Integrating Ethics Education into Digital Literacy Curricula Humanizing Digital Communication

As a society, we have a moral imperative to develop students into ethical community leaders and digital citizens.
Research Question: How can we integrate ethics training into digital literacy Curricula to humanize digital communication?


Why Middle School?

Children are still developing cognitive capacities to do abstract thinking, a prerequisite to ethical thinking, UNTIL THE AGE OF 13.

This Interdisciplinary Platform would emphasize the competency of ethical decision-making in the same way that we think about other subject areas.

ThE platform would be called "etiko"

Which Means "ethics" in Esperanto, the most widely spoken constructed language in the world

Connective. Generative. Reflective. Iterative.

Learning Modules Would Center Around These FoUr Themes.


Providing a “safe space” for adolescents to establish community, share their work, learn the implications of digital actions, and constructively voice their opinions.

Visually, the landing page of this online platform would look like the map of a middle school campus, where individual students (represented by avatars) would belong to connected learning communities represented by their middle school classrooms.

Town hall meetings date back to colonial New England.

Central on the campus map would be a virtual "town hall" where students would be able to digitally "select" their seats (similar to airplane seat selection). These “town hall” meetings would provide a forum for students to articulate and define their values. A key belief of traditional character education programs is that they should be based on community-generated values.

Historically, town halls have been integral to the success of character education programs.

Student avatars would also belong to their respective grade-level communities as well as to the entire middle school community. This online platform could later scale to include other middle schools within the school district.


Breaking free of the passive consumption learning model.

"etiko" would feature student work from a variety of disciplines.

  • ENGLISH: Student essays about influential people who have informed their value framework.
  • HISTORY: An interactive timeline with posts about ethicists and value-based community leaders.
  • ART: A gallery showcasing student paintings and photography reflecting their community values.
  • MUSIC: Research projects on music piracy, file sharing and the financial implications on industry.
  • WORLD LANGUAGES: Reading responses to psychology research revealing how morality changes in a foreign language (Scientific American).
  • MATH: Applied math questions about economic and social justice issues.
  • SCIENCE: Student reports on environmentally-conscious topics.
  • PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Discussion threads around teamwork, honesty, and good sportsmanship.


Gaining insight through metacognition.

Teaching ethics is not about teaching a particular set of beliefs, but rather about teaching students how to think critically about issues of morality.

Online Diary Entry: Define core values.

Online Diary Entry: Discuss how to effectively give and receive constructive criticism, such as with online consumer reviews on Yelp.


Instilling consciousness-level ethical thinking through continual, rigorous interdisciplinary learning.

We can't prepare students for every single possible digital challenge. Therefore, we need to embrace teaching digital citizenship as a way of thinking, incorporating it across disciplines throughout pre-existing curricula.

Applied ethics. This platform would use numerous case studies to apply what students have learned to the 'real world.'

The more practice students have with applying ethical thinking to real life, the better equipped they will be in the future to respond in a way that aligns with their values.

By Jennifer Audet

Communication Leadership Graduate Program

University of Washington

COM 536: Leadership Through Story and Communities

Created By
Jennifer Audet


Created with images by Bart LaRue - "untitled image" • VFS Digital Design - "Light Painting" • Ivana Cajina - "The last sunset on our road trip." • medithIT - "website" • Element5 Digital - "untitled image" • Zachary Nelson - "Jumps" • Clarisse Meyer - "Seattle besties" • Martin Fu - "untitled image" • Elena de Soto - "untitled image" • ruudklerks - "chairs public presentation" • Ahmad Dirini - "Water, Light and long shutter speeds" • Ethereaum - "inspiration idea design" • riciardus - "icee-ee" • Alex Holyoake - "Looking outside" • Jeremy Bishop - "Unsplash expedition Sand Dunes" • Diego Duarte Cereceda - "Wheels and Baskets In A Row" • Gabriel Gurrola - "Yamaha piano player" • Jeremy Thomas - "Skateboarder in front of couch"

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