Journal of College & Character VOLUME VII, NO. 1, January 2006

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1 Journal of College & Character VOLUME VII, NO. 1, January 2006 Who s Teaching the Kids? Cyberslacking in the Classroom Jackie McBride, Julie Milligan, and Joe Nichols, Arkansas State University Abstract The use of technology as a teaching tool at the university level is becoming increasingly popular. Graduate students aspiring to become educational leaders engage in weekly on-line discussions and assignment submissions through various platforms. These graduate students are also employed by school districts as classroom teachers. Over one semester, graduate students electronic submissions of assignments in six courses were monitored to review the time of day during which students were submitting assignments. Results of the monitoring revealed that 51% of their assignments were submitted during the school day, thus creating an ethical dilemma for both the students and professors who are receiving the assignments. Who s managing their classrooms while teachers are submitting assignments on-line for their graduate courses? On-line Transmittals from Public School Personnel to University Professors: Unanswered Questions and Ethical Considerations W hat ethical considerations emerge when candidates in our universities educational leadership programs, who are teaching or functioning as educational leaders in our nation s elementary and secondary schools, use the internet to complete work for their college courses? Do their capacities in their respective K-12 settings get neglected when on-line activities are mandated by preparation program mentors (professors) at the university level? Do elementary and secondary educators and their mentors at the university level have ethical obligations to ensure that on-line activities don t interfere with instruction and the operation of the school? Some may argue that this is solely an ethical dilemma for the individual who is submitting the lessons to the professor. Others may argue that the university professor is the gatekeeper of the profession and has an ethical obligation to ensure that the requirements of the university don t infringe upon the students in the nation s classrooms. These are serious questions that reflect an ethical dilemma for our nation s teachers, school leaders, and university professors. Who is minding the classroom while college assignments are being submitted? Ethics of Internet Use by K-12 Teachers and School Leaders T he mention of ethical behavior is a captivating theme when the context of the discussion is the education of the nation s children. Rebore (2001) describes ethical behavior as human conduct that results in people selecting one course of action or an alternative course of action with the underlying assumption that the conduct is rational because it is intentional (p. 6). This leads one to reflect that coordinated actions which are carried out by school teachers,

2 2 Journal of College and Character VOLUME VII, NO. 1, January 2006 school leaders, and college professors who mentor them have an ethical dimension which could ultimately impact instruction in the nation s elementary and secondary classrooms. The first principle in the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Code of Ethics states that an educational administrator will make the well being of students the fundamental value in all decision making and actions (NASSP Bulletin, 1988, p.5). As the use of the Internet in university preparation programs continues to expand and evolve, serious questions regarding its ethical use by classroom teachers are emerging. One ethical dilemma jointly being encountered by university personnel and elementary and secondary school personnel is the practice of the latter electronically submitting college assignments during hours when pupils are in the classroom. Even though the eighth principle of the NASSP s code calls for professionals to maintain the standards and seek to improve the effectiveness of the profession through research and continuing professional development (Kowalski, 1996, p. 109), at some point school leaders and university personnel must decide what place and time are appropriate for using the Internet for the transmittal of assignments from graduate students to university professors. In discussing the ethical responsibilities of educators, most would recognize that a teacher s primary responsibility is to provide a nurturing classroom environment with a focus on the well being of students and their achievement. Starratt (1991) recognizes this as the ethic of caring (p. 195). This ethic of caring is grounded in the belief that the integrity of human relationships should be held sacred and that the school as an organization should hold the good of human beings within it as sacred. It reaches beyond the concerns of efficiency (p. 195), and asks what is the ethical and unethical use of time when working with students in the classroom. University personnel similarly have ethical responsibilities to their pupils. Just as elementary and secondary educators have responsibilities to promote learning in their classrooms, university personnel have responsibilities to engage graduate students in a similar fashion. It could be argued that university personnel have ethical responsibilities to both their graduate students and the elementary and secondary students who their graduates are teaching. In an ongoing study of ethics in higher education (Cline, Cox, Holifield, Nichols, and Saleh, 2003), it has been recognized that an entire university s institutional integrity is ethically compromised when its mentors (professors) engage in practices that could potentially harm school-age children. Phi Delta Kappan s Topics and Trends (2003) observed that a major emphasis in use of the Internet and its related technology continues to emerge in the nation s schools. Concerns exist among educators at all levels when technology becomes a distraction in lieu of being a useful tool. The information age has made the accessibility to communicate with individuals as easy as turning on a computer and typing a message that could be sent anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. While this appears to be a good thing, it becomes an ethical issue when the time used to converse or submit paper work comes at the expense of learning in the elementary and secondary classroom. Misuse of Internet here's no questioning the impact of the Internet and in schools. In a short space of time T we've come to look on it as an essential work tool that can save time, provide instant access

