OF PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
A Guide to Professional Conduct in the Field
of Educational Communications and Technology
Code of Professional Ethics
Discussion of the Principles of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics
for Using This Book
Situations Related to Ethical Principles
Enforcement of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics
and Information of Professional Ethics
Section 4: A Discussion of the Principles of the AECT Code of Professional
In the preamble to the AECT Code of Professional Ethics, the AECT Professional
Ethics Committee is called upon to amplify and clarify the ethical principles
in the code. Based on AECT member inquiries and related exchanges of ideas,
the discussion of each of the following principles of the Code is intended
to elucidate the meaning and intent of that principle. As you review this
section, it is important to understand that most of the principles set
forth in the Code are comprehensive and complex and, therefore, apply
to a wide range of professional behaviors. The brief interpretations and
discussions, while intended to shed light on the principles, are limited
in scope and may address only a narrow range of a much broader spectrum
Section 1— Commitment to the Individual
In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the members:
- Shall encourage independent action in an individual's pursuit
of learning and shall provide access to varying points of view.
Important to our democratic society is a citizenry of independent thinkers
who are informed about all aspects of the issues that impinge on their
lives and about which they may have to decide when interacting with
others or when exercising their privilege in local, state, and national
elections. Therefore, educators and trainers must create an environment
of openness to disparate ideas and challenge learners to seek out information
and opinions that will broaden their perspective on ideas and issues
that are significant to them.
- Shall protect the individual rights of access to materials of
varying points of view. The concept of "Intellectual freedom"
advocates the right of individuals to explore a wide range of information
and opinions. Library, media, and technology professionals often have
a major influence over access to materials and other information resources
that are available to learners. It is essential that this access be
guided by a policy that ensures availability to a broad range of information,
ideas, and opinions.
- Shall guarantee to each individual the opportunity to participate
in any appropriate program. With the rapid proliferation of new
technologies, equity becomes a major concern. Will all children, whether
rich, middle income, or poor, in all schools, whether urban, rural,
suburban, or inner city, have access to these modern technologies that
will be such an important component of our lives in future years? Furthermore,
will all learners have 11 equal access to the learning resources that
these technologies provide? As educational technology professionals,
it is our duty to make every effort possible to ensure these learning
- Shall conduct professional business so as to protect the privacy
and maintain the personal integrity of the individual. With the
growing sophistication of modern technology, this principle has taken
on new meaning. Yes, it still applies to gossiping about people in the
faculty room, showing student and personnel files only to authorized
individuals, and keeping sensitive records under appropriate security.
However, with so much private information being stored electronically,
the technology professional must assume new responsibilities and take
additional measures to ensure that privacy and personal integrity are
Shall follow sound professional procedures for evaluation and
selection of materials and equipment. A number of issues related
to this principle must be considered. Of primary importance is that
every educational or training agency have a carefully formulated policy
the sets forth the parameters for consideration in the purchase of
new hardware and software. Such a policy should require that such
acquisitions relate directly to the curriculum or training program
of the institution or agency involved. Such a policy can assist in
avoiding such mistakes as falling for an attractive but inappropriate
sales talk or buying new technologies just to keep up with a neighboring
- Shall make reasonable effort to protect the individual from conditions
harmful to health and safety. In the past, health and safety in
the use of instructional materials centered around such hazards as unsafe
electrical connections, television monitor carts tipping over on students,
and the use of darkroom and diazo chemicals. Now these hazards are somewhat
more subtle. Ergonomic design of chairs for computer operators, eye
strain from looking at a computer screen for a long period of time,
and even wrist problems derived from keyboard use are all potential
health issues. The technology professional must make a special effort
to remain current on such issues as new technologies become available
on the education market.
- Shall promote current and sound professional practices in the
use of technology in education. The history of the use of instructional
technologies, going back to some of the earliest audiovisual aids, is
replete with stories of inappropriate use of these valuable resources.
How many media coordinators have been asked by teachers for a movie
or video, with little regard for the content, that could be shown to
their classes on a Friday afternoon? However, there are even more subtle
ways in which sound professional practices can be violated. For example,
how often have educators "jumped on the bandwagon" to use a new
technology resulting in inappropriate applications of the technology
and the abandonment of established technologies that have proved to
be even more effective? Technology professionals must adopt the practice
of systematically reviewing and evaluating the most appropriate use
of both new and traditional technologies in the teaching and learning
- S hall in the design and selection of any educational program
or media seek to avoid content that reinforces or promotes gender, ethnic,
racial, or religious stereotypes. Shall seek to encourage the development
of programs and media that emphasize the diversity of our society as
a multicultural community. With the rapidly expanding channels
of worldwide communication and the availability of low-cost transportation,
populations of most countries are becoming increasingly heterogeneous.
