Information Ethics Education as Science Education and Simulated Network Emergency Exercises for Information Teachers

Takeo Tatsumi, Yasunari Harada and Noriaki Kusumoto


In this paper, we present some new pedagogical framework for ethics education and its classroom implementation that should be incorporated into curriculum designs for training K-12 level teachers of information. Our proposal centers around simulated emergency exercises intended to expose those people who will be engaged in information education to a wide variety of potential network risks. These trainees should be placed in simulated network-related emergency situations such as sudden unexpected surge in network traffic, unauthorized access by outsiders, possible violation of intellectual property rights, potential libel and/or defamation, publication of obscene material, unwanted disclosure of personal information, leaking sensitive information, sexual harassment allegations, proliferation of Internet money game, SPAM, and false or groundless allegations of such misconduct, and so on. Through these exercises, information teachers would appreciate the importance of evaluating various risk factors and will have a better technical understanding of what is broadly termed as information ethics.

In Japan, the national board of education authorized a revised set of standard syllabi for K-12 institutions, and in the year 2002 students from elementary to high schools will be obligated to take some or other courses related to information. This means not only that all K-12 schools should immediately initiate preparatory measures for the change but also that all schools and departments in Japan that issue teacher certificate must change their curriculum to meet the new needs and requirements of this information education. In particular, information teachers of K-12 schools must be equipped to foster good understanding on the part of the students about various risks on using computers and the Internet. But most courses offered today for would-be information teachers consist of operational instructions and general media literacy education. Materials and methodology pertaining to information ethics education is in serious lack.

Elsewhere, we have discussed three reasons why information ethics education in Japan is still something yet to be worked out. First, this term is a misnomer and its contents are poorly defined at best. Second, higher education is not the right place to teach basic rules of human interaction while elementary and intermediate schools are not well prepared for this kind of media literacy education. Third, there are very few professors, teachers and instructors equipped with all the necessary background expertise to handle the course materials required.

We should also add that the framework in which ethics education in Japan has been placed should be reconsidered. Rather than placing this as part of humanities education, we claim that this should be considered as part of science and technology training. In order to foster an integrated and consistent judgment scheme within the learner, we need to offer the following:

  1. Scientifically sound explication of how logical devices work and detailed technical understanding of how information network operate.
  2. Theoretical thorough explication of rational explanation model such as Wide Reflective Equilibrium mode.
  3. Basic training in logical inferences.

Experiences with uninitiated university students and novice network users in general show that forcing them to memorize definitions and principles without some explication of the functioning of information networks or forcing them to follow rules and manners on proper network use without making logical connections with decent human behavior does not work. Thus we claim that information teachers at K-12 level should organize their classroom activities by presentation of multiple views on actual currently unresolved problems of information networks and persuading the students to discuss the issue and formulate their own conclusions.

With this assessment of the present state of information ethics education in Japan, we argue that the new curriculum for would-be teachers of information should incorporate simulated network emergency situations that are designed to familiarize the trainees with the potential risks of computer networks. Unless these trainees obtain deep technical understanding of how computer networks today operate, we cannot hope them to be able to educate our children in such a way that they will be able to make reasonable ethical judgments their everyday conduct in the information society they are bound to live in.