Home » E-Learning » Thoughts on ethical issues surrounding studying younger students in virtual worlds and online

Thoughts on ethical issues surrounding studying younger students in virtual worlds and online



Young people


Their use of mobile phones and networked devices


Immersive Virtual Worlds and virtual inhabitants (not everyone’s cup of tea)

  • Informal learning settings

  • Ethical challenges across the full range of contexts


  • Keep ethical questions open given the changing environment.
  • A participatory and iterative approach (Lally et al. 2012 : 02 )
  • Assumption that ‘developments in mobile and networked technologies change young people’s culture landscape, allowing them to communicate, socialise and collaborate on their personal projects in new ways’. (Lally et al. 2012 : 02 )
  • Indeed, outside the formal education system (Sharples, Graber, Harrison, & Logan, 2009)


  • Outside the classroom
  • How to research
  • New ‘ecologies’ of learning (Looi, 2001)
  • Hanging around the changing rooms after a swimming session – banter that leaks out into the general public.


  • Integration of these platforms/worlds into learning design.
  • Merging formal and informal.
  • Bridging formal and nonformal/informal contexts (TEL-TLRP) projects – ‘Inter-Life’ and ‘Personal Inquiry’  (Lally et al. 2012 : 04)

‘The projects have to negotiate territory that by its very informal and collaborative nature requires ethical and educational processes to be negotiated and distributed amongst participants, rather than pre-determined by their institutional context’. (Lally et al. 2012 : 04)

Like bringing a game of British Bulldogs or ‘Kick the can’ into a teaching setting, like boy scouts … and killing it off in the process. Kids would run a mile if they spotted a teacher. Even at university, extracurricular that had nothing to do with the course … and faculty associations which did.

Ethics – and Aristotle and ‘phronesis’. (Unnecessarily pretentious or a valid grounding in ethics.

If we go back to Aristotle then why miss out all the philosophical thinking and development since, at least via humanists such as Hegel)

  • Quest for external and universal truths
  • Skills required to pursue a particular end

Elliot, (2006) ‘disciplined conversation in which reasons for action are scrutinised, critiqued and modified’.

Phronesis – underpins the argument for iterative and participatory research.  (Lally et al. 2012 : 02 ) = practical wisdom (wikipedia).

Learning in informal and non-formal settings already constitutes the majority of educational interactions during a person’s lifetime (Livingstone, 1999)

Actually it starts in the womb as the brain forms in the foetus from around five months and never ends … a person continues to learn to the moment they die … possibly even moments after the heart has stopped and the brain finally shuts down and everything is lost.

I wouldn’t count on anything that is said by Marc Prensky (2005)

A more reliable source might be the OII Annual Survey for GB usage, Rebecca Eynon.

Emergent social network technologies (Selwyn, 2008)

Prohibition at school.

Skills learnt: online collaborative learning, development of skills in web-based social networking, occur almost entirely outside the formal education system. (Lally et al. 2012 : 04 )

  • The perpetual consumer (Lawson, 2004) and the net savvy adolescent.
  • Direct link between economic activities and consumption.  (Lally et al. 2012 : 04 )

AdBlocker, scrambling facebook, if you get ads in blogs pay to exclude, tape over screen, block pop-ups, move platform (e.g . AOL).

Edutainment rarely competes with the games that have 100m invested.

Novel ethical issues  (Lally et al. 2012 : 04)

The study of people’s personal use of digital technology for learning (Buckingham &Willett, 2009; Crook & Harrison, 2008; Sharples et al., 2009), and their engagement with digital technologies across formal and non-formal/informal settings for education (Vavoula, Sharples, Rudman, Lonsdale, & Meek, 2007), presents novel ethical issues.


Davies, C., & Eynon, R (2013) Teenagers and Technology (Adolescence and Society)

Eynon, R (2009) Mapping the digital divide in Britain: implications for learning and education.

Kelly, D (Forthcoming 2011) ‘Karaoke’s Coming Home:  Japan’s Empty Orchestras in the United Kingdom’, Leisure Studies 30.

Lally, V; Sharples, M; Tracey, F; Bertram, N and Masters, S. (2012). Researching the ethical dimensions of mobile, ubiquitous,and immersive technology enhanced learning (MUITEL) in informal settings: a thematic review and dialogue. Interactive Learning Environments, 20(3), pp. 217–238.

Livingstone, D.W. (1999). Exploring the icebergs of adult learning: Findings of the first Canadian survey of informal learning practices. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 13(2), 49–72.

Looi, C.K. (2001). Enhancing learning ecology on the internet. Journal of Computer Assisted

Learning, 17(1), 13–20.

Prensky, M. (2005). Don’t bother me mum – I’m learning. St Paul, MN: Paragon House.

Selwyn, N. (Ed.). (2008). Education 2.0?: Designing the web for teaching and learning. London: Institute of Education, University of London, TLRP-TEL.

Sharples, M., Graber, R., Harrison, C., & Logan, K. (2009). E-Safety and Web2.0 for children aged 11–16. Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning, 25, 70–84.



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