Table of Contents

A Guide to Professional Conduct in the Field of Educational Communications and Technology




A Historical Perspective

A Code of Professional Ethics

A Discussion of the Principles of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics

Suggestions for Using This Book

Situations Related to Ethical Principles

Enforcement of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics

Resources and Information of Professional Ethics

Section 4: A Discussion of the Principles of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics

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 of applications.

Section 1— Commitment to the Individual

In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the members:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 opportunities.

  4. 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 protected.

  5. 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 school district.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 process.

  8. 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 .

  9. 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:

  1. 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 of view.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 advantage.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.
Section 3—Commitment to the Profession In fulfilling obligations to the profession, the member:
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.  

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.  

Updated January 21, 2008
Copyright © 2001,
The Association for Educational Communications and Technology

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