3 Who s Teaching the Kids? 3 to information, and raise productivity levels. is growing as a leading communication tool, replacing the phone and fax in many instances. The Internet and are made available to faculty and staff in school districts for the purpose of facilitating effective school operations. However, as Internet usage in classrooms becomes more commonplace, school officials have increasingly begun to realize that allowing faculty and staff to access the Internet and in the classroom can also be troublesome. Not only can employee misuse of and Internet strain the school s bandwidth to the point where systems grind to a halt, but it can be costly to schools in terms of lost instructional and planning time as well as inadequate supervision of students in the classroom. Personal use is becoming a factor in cyberslacking, the use of employer time on the Internet for non-business activities. Research studies suggest that employees are spending more and more of their official work time browsing the Internet for subjects unrelated to their work or to send and receiving personal messages. Elron Software s The Year 2001 Corporate Web and Usage Study (n.d.) reports that has replaced the water cooler and break room as the #1 way to waste time in offices around the country, costing U.S. businesses millions of dollars per year (p. 9). Ninety percent of the respondents in this study reported that they spend up to 30 minutes per day writing or responding to personal s while at work. In addition, 45% of the respondents that spend up to 30 minutes per day on personal s also spend up to 30 minutes per day visiting non-work-related web sites. A recent Gallop poll reveals that 9 out of 10 people use at work, and nearly all at work respondents check their everyday, while 57 percent check their once every hour. There seems to be a lack of communication between employers and employees to the limits placed on personal and Internet use by usage policies. The Elron study found that the implementation of web/ monitoring policies was acceptable to employees with advance notification of their use. Forty-seven percent of the education respondents in this study say their school has a published policy outlining appropriate/acceptable usage at work. While this study found discipline for inappropriate use to be on the rise, 92% of the respondents who have a published Internet usage policy continue to surf the web for personal reasons and send personal on employer time. In addition to lost productivity, there are other ramifications. The financial ramifications of addressing rising bandwidth costs due to employees downloading more audio/visual features appearing on websites can be very expensive to school districts. On-line Prevalence for Colleges E ach year, thousands of courses are delivered in the nation s universities with the assistance of the Internet. These course delivery methods range from on-line assistance to complete course delivery. As with most colleges within university systems, colleges of education utilize the Internet to deliver instruction. Within the colleges of education, educational leadership programs rely heavily upon web assisted formats using various platforms in course delivery. Universities offer coursework through a variety of cyber options. For example, Harvard University offers an online computer-programming course. Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology offers various courses toward a business degree through web-based activities. A professor at California State University, where distance learning through technology is utilized by

