerns regarding mobile technology usage.

Recommendations

Recommendation #1

 According to Howell (2013) clear task structure is important for leaders to convey to obtain improved performance. Therefore, during freshman seminar, professors should discuss behavioral expectations in regards to mobile technology usage. This would also include providing information on what constitutes as cyber abuse, identity theft, plagiarism, and academic fraudulency. For administrators to hold them accountable, it is important that students are educated on what they are being held accountable for and to clarify the institution’s policies regarding their behavior.

Recommendation #2

Furthermore, students should sign a contractual agreement, stating that they understand what constitutes as unethical behavior and agree to adhere to institutional policies. Students should then write a one page essay, regarding institutional resources to prevent cyber abuse and academic integrity such counseling services, tutorial services, etc.  As a leader who values accountability, this is an important step in helping students take responsibility for their own conduct within the learning community.

Recommendation #3

Another needed action is to provide a report procedure so that students feel comfortable reporting incidences of these behaviors that they witness, and remaining anonymous if they wish. As leaders it is important to ensure feelings of trust, hope, stability and compassion (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Allowing students to come forward with information without putting themselves at risk of ridicule promotes providing a safe learning environment for everyone. This shows students that we are compassionate and concerned for their personal welfare, as well their academic achievement.

Recommendation #4

The final recommendation is to limit the amount of mobile devices that students can have registered to their student learning portals and having accounts logout automatically after periods of disuse. If student’s attempt to logon from a device that is not registered to their account, they will have to authorize the device by typing in an access code or approving the device via email. Taking these precautionary steps will restrict access, preventing other students from accessing multiple accounts. This will help promote academic integrity and protect student identities. Again, this is an important step in protecting the student’s welfare, and will facilitate trust between the learning community and the educational leaders of the institution.

Conclusion

 Considering implementing mobile technology into the institutional environment may lead to ethical implications. Using the situational leadership theory, we are able take into consideration the maturity and willingness of our students to comply with institutional guidelines (Howell, 2013). By taking the time to discuss with students institutional expectations, having students sign conduct agreements, allowing students to report incidences anonymously, and limiting the amount of technological devices that can be connected to a student’s account and for how long, we are able to promote safer and more ethical usage of mobile technology.

References

The widespread ownership of mobile phones and other portable technology has changed the learning environment. According to research, over 60% of students believe that mobile technology is an important part of their academic success (Gikas & Grant, 2013). The increased development of mobile and portable technology, has made it imperative for institutions to consider changing strategies and policies to stay relevant. However, concerns regarding academic integrity, cyber abuse, and identity theft forces closer examination of the integration of this technology into the educational setting. This paper examines the different ways that mobile technology is being used in higher education and the ethical implications of this technology, and it will provide recommendations on how to address these concerns to the University’s administration.

Mobile technology within education

Firstly, it is necessary to define what mobile technology is. Mobile technology can be defined as any handheld, mobile, computing device; such cell phones, smart phones, and tablets (Gikas & Grant, 2009). These devices are utilized in multiple ways to promote formal and informal learning, and its portability and convenience are two factors that have made it popular (Gikas & Grant, 2009). Learners are able to communicate with professors and classmates and are able to access classroom assignments and documents (Gikas & Grant, 2009). Such programs that allow for this type of access is Blackboard Mobile™ and google classroom. 

Another way that mobile technology is utilized is through campus emergency alert systems. An institutional text alert can be faster and more reliable than other communication methods (Connelly, 2013). One example of this usage was seen with Hurricane Sandy. Due to the campus text messaging alert system, the president of New York community college was able communicate with staff, faculty, and students, to keep them updated on the status of the campus (Connelly, 2013).

 The use of mobile technology has also transformed how colleges and universities recruit students (Lindbeck & Fodrey, 2010). Generally, recruitment has focused on simple web sites, personalized messages, and individualized contact (Lindbeck & Fodrey, 2010). Through the use of technology, colleges are able to market to broader audiences and make information more readily available. One technology that has proven to be effective is quick response or QR codes. These allow students to access surveys, contact cards, and online applications with their phone camera (Demir, Kaynak, & Demir, 2015). This can be a great tool to utilize at college fairs when students need to fill out information quickly.

Ethical implications of mobile technology utilization

 While mobile technology has been shown to be a useful way in creating effective communication with learners, it is important that educators consider the social and ethical factors.

 Due to the lack of supervision, students are able to convince their friends or family to complete assignments or exams on their behalf through the use of technology. Berkowicz and Myers (2013) discussed the involvement of parents in completing their student’s homework assignments. In one case, an online class was accessed from a non-school IP address, while the student was in class. This situation created concerns about maintaining the integrity of the work submitted (Berkowicz & Myers, 2013). While it is possible that a parent may have accessed the course to check on the student’s progress, there is also the possibility that someone might have been completing work on the student’s behalf.

 Another issue to consider is cyber bullying and discrimination through the use of mobile technology.  Cyber bullying is any intentional or aggressive action in an electronic format (Kokkinos, Antoniadou, and Markos, 2014).  Researchers in 2014 found that, because young people make up the largest group to utilize cyber communication, they are at the most risk of cyber abuse (Kokkinos et al, 2014). Within college aged students, bullying is more likely to occur due to high competition amongst social groups, and political beliefs (Kokkinos et al, 2014). Unfortunately, the extent of any abuse may go unaware if not reported to the institution. It is important for students to be able to trust that their institutional leaders are going to provide a safe and stable learning environment. Learners should be able to discuss concerns without fear of retaliation from peers.

