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 5: Suggestions for Using This Book

This publication has a number of uses. The potential audience for its message ranges the entire spectrum from the newcomer to the experienced educational technologist.

Dr. Phillip Cochran, Director of the Center for the Study of Business and Public Issues at Pennsylvania State University, was the principal investigator for an extensive study of the existence and use of codes of professional ethics in business and industrial settings. Some of his findings have relevance to all professions. Outstanding among these was the discovery of the importance of regular reminders of the existence and importance of the code. As reported in the Penn State publication Intercom, according to Dr. Cochran, "Some executives might fear that ongoing reminders about ethics codes risk belaboring the point. But instead of simply turning off the message, managers in such circumstances tended to consider the codes more meaningful to their own work than managers who didn't get regular reminders."

In addition to acquainting the educational technology professional with the AECT Code of Professional Ethics and providing interpretations of its principles, this book can serve the function described above by becoming a constant reminder of the Code and its importance in our day-to-day professional activities. The following are some suggestions about how the book can be used to serve this variety of functions. Many of these ideas are based on successful techniques that have been developed by members of the AECT Professional Ethics Committee as they have worked with, and tested, some of the components of this book.

Use in Academic Programs Preparing Educational Technology Professionals

Most graduate programs in instructional technology have an introductory course that acquaints new students to the field. This is an ideal time to orient these new professionals to the Code of Professional Ethics and have them begin to consider it as a standard for their professional behavior. Some activities that have been effective in stimulating thought and spirited discussion are listed below. Although it is preferable to introduce students to the importance of ethical behavior as early in their graduate programs as possible, these activities have also proved to be effective in advanced graduate courses and seminars.

  1. Have students read one of the situations described in Section 6 of this book and, individually, pick out the principle from the Code of Professional Ethics that most closely relates to that scenario. Because more than one principle may be selected have members of the class discuss which ethical principle seems to be most applicable to the situation.
  2. There is a good chance that while engaged in the discussion in the previous activity, there will be a variation in opinion as to which of the principles of the Code is most relevant. Because many of these situations related to more than one principle, discuss the other principles from the Code that apply.
  3. Have students share incidents that they have encountered in their own experience that posed an ethical dilemma to them personally, were situations in which they observed someone behaving unethically, or were situations in which someone displayed the courage to take the proper and ethical action when faced with a difficult decision.
  4. Have students prepare written situations and discussions, related to a principle in the Code of Professional Ethics , in the format used in the TechTrends columns that have been compiled in Section 6 of this publication. These situations can then be presented to the class for consideration and discussion. Some students may wish to forward their work to the Chair of the AECT Professional Ethics Committee (address given in the Introduction) for possible publication.
  5. Students enjoy teaming up with one or two fellow students to prepare and act out ethics-related situations that can then be discussed by the entire class.
  6. Discuss Principle 9 in Section 3 . It is with this principle that students encounter the most difficulty and, as a result, it usually generates a spirited discussion.
  7. As suggested in the discussion of Professor Cochran's research cited above, it is important that there be regular reminders of the existence and content of the Code. Therefore, following an introduction to the Code of Professional Ethics with activities such as the ones described above, it is important that faculty and students continue to cite the Code and point out issues of ethics as they encounter them in subsequent courses and other interactions.
  8. Ask students to identify the scenario that is most like one that they have encountered or that surprised them the most and analyze their responses in relation to the suggested response.
  9. Ask students to develop a visual display depicting the application of one or more of the principles in an educational or training site as a way of acquainting the educational technology professional, along with other educators, with the AECT Code of Professional Ethics. This display could include one or more media, such as a Web page, a museum piece, a poster, or a video. The key is that it be conceptualized as communication to a mass audience.

Use in the Workplace

  1. Place a copy of this book in a prominent location on your desk or bookshelf so that it will be highly visible and will be a constant reminder of the ethical principles that guide your professional activities.
  2. Suggest to your colleagues that they, too, keep a copy of this book or, at least, a copy of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics in a prominent location in their offices.
  3. When you encounter a newspaper report of an ethics-related situation in some area of society, circulate it to your colleagues with a reference to the principle from the AECT Code of Professional Ethics that would apply to that situation if it had occurred in the context of an educational communications and technology environment.
  4. If someone comes to your office with an idea or proposal for action that you consider to be questionable ethical practice, use the book as a reference and suggest that the notion be tested against a standard of the principles that are set forth in the Code.
  5. A school district technology specialist reported that, during a school board meeting, an ethically sensitive issue was being discussed when the chair of the board turned to him for his perspective. The technology specialist used one of the situations described in a TechTrends column to help the board put their own situation into proper perspective.

If you encounter additional effective ways to use this book, please share them with the Chair of the AECT Professional Ethics Committee (address provided in the Introduction to this book) so that they can be passed on to others who are concerned about improving the level of ethical behavior in the field of Educational Communications and Technology.

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

1800 North Stonelake Drive, Suite 2
Bloomington, IN 47404

877.677.AECT (toll-free)