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Ethical and Policy Issues in Information Technologies
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Instructor:  Bertram (Chip) Bruce TA: Barbara Duncan
Phone: (217) 244-8286 Phone:  (217)  244-5485
Instructor:  Nicholas Burbules
Phone:  (217)  244-0919



This course addresses several of the major ethical and policy issues that are changing the ways we think about new information and communication technologies in schools (including primarily, but not only, computers and the Internet).

These themes will include Access; Credibility of Web Information; Free Speech & Censorship; Privacy; Commercialization; Intellectual Property & Plagiarism; and Hacking & Computer Crime.

An initial question is to ask what the relation is between ethical and policy issues. A short answer might be "not much."  Ethical perspectives evolve from reasoned arguments about right and wrong, better and worse ways of living, and how to become better people. Policy issues, deriving much more directly from a political context, may draw from ethical perspectives, but more commonly take shape in the mill of political debate, interest group pressures, and compromise. The results may have less to do with ethical principles and more to do with minimizing conflict (especially in public institutions like schools). Conversely, ethical deliberations may involve political issues (such as group identity and solidarity), but they are relatively more open to principled stands that may conflict with narrowly defined political self-interest.

Our class discussions about these issues then, will continually push up against two kinds of barriers: one, what is "realistic" to expect of schools and the people who live and work in them; the other, to push against conventional, "easy" understandings of these issues and to challenge common-sense truisms that may obscure deeper, more complex and difficult issues. If this class is successful, the processes of ethical refection and discussion will open up facets of each of these issues that none of us had considered before. What appears initially as a simple, clear-cut problem may prove much more multifaceted and problematic than it seems to be.

This course will stress contexts in which these issues arise that will be familiar to every teacher. While the class will involve reflection on broader issues of principle, how ethical positions are to be justified, and other philosophical concerns, these will be continually brought back to cases that are of immediate relevance to the daily lives of schools. Toward this end, you will be getting to know a young middle-school student, Suzie, who is working on creating her own web page in school. You'll be getting to know her quite well, in fact.

Because this is a technology-oriented class, we also want to reflect on our own uses of these technologies as the class proceeds. Issues such as evaluating the credibility of web site information, privacy, and so on, will come up within the class as well as in the readings and lectures for the class.

The final key element of the course is a project orientation. Teams will be working all semester on a culminating project that will constitute the prime portion of the final grade. These teams will work mostly independently of one another, and will need to collaborate effectively for their team projects to succeed. Learning to work effectively in such teams, and using technologies to facilitate such collaboration, is a major goal of the course as well. Finally, these final projects, "white papers" will be posted with supporting materials on the web to provide a major resource for informing other teachers, schools, and districts looking for well-informed well-reasoned perspectives on these thorny issues facing educators (and students, parents, and citizens) today.

Course instructors and office hours

Faculty office hours will be at posted times, via IRC Chat, email contact, and/or telephone calls.



This course is organized around seven themes, each comprising a two-week unit within the course:


            Credibility, Critique, Web Evaluation

            Free Speech, Censorship



            Intellectual Property, Plagiarism

            Hacking, Computer Crime

Each of these issues is of tremendous importance to society generally, but especially for our purposes, to schools. Each of them generates real controversies, and radically different opposing perspectives. Each, we believe, also poses some deep challenges to conventional understandings and practices in schools: issues concerning curriculum content, privacy, student and teacher rights, and so on. Furthermore, as the semester goes along, you will see more and more interconnections amongst these issues.


Student Participation

Course resources will include readings from the web, mini-lectures from the course instructors and guest lectures (about 15-20 minutes each, available via streamed audio from the course web site), and asynchronous class discussions, via WebBoard. Assigned readings, however, should be seen as just the starting point for your studies. In every topic area we have suggested additional materials in the course bibliography, and loads of additional material can be accessed through web searches. This is especially true for resources in your small group project area: You will need to conduct a thorough search of web materials over and above class assignments as primary resources for your team project. There are no assigned readings or texts apart from the web-based materials. That approach seems most consistent with the other goals of this course.


The central project for each team is to produce one of seven "white papers" that lay out the major issues surrounding each of these areas of controversy, to frame and explain a range of views about each issue, and to explore the reasons and ethical assumptions behind these different views. These papers will be accompanied by an annotated bibliography of web resources on each issue (for which the suggested resources from the class readings and bibliography are just starting points). Each white paper will be published on the world wide web, and will constitute a major resource, we believe, for educators all around the world who want a better understanding of these issues and their educational implications.

The white papers are an evolving project throughout the semester; and to support their development, there are four stages of completion that will allow feedback on each team project at several points in the semester:

Stage one (due February 19)
Collect a library of web resources on your topic, and post an annotated web page that lists these sites, with brief explanations of what each site contains, what views are expressed, etc. These annotated web pages can be updated as the semester goes along and as you find additional material.

