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Moral education enhanced by internet in IT courses

By Jing Ma
Tokyo Gakugei University, Japan

The rapid development of the internet and mobile technology offers learners more educational opportunities, and the prospect of transformative change in teaching and learning. Moreover, by the growing popularity of Internet culture, network is gradually changing not only people’s thinking ways, values and the spiritual world, but also traditional ethics, especially young people. For example, it is very important to discuss the problems about the intellectual property protection for online file sharing, the personal information leakage from on-line chatting and shopping, the strategies against hackers, cybercriminals, and etc. But the traditional method of moral education is usually to preach, ignoring the student's participation and emotional attitudes. This method is lacking a certain appeal to students, and even lead to make them produce reverse psychology.

Meanwhile, young people are one of the groups of the highest level of Internet users and the most important groups in mobile Internet users. The rates of these young Web surfers who are using the blog, forums, social networking sites and instant messaging, are higher than the average level of overall Internet users. So if they use the internet for fun, why not get them to use it for school? It is possible and necessary to combine the traditional classroom activities with new internet tools to provide limitless time and space for both teachers and students. But how to do it?

Considering this background, the blended learning theory may give an effective solution. Singh and Reed (2001) believe "Blended learning focuses on optimizing achievement of learning objectives by applying the ‘right’ learning technologies to match the ‘right’ personal learning style to transfer the ‘right’ skills to the ‘right’ person at the ‘right’ time.”[1]Blended learning not limited in one learning theory, combining traditional classroom teaching and online learning, dramatically increases time, space and the interactions between teachers and students. Using different learning methods, blended learning allows every student builds personalized learning space. Teachers’ working in a variety of roles, provide students with individualized guidance. During these teaching and learning process, students are able to access to all kinds of resources combining the advantages of a variety of media.

There are three steps for designing this kind of activities.

a) Choosing appropriate topics for moral discussion.

In order to conduct effective moral education through the activities, first of all, teachers need to choose an appropriate topic. Basically, the topic should be combining the practical skills, basic theories, and information literacy. But information literacy covers a wide area. For students in secondary school, the topic should be focus on basic things and close to students’ daily life. So the topics can be narrowed to the appropriate usage of internet, responsibility, and against crime. For example:

  • Keep our computers secure on internet.
  • Respect for personal privacy.
  • Respect for intellectual property.
  • Evaluate information received from internet carefully and objectively.
  • Publish information on internet responsibly.

From these topics, students start from keep themselves safe, to learn to respect other people and their intellectual properties and to not only accept but also participate the informational society. Moreover, in order to sustain a high level of participation, these topics should be presented in some ethical dilemmas, and need to combine them with skills and theories.

b) Teaching process combining in-classroom and online study activities.

Figure 1. Teaching process

Both classroom and online activities have their benefits and disadvantages. For example, one of the most important advantages of online activities is the flexibility. They allow students to work asynchronously, which mean that they can discuss and continue coursework at the time and place of their choice, providing more space for individual study. At the same time, the disadvantages are also very obvious: the students need to be more self-motivated. Although today's internet technology provide vary of opportunities for instant communication such as message boards, online chatting and even videoconferencing, they still cannot replace the experience of face to face interaction. The traditional classroom allows immediate feedback, and an immediate social environment. So, on-line activities are used before and after the classroom activities (Figure 1.). Teachers give keywords and background materials for students to read and search before the classroom activities. This can improve students’ ability of searching and summarizing certain information through internet. After the study and discussions in the classroom, teachers can also provide more materials online for further usage and discussion. The teachers have to think clearly about specific student and curriculum needs and the most effective means for presenting different types of content.

c) Building appropriate environments for the activities.

Focusing on the activities, students have different learning methods, while teachers play corresponding roles. So both the teachers and students need a lot of media and hardware. Nowadays, we have many tools developing rapidly and being widely used, such as blogs, wikis, Skype, chat rooms, discussion forums, social networking tools, etc. But, teachers need certain degree of technical proficiency to organize these online tools.

These activities, combining online moral discussion with traditional classroom IT courses, greatly helps students to learn to understand each other better and live to be together in this new virtual world. Furthermore, now, the online activities are using the social network sites, such as Facebook, which is not specially designed for education, and demanding certain degree of technical proficiency. The necessity of developing a unified supporting environment is open to discuss.

[1] Harvi Singh and Chris Reed (2001). A White Paper: Achieving Success with Blended Learning. Retrieved June 15, 2012 from