As a result, within our schools and communities, we encounter an ever-expanding
spectrum of cultures, customs, traditions, and ways of life. An understanding
of these diverse lifestyles contributes to accepting and valuing the
contribution that each individual can make to our society. Education
professionals have a responsibility to seek out and develop instructional
programs and resources that contribute to such understandings .
- Shall refrain from any behavior that would be judged to be discriminatory,
harassing, insensitive, or offensive and, thus, is in conflict with
valuing and promoting each individual's integrity, rights, and opportunity
within a diverse profession and society. As education professionals,
our obligation to treat others equitably and with respect goes far beyond
our interaction with our peers, our students, and others with whom we
interact. For, indeed, as educators we are in a unique position to influence
the attitudes and behaviors of the learners with whom we interact. It
is, therefore, important that, through words and deeds, we convey to
others the importance of honoring and respecting the integrity and potential
of each individual.
Section 2—Commitment to Society
In fulfilling obligations to society, the member:
Section 3—Commitment to the Profession In fulfilling obligations
to the profession, the member:
- Shall honestly represent the institution or organization with
which that person is affiliated, and shall take adequate precautions
to distinguish between personal and institutional or organizational
views. Most democracies throughout the world have adopted provisions
to protect the freedom of speech and expression for their citizens.
Particularly in an academic environment, it 13 is not unusual to encounter
a wide range of views and positions on any given issue. Institutional
or organizational policies are usually derived from careful consideration
of this variety of perceptions. An individual who is perceived as being
closely associated with an institution or organization still has the
right to express views and opinions that are counter to those of the
group to which he or she is affiliated However, that individual is advised
to first consider the appropriateness of such expressions and, if presented,
that he or she clearly identify them as representing a personal point
- Shall represent accurately and truthfully the facts concerning
educational matters in direct and indirect public expressions.
Over the years, as new technologies have become available to the field
of education, support for these technologies has often been garnered
through exaggerated claims of the educational effectiveness of that
technology and overstated projections of its potential future impact.
Enthusiasm for new educational approaches, tools, and resources is encouraged
and desirable. However, such enthusiasm must be tempered so as to not
mislead or, indeed, misinform.
- Shall not use institutional or Associational privileges for private
gain. A number of privileges and benefits are associated with being
an employee of an educational institution or a member of a professional
association. These can take many forms such as use of an institution-owned
vehicle, sick leave, access to special equipment and resources, and
access to private information and data. Care must be taken to ensure
that these elements of one's professional life are not used for personal
- Shall accept no gratuities, gifts, or favors that might impair
or appear to impair professional judgment, or offer any favor, service,
or thing of value to obtain special advantage. As this principle
of ethics illustrates, a person in a position of influence walks a narrow
line with temptations for ethical violations on each side of that line.
For example, an individual who is responsible for making recommendations
for the purchase and distribution of new instructional equipment and
materials within a school district faces such a situation. On one side
of that line are the vendors of these resources who may offer gifts
or favors in order to influence purchase decisions. On the other side
of that narrow line is the temptation to recommend the distribution
of resources to schools and individuals within the district in order
to repay a favor or gain future political influence. Ethical behavior
requires impartial judgment in such situations.
See the Trigger Movie for this priciple.
See the Trigger Movie for this priciple.
- Shall engage in fair and equitable practices with those rendering
service to the profession. There exists an extensive network of
organizations and individuals upon whom our profession is heavily dependent
for services and support. It is difficult to perceive how our 14 current
educational system could continue without the assistance of such outside
sources as equipment manufacturers, software producers, school architects,
contractors, maintenance services, social agencies, telecommunications
services, parent organizations, social agencies, publishers, and testing
services. It is essential that they be dealt with in a professionally
and ethically appropriate manner in order that the availability and
good will of this valuable support system will be maintained.
- Shall accord just and equitable treatment to all members of the
profession in terms of professional rights and responsibilities.
Whether in a K-12 educational situation, an institution of higher education,
or a training and development position in business, industry, or the
public sector, educational technology professionals find themselves
in the position of making decisions about such matters as job assignments,
promotions, hiring new employees, tenure, and, occasionally, termination
of employment. To maintain a healthy working environment, it is essential
that such judgments are made fairly and equitably and, furthermore,
are perceived as such by all concerned.