 In some cases, cyber bullying can be accompanied with cyber identity theft. Previous research has shown that many students are pretty relaxed in terms of cyber security, especially with mobile technology (van Schaik, 2017). One study in 2017 found that while students considered identity theft a serious risk of technology usage, they also felt that the most important precautionary behavior they could take was installing anti-virus software (van Schaik et al, 2017). While anti-virus software is important, something as simple as not logging out of school computer in the library can put a student’s identity at risk. Again, students should be able to trust that they are in a safe learning environment, and not fear for lack of cyber privacy from peers.

As a strategic leader with strengths such as contextual analysis, avid learning, focus, and a vision for the future; reviewing current research regarding these dilemmas, is the first step to determining proper implementation of mobile technology. By utilizing the situational leadership theory (Howell, 2013), I am able to take into account the maturity of the students, and their willingness to follow institutional policies. When working with young people we must be able to adapt and adjust our leadership to match the situation. It is important that we clarify task structure, and provide support (Howell, 2013). We also must protect and promote our student’s cyber privacy (Lucey & Grant, 2009). Considering all of this, I have produced four recommendations that will assist in addressing the ethical concerns regarding mobile technology usage.

Recommendations

Recommendation #1

 According to Howell (2013) clear task structure is important for leaders to convey to obtain improved performance. Therefore, during freshman seminar, professors should discuss behavioral expectations in regards to mobile technology usage. This would also include providing information on what constitutes as cyber abuse, identity theft, plagiarism, and academic fraudulency. For administrators to hold them accountable, it is important that students are educated on what they are being held accountable for and to clarify the institution’s policies regarding their behavior.

Recommendation #2

Furthermore, students should sign a contractual agreement, stating that they understand what constitutes as unethical behavior and agree to adhere to institutional policies. Students should then write a one page essay, regarding institutional resources to prevent cyber abuse and academic integrity such counseling services, tutorial services, etc.  As a leader who values accountability, this is an important step in helping students take responsibility for their own conduct within the learning community.

Recommendation #3

Another needed action is to provide a report procedure so that students feel comfortable reporting incidences of these behaviors that they witness, and remaining anonymous if they wish. As leaders it is important to ensure feelings of trust, hope, stability and compassion (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Allowing students to come forward with information without putting themselves at risk of ridicule promotes providing a safe learning environment for everyone. This shows students that we are compassionate and concerned for their personal welfare, as well their academic achievement.

Recommendation #4

The final recommendation is to limit the amount of mobile devices that students can have registered to their student learning portals and having accounts logout automatically after periods of disuse. If student’s attempt to logon from a device that is not registered to their account, they will have to authorize the device by typing in an access code or approving the device via email. Taking these precautionary steps will restrict access, preventing other students from accessing multiple accounts. This will help promote academic integrity and protect student identities. Again, this is an important step in protecting the student’s welfare, and will facilitate trust between the learning community and the educational leaders of the institution.

Conclusion

 Considering implementing mobile technology into the institutional environment may lead to ethical implications. Using the situational leadership theory, we are able take into consideration the maturity and willingness of our students to comply with institutional guidelines (Howell, 2013). By taking the time to discuss with students institutional expectations, having students sign conduct agreements, allowing students to report incidences anonymously, and limiting the amount of technological devices that can be connected to a student’s account and for how long, we are able to promote safer and more ethical usage of mobile technology.

References

  • Berkowicz, J., & Myers, A. (2013, June 18). Technology and Ethics. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/leadership_360/2013/06/technology_and_ethics.html
  • Connelly, M. (2013). Community Alerts. Community College Journal, 84(2), 38-42. Retrieved from http://cupdx.idm.oclc.org
  • Demir, S., Kaynak, R., & Demir, K. A. (2015). Usage Level and Future Intent of Use of Quick Response (QR) Codes for Mobile Marketing among College Students in Turkey. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 181, 405-413. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.04.903
  • Gikas, J., & Grant, M. M. (2013). Mobile computing devices in higher education: Student perspectives on learning with cellphones, smartphones & social media. The Internet and Higher Education, 19, 18-26. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2013.06.002
  • Howell, J. P. (2013). Snapshots of great leadership. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Kokkinos, C. M., Antoniadou, N., & Markos, A. (2014). Cyber-bullying: An investigation of the psychological profile of university student participants. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 204-214. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2014.04.001
  • Lindbeck, R., & Fodrey, B. (2009, November 30). Using Technology in Undergraduate Admission: A Student Perspective. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ893890
  • Lucey, T. A., & Grant, M. M. (2009). Ethical issues in instructional technology: An exploratory framework. Multicultural Education & Technology Journal, 3(3), 196-212. doi: 10.1108/17504970910984871
  • Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2008). Strengths based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. New York, NY: Gallup Press.
  • Van Schaik, P., Jeske, D., Onibokun, J., Coventry, L., Jansen, J., & Kusev, P. (2017). Risk perceptions of cyber-security and precautionary behaviour. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 547-559. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.05.038

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