There have been a couple of questions about how to annotate web sites. We
thought it would be useful to respond to everyone on this.

You know the first thing I have to say: It depends, and to a large extent
it's up to you. You should first of all do what makes sense in terms of
your group, your topic, and the specific ways your course project is

A second point is to look ahead to the April 10 presentations and the final
white paper. Think about what would have been useful to have written when
you first found the site. For example, you'd probably want to have a
description of what it was about, any special features that you might need
to return to, how it supported a particular argument or position on the
issues, what sources it drew upon, how you might use if later on, and so
on. For one site, you might say nothing more than "example of lawsuit over
copyright of web materials." For another you might feel the need to write a
couple of pages summarizing a complex argument about distinctions between
computer crime and ordinary crime. You can use the text you write now later
on in the white paper itself.

More specifically, we'd like to suggest:

1. Organize the sites; don't just list them. You're going to find some
sites that are examples of a problem, others that are essays stating
positions. You don't need an elaborate categorization at this time, but you
can start to group sites into major categories.

2. Summarize the content. It's very easy to forget what was on a site, or
worse, to find that it's disappeared two months later. You need to
summarize what's important about it and especially, what you found useful
in terms of your own project.

3. Evaluate the content. If there's a key theme in this course it's that we
want you to question conventional assumptions about new technologies. Even
at this early stage, you can start to identify flaws in claims or
especially strong arguments. Say not just "good" or "bad", but why.

4. Begin to frame the issues and positions being discussed. This first
phase is just a step towards a final white paper, but even now you can
begin to lay out your ideas and how they relate by the sites you select,
how you organize them, and what you say about them. It might be evident,
for example that you're seeking to identify "the seven dimensions of web
content reliability" or the "the ways privacy issues in the web cause us to
rethink privacy issues in general."

Many web sites have annotated links within them. Usually, these simply
summarize what a site is about. Yours will probably include that aspect,
but go beyond that to include more evaluative information. My "literacy web
page of the month" in the JAAL columns (the series that includes "How
Worldwide is the Web?") is one example you might look at, but please
remember that the purpose there is not exactly the same as yours here, so
your annotations will look somewhat different.

Stage two (due March 26)
Develop an outline that frames the major positions and issues in your topic area. What are the basic issues at stake? What arguments are different sides putting forth? What are some important unexamined issues, as you see them? etc. You can revise these outlines, after feedback from the instructors, in time for the April 10 meeting.

Stage three (due April 10)
At the second face-to-face session, we will ask each group to present its issue to the whole class. Each topic will have about a half hour or so to present the material from your outlines, and a half hour or so for the rest of the class to ask questions, offer new perspectives, or discuss how these issues may relate to issues that other groups are working on.

Stage four (final version due May 5)
Each team's "white paper" should be submitted for evaluation (the length should be in the range of 10-15,000 words). If groups want feedback on preliminary draft versions of their white papers, they will need to post them in the class data base before that deadline.

Class participation

1. All students are expected to participate in a team project, and to make active contributions to that project at each stage of its preparation. Team interactions and planning may include asynchronous, synchronous chat, telephone, and/or face-to-face meetings.

2. Each two-week period, or unit, will feature a new version of Suzie's web page. At the beginning of each unit, we expect each student to post a brief (500-word) commentary on Suzie's page, the issues it raises, and how they would deal, as a teacher, with the issues raised. These are meant to be reflective pieces in which you struggle personally and thoughtfully with the underlying ethical issues at stake. Then, at the end of each two-week unit, we expect each student to post a second 500-word commentary, reconsidering the issue after completing the readings and participating in class discussions. These "journal" entries will not be shared with the class generally.

3. Within the week following the posting of each of the four team assignments, we want each participant to write a short (500-word) evaluation of the effectiveness of the group process that led to that product, including an evaluation of their own contributions to it. These will be posted confidentially to the course instructors only. Their main purpose is formative: if there are issues with groups working effectively together, we want to know early enough to work to remedy them.

4. Each unit will feature an asynchronous discussion, via webboard, on the theme of the unit, the readings, the lectures, the activities, and discussion questions suggested by the instructors and by other class participants. In some cases additional mini-lectures will be posted by the course instructors that follow up on these discussions and push the issues further. In general, the first week of each unit will introduce the basic issues at stake; the second week will push these issues further, trying to uncover additional layers of complexity and difficulty that may not be immediately apparent in thinking about them.

5. The course will include two face-to-face meetings, and we expect all students to attend and participate in them.

Typical unit

A typical course unit (two weeks) will include roughly the following sequence of activities:

1. New Suzie page posted: write initial reactions (500 words)

2. Complete assigned readings, lectures, and class activities; we also recommend that you review additional web materials relevant to the subject, either from the course bibliography or your own searches.