- Shall not use coercive means or promise special treatment in
order to influence professional decisions of colleagues. For sound
and equitable judgments to be made, such decisions must be based on
the facts and circumstances that directly impinge on that decision.
It is appropriate to present to colleagues information and objective
data that assist in making an informed decision. It is not appropriate
to apply extraneous pressure in order to gain a decision primarily to
support a personal bias or self-interest.
- Shall avoid commercial exploitation of the person's membership
in the Association. As a member of a professional association,
it is possible for one to develop an extensive network of personal contacts.
Furthermore, with an association membership comes access to a wealth
of information and data as well as a number of channels of communication
that have the potential of reaching other professionals throughout the
world. All of these features of an association are put in place for
the purpose of advancing a profession. To take advantage of them for
commercial purposes would, therefore, be inappropriate.
- Shall strive continually to improve professional knowledge and
skill and to make available to patrons and colleagues the benefit of
that person's professional attainments. In the world of business
and commerce there is a tradition and, indeed, a necessity to secretly
develop new products or services and keep innovative ideas hidden from
competitors until such innovations are marketed. Once introduced into
the marketplace, patents prevent others from duplicating the idea. The
world of professional education promotes a different culture. It is
one in which educators are encouraged to explore new ideas and techniques
and share them, through publications and presentations, with colleagues
and the public. This does not preclude the copyrighting of a publication
or the patenting of a new educational device. It does, however, strongly
support an environment in which ideas for the improvement of teaching
and learning are freely and openly shared and discussed.
- Shall present honestly personal professional qualifications and
the professional qualifications and evaluations of colleagues.
Although not immediately apparent, the focus of this principal is not
only upon fairness to an individual but, of perhaps greater importance,
upon an educational agency providing the best services possible to its
clientele. If, because of inflated claims about qualifications or inappropriately
positive evaluations, an individual obtains or maintains a professional
position, the result is that the clientele of that institution or agency
is not receiving the quality of service that is deserved. Similarly,
if a highly qualified, competent individual is denied a position because
his or her recommendations or evaluations are unjustly negative, it
is the client who is deprived. Honesty and objectivity are essential
in these situations.
- Shall conduct professional business through proper channels.
On occasion, there may be a temptation to bypass the organizational
structure in order to achieve some goal, expedite a decision, or make
a purchase. As necessary and harmless as this may seem at the time,
it is important to recognize that there are usually very good reasons
why these channels are put into place. To circumvent them can sometimes
not only create bad feelings but, often, can create confusion, and even
chaos, due to the lack of proper coordination. If an existing channel
is overly bureaucratic it is appropriate to initiate efforts to alter
the system. However, this must be done in the context of understanding
and respecting the needs and concerns of everyone involved.
- Shall delegate assigned tasks to qualified personnel. Qualified
personnel are those who have appropriate training or credentials and/or
who can demonstrate competency in performing the task. Beyond the
obvious issue of fairness, there are a number of potential negative
impacts that can result from appointing an unqualified person to an
assignment. The 16 assignment can be carried out poorly of incorrectly.
The person assigned to the task can be damaged professionally. The judgment
of the person making the assignment comes in to question. Morale in
the organization can be negatively affected. The quality of service
to the clientele of the organization may become substandard. In some
situations there may even be safety concerns. As in so many ethical
decisions, honesty, fairness, and objectivity are of prime importance.
- Shall inform users of the stipulations and interpretations of
the copyright law and other laws affecting the profession and encourage
compliance. Modern technology enables educators to duplicate video,
print, computer software, and other instructional materials. It is up
to the educational technology professional to keep informed of the laws
and fair use guidelines that govern the appropriate use of such materials
and ensure that his or her clients are fully aware of, and follow, these
regulations. It is important to convey the message that to do otherwise
is not only a violation of the law but also denies authors and producers
the funds necessary to continue to develop and supply these valuable
resources. Besides copyright, there are a growing number of laws and
regulations that relate to the use of technology that deserve constant
attention and translation to the educational community.
- Shall observe all laws relating to or affecting the profession;
shall report, without hesitation, illegal or unethical conduct of fellow
members of the profession to the AECT Professional Ethics Committee;
shall participate in professional inquiry when requested by the Association.
Experience indicates that this is probably the most difficult ethical
principle to observe. It requires that members of AECT report, and participate
in the investigation of, colleagues and fellow AECT members who, it
is believed, have violated the ethical code of the Association. As difficult
as this may seem to be, it is essential if the field of educational
technology is to elevated to becoming a mature and disciplined profession.