Gaming, texting, learning? Teaching engineering ethics through students lived experiences with technology

Georgina Voss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines how young peoples’ lived experiences with personal technologies can be used to teach engineering ethics in a way which facilitates greater engagement with the subject. Engineering ethics can be challenging to teach: as a form of practical ethics, it is framed around future workplace experience in a professional setting which students are assumed to have no prior experience of. Yet the current generations of engineering students, who have been described as ‘digital natives’, do however have immersive personal experience with digital technologies; and experiential learning theory describes how students learn ethics more suc- cessfully when they can draw on personal experience which give context and meaning to abstract theories. This paper reviews current teaching practices in engineering ethics; and examines young people’s engagement with technologies including cell phones, social networking sites, digital music and computer games to identify social and ethical elements of these practices which have relevance for the engineering ethics curricula. From this analysis three case studies are developed to illustrate how facets of the use of these technologies can be drawn on to teach topics including group work and communication; risk and safety; and engineering as social experimentation. Means for bridging personal experience and professional ethics when teaching these cases are discussed. The paper contributes to research and curriculum development in engineering ethics education, and to wider education research about methods of teaching ‘the net generation’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1375-1393
Number of pages19
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013


  • Engineering ethics
  • Group work
  • Curriculum development
  • Case-studies
  • Experiential learning


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