Teaching ethics and technology with Agora, an electronic tool
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Courses on ethics and technology have become compulsory for many students at the three Dutch technical universities during the past few years. During this time, teachers have faced a number of didactic problems, which are partly due to a growing number of students. In order to deal with these challenges, teachers in ethics at the three technical universities in the Netherlands — in Delft, Eindhoven and Twente — have developed a web-based computer program called Agora (see www.ethicsandtechnology.com). This program enables students to exercise their ethical understanding and skills extensively. The program makes it possible for students to participate actively in moral reflection and reasoning, and to develop the moral competencies that are needed in their later professional practice. The developers of the program have tried to avoid two traps. Firstly, they rejected, from the outset, a cookbook style of dealing with ethical problems that applied ethics is often taken to be and, secondly, they wanted to design a flexible program that respects the student’s as well as the teacher’s creativity, and that tries to engage students in moral reflection. Agora meets these requirements. The program offers possibilities that extend beyond the requirements that are usually accepted for case-exercises in applied ethics, and that have been realised in several other computer models for teaching ethics. In this article, we describe the main considerations in the development of Agora and the features of the resulting program.
Keywordsteaching ethics engineering ethics applied ethics web-based computer tools ethics and technology
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