3. Participate in asynchronous class discussions, usually sparked by an initial discussion question/issue posted by the course instructors, but including other possible threads generated by course participants as well.

4. (Ongoing) Planning activities with project team. This should begin at the start of the semester, and throughout the course, even if your topic is one of the later ones in the syllabus.

5. End of unit: Suzie page follow-up and reconsideration (500 words)

Project teams

Obviously, these are where a lot of the course work will actually get done. You will be learning about all seven themes and issues, but exploring one of them intensively. We hope that working in these teams will be an important learning goal in itself: learning to work collaboratively and to use a variety of technologies to facilitate the work, planning and communication of the group.

For this to succeed, the groups will have to work in an independent and self-directed manner. The course instructors will not be "eavesdropping" on your planning discussions and deliberations unless you invite us to. This also means, therefore, that each team will need to take responsibility for dividing up tasks, setting project goals, and working effectively to meet them.


Grading Procedures

Half of the final course grade will be determined by the grade given to the final project, or "white paper." This grade will be shared by all team members who produced the project. Evaluative feedback will be given in the project at each of the three stages leading up to the final submission, but these will not be graded.

Half of the final course grade will be determined by the elements of class participation.


Overview Review themes, ethical/policy perspective
Jan 19-22 Review syllabus, register for course
Jan 23 Face-to-face meeting (8:30-4:00) Room 37 Education Building
Unit One Access 
Jan 25-29 Suzie Page One - initial reactions (note1)
Reading "Grandmother in Kenya" by Bertram Bruce 
"Bridging the Digital Divide" by Thomas Novak and Donna Hoffman
Activity Locate surveys or statistics of internet use, e.g.,  race, class, gender, nationality, etc. from at least two different time points. What trends do you see?
Lecture (Ann Bishop interview - 22 mins.) (background information on Prof. Bishop's work: The Community Networking InitiativePrairienet) (text translation
Access lecture - Nick and Chip (26 minutes)
Feb 1-5 Suzie Page One - additional reflections
Reading "Access: Not Just Wires" by Karen Coyle
"Gender Issues in Computer Networking" by Leslie Regan Shade
Activity Locate the "Bobby Site" and evaluate its criteria for accessible web pages. What assumptions does it make about what access means?
Lecture Jon Gunderson (interview - 19 mins.) - (Additional Information: SoftQuad, Center for Applied Special Technology) (note3) (text translation)
Unit Two Credibility, Critique, Web Evaluation
Feb 8-12 Suzie Page Two - initial reactions
Reading "The Babel of Cyberspace" by Bertram Bruce 
"Rheingold's Brainstorms: Disinformation Superhighway?" by L. Floridi
Activity Find two web page evaluation sites with contrasting ideas of credibility. What are the assumptions about where knowledge comes from that underly these differences?
Lecture Prof. Geof Bowker (School of Library and Informaton Science) - interview with Kevin Leander on classification issues (25 mins.) (text translation)
Nicholas Burbules, Chip Bruce, and Barb Duncan on credibility (30 mins.) 
Feb 15-19 Suzie Page Two - additional reflections
Reading "Who Lives Here?" by Nicholas C. Burbules 
"Informing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman
Activity Find two web pages that represent opposing viewpoints on a particular topic. Using only the content on these pages, determine which appears more credible. Why?
Lecture John Schmitz - Information Overload (Join us for a class conference call discussion of this issues on Wed., Feb 17 from 7:00-8 pm. - dial 1-800-347-8268, then enter access code 7447). (note4)
Assignment Due date: Feb 19--post team project: annotated web page (more information) (team webpages posted below)
Unit Three Free Speech, Censorship
Feb 22-26 Suzie Page Three - initial reactions
Reading "Filtering Information on the Internet
"Turf Wars in Cyberspace"
Activity Locate a site that evaluates or compares the relative amount of free speech in different countires.
Lecture Paul Thurston, Department of Educational Organization and Leadership (interview - 18 mins.)
Mar 1-5 Suzie Page Three - additional reflections
Reading "Censorship and Sysop Liability" by Peter Ludlow 
 "Gaze Surfing: Riding the Pleasure Set" (contains nudity) 
"Streetcorners in Cyberspace" by Andrew L. Shapiro
Activity Find a site that discusses how to disable filtering software.
Lecture Nick, Chip and Barb mini lecture on free speech (29 mins.) (text transcription)
Unit Four Privacy
Mar 8-12 Suzie Page Four - initial reactions
