Table of Contents

Situations Related to Ethical Principles

1. Fulfilling the letter or the spirit of the law?

2. Ensuring diverse points of view

3. Putting a square peg in a round hole

4. Protecting an individual's right to privacy

5. Ethical decisions in instructional media selection

6. Computers: Issues of health and safety

7. Adopting and promoting new ideas

8. A clash of cultures

9. Harassment, bias, and discrimination

10. Whose views? Yours or your institutions?

11. All the facts, please

12. Competing with your employer

13. Handling gifts, gratuitites, and favors

14. Engaging in fair and equitable practices with vendors

15. Greasing the squeaky wheel

16. Influencing your colleagues

17. Exploiting professional affiliations

18. Helping one another

19. Is honesty the best answer?

20. An ethical approach to doing business

21. Fair assignment of responsibility

22. Facing new copyright challenges

23. When a colleague is wrong

Ethical Decisions in Instructional Materials Selection

The Situation
Dr. Jim Shipp is a new assistant professor with teaching and media services responsibilities at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. As part of his teaching role, Jim had been asked to teach a two-week section of a course on modern European technology, his area of specialty in graduate school. In previewing materials for this unit, Jim faced a dilemma over whether or not to use a videotape, which contained sexually explicit material, in one of his classes. While most of the video dealt with high technology, such as videotex, satellite transmissions, and the European space program, some rock video clips had been inserted periodically, apparently to sustain interest. One segment showed a sailor's imaginings after 22 days at sea. It included a woman shown from the waist up dancing in the shower, sexual frustration, and hints of masturbation.

Jim was having second thoughts about showing this video in class. Most exasperating was the