4 4 Journal of College and Character VOLUME VII, NO. 1, January 2006 all colleges across the campus, explained that the use of web coursework creates a learning experience where everyone is in the front row (Bulkery, 1999, p. 20). Description of the Study T his is an examination of the online transmittals in six courses, during two semesters, in an educational leadership preparation program. It seeks to determine whether the utilization of web assisted instruction by a university s department of educational leadership could possibly be compromising instruction at the elementary and secondary school level. The study examined the time of day that candidates submitted online assignments and whether those times of transmittals occurred when students were present in the classroom. Transmittals were considered during school hours when submitted from 7:45 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. After school hours were designated as any other time of the day. The web-based assignments included: (a) discussion board entries, (b) case study scenarios, (c) reactions to assigned readings, and (d) reflections of daily school events or projects. Four professors reviewed the time of day students submitted course assignments. Professor A documented student use of web-based assignments for one course. Professor B monitored student entries for two courses. Professor C documented time of student transmittal for assignments in two courses. Professor D monitored students work during one course. Findings P rofessor A received 191 entries by students of their assignments and 82 (43%) of those entries were during school hours. One hundred and nine were received after school hours. Professor B taught two courses through web-enhanced platforms. During one course 144 (56%) assignments were submitted during school hours. Of the total 260 entries, 116 were done after school hours. In the second course taught by Professor B, of the 393 total entries, 200 (51%) were entered during school hours; 193 were done outside the school day. Professor C taught two courses using web-enhanced instruction. Of a total of 73 entries in one course, 42 (58%) were completed during school hours, leaving 31 entries to be posted after school hours. During the second course taught by Professor C, 25 entries were received as web-enhanced assignments. Eleven (44%) were completed during school hours; 14 were done outside of the school day. Professor D assigned web-based work for one course. Of 88 total entries, 41 (48%) were completed during school hours. Forty-seven entries were posted after school hours. Consequently, 51% of the total entries between six courses were completed during school hours. Forty-nine percent of the total entries of web-based assignments were completed after school hours. Summary and Recommendations A gain the question is asked, who is teaching school-age students when approximately half of the graduate students web-based assignments were being completed during the school day? Since the system used by the university to engage students in web-based activities did not document the amount of time it took students to enter and exit the system for posting of assignments, the total numbers of hours graduate students spent posting assignments during the school day is unknown. However, regardless of the amount of time teachers spent away from students and obligations to the school district of their employment, another question emerges. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that teachers are teaching rather than engaging in web-based assignments for graduate studies during the school day?

5 Who s Teaching the Kids? 5 Based on the findings of this study, cyberslacking is an ethical dilemma for classroom teachers using electronic platforms to complete work for their college courses and for college/university professors who are mandating on-line activities. This practice creates an ethical dilemma for school administrators who are attempting to protect valuable instructional time, attempting to provide time for teachers to engage in instructional planning/conferencing, and who are ensuring that students are under the supervision of teachers who are fully engaged with them in the classroom. School policy-makers should adopt and Internet usage policies to curb the increasing personal usage during work hours. They should consider limiting personal use of computers, electronic mail, and the Internet to ensure that the usage does not interfere with the employee s official duties, is brief in duration, and occurs infrequently. A reasonable school policy would allow faculty and staff to use district-provided for personal communications in a manner comparable to what is allowed for personal local use of school district telephones. In addition, schools should consider investing in software to monitor when, where and for how long employees use the Internet. In the college classroom, professors should be cognizant of the misuse of personal and Internet by their students who are employed as classroom teachers. Professors should establish precise guidelines for students, up to and including the refusal to accept assignments submitted during the typical school day when teachers should be engaged in classroom instruction, preparing for instruction, or supervising students. Perhaps the greatest ethical dilemma rests with the teacher/student who is using the schools time and resources for personal convenience when he or she should be working with students in the classroom or should be about the school s business. Aspiring school educational leaders should strive to put into practice the ethical standards they will expect from faculty under their supervision in their future careers as school administrators. References Bulkery, W. M. (1999). The best way to go to school: Looking to learn on the web. Wall Street Journal, (Dec. 6) Brown, B. W., & Liedholm (2002). Can web courses replace the classroom in principles of microeconomics? The American Economic Review, 92(2), Cline, D. H., Cox, D., Holifield, M. L., Nichols, J. R. Saleh, A., (2003, August). Ethical dilemmas among educational personnel preparation faculty. Paper presented at the meeting of the National Council of Professors of Education, Sedona, AZ. Elron Software s The Year 2001 Corporate Web and Usage Study. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2003 from Kowalski, T. J. (1996). Public relations in educational organizations: Practice in an age of information and reform. Englewood Cliffs, N.J, Prentice Hall.

6 6 Journal of College and Character VOLUME VII, NO. 1, January 2006 Lee, A. (2001). What makes a good online course? The administrator s role in quality assurance of online learning. Converge, 4(11) NASSP Bulletin. (1988). Statement of ethics. NASSP Bulletin, 72(512): 95. National Policy Board for Educational Administration. (2002, January). Standards for advanced programs in educational leadership for principals, superintendents, curriculum directors, and supervisors. Arlington, VA.: Author. Phi Delta Kappa International. (2003). Topics and trends: The informed administrator. Technology and learning. 3 (4). [Brochure]. Bloomington, IN: Author Rebore, R. W. (2001). The ethics of educational leadership. Columbus, OH. Merrill Prentice Hall. Starratt, R. J. (1991). Building an ethical school: A theory for practice in educational leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 27 (2),

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