Reading The Clipper Chip
Clipper Chip
PGP - Pretty Good Privacy
Time Online: The Denning-Barlow Clipper Chip Debate
Activity Locate a webcam. Try to find someone doing something that you wouldn't want others seeing. How do you feel about watching the do this?
Lecture Peter Ludlow, Professor of Philosophy, SUNY, Stonybrook, editor of High Noon on the Electronic Frontier (interview - 15 mins.) (text translation)
Nick Chip and Barb mini lecture on privacy (28 mins.) (text transcription)
Mar 15-20 Spring Break
Mar 22-26 Suzie Page Four - additional reflections
Reading "Privacy, Surveillance and Classroom Communication" by Nicholas C. Burbules 
"Cryptography, Privacy, and Crypto-Anarchism" by Peter Ludlow 
Activity Find as much information as you can about yourself on the web.
Lecture Marsha Woodbury, Chair, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (recommended article on privacy by Royal Van Horn) (powerpoint presentation and real audio discussion - 24 min.)
Phil Agre, Associate Professor of Information Studies at UCLA (36 minute interview)
Assignment Due date: March 28--post team project: outline/framework of key issues
Unit Five Commercialization
Mar 29-Apr 2 Suzie Page Five - initial reactions
Reading "Commercialization of the Internet" by Christopher R. Vincent
The Role of Cookies
Activity Locate and try out the free program "WebFree" for Macs or the free trial version of "AtGuard" for PCs.
Lecture Thomas Callister, Prof. of Education, Whitman College - (mini-lecture, 21 mins.
Apr 5-9 Suzie Page Five - additional reflections
Reading "Selling On, Not Out, the Internet" by David F. Donnelly
"Internet Domain Names: Privatization, Competition, and Freedom of Expression" by Milton L. Mueller
Activity Locate the "ZapMe!" site and evaluate its potential effects in the K12 classroom.
Lecture William Gibson - snipets of an interview; Hank Bromley - 6.5 minute segment from May 11, 1998 broadcast of NPR show "The Best of Our Knowledge," produced by WAMC, Albany, NY
Apr 10 Face-to-face Meeting - team project presentation
Unit Six Intellectual Property
Apr 12-16 Suzie Page Six - initial reactions
Reading "Property Rights, Piracy, etc. Does Information "Want to be Free"? by Peter Ludlow 
"Copyright and the World Wide Web" by Michael M. Lean
Activity Visit some homework helper sites and evaluate their impact for K12 schools.
Lecture Karen Lunsford - plagarism phone conference, Thursday  April 15, 7:00 pm. (dial 1-800-347-8268, then enter access code 7447). Please visit the "hampster dance" site on the resources page at the end of the intellectual property section. Can you identify the tune? Real audio copy of the phone conference
Apr 19-23 Suzie Page Six - additional reflections
Reading "Selling Wine Without Bottles" by John Perry Barlow
"Intellectual Property on the Net" by Esther Dyson
Activity Examine the U of I copyright regulations (Report on Courseware Development and Distribution)  for course development and see how these might or might not be appropriate for K12 schools.
Lecture: Mike Holinga, Director of Technology for Springfield Public Schools (10 min. interview) (Fair use guidelines)
Unit Seven Computer Crime/Technology Misuse
Apr 26-30 Suzie Page Seven - initial reactions
Reading "How should we respond to exploratory hacking/cracking/phreaking?" by Peter Ludlow 
"Concerning Hackers Who Break into Computer Systems" by Dorothy Denning
Technology and Pleasure: Considering Hacking Constructive by Gisle Hannemyr
Activity Explore the Computer Virus Myths home page and try to formulate a definition of what a virus is.
Lecture Brian Pianfetti
May 3-5 Suzie Page Seven - additional reflections
Reading "Viruses Are Good for You" by Julian Dibbell
"Hackers, Order and Control" by Geoffrey Sauer
Lecture Rob Kling
Activity Try to find messages from some other student in this class posted on a usenet group.
Assignment Due date: May 9--post group project: white paper

Note: (speakers are tentative)

Note1: Suzie is an 8th grade junior high student whose homepage is on the school server.
She is required to place the Microcorp logo on her page since the company has provided
the technical equipment necessary for the school homepages.

Note2: Text transcription is not available at this time.

Note3: The beginning of the tape was cut off. "I am speaking with Professor Jon Gunderson, the Coordinator of Assistive Communication....

Note4: A Real Audio recording of the discussion is not available.


Team Project Annotated Web Pages - Phase One

Free Speech
Intellectual Property
Computer Crime/Technology Misuse


Team Project Outline/Framework - Phase Two

Free Speech
Intellectual Property
Computer Crime/Technology Misuse


Final Team Project White Paper - Phase Four

Free Speech
Intellectual Property
Computer Crime/Technology Misuse


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Class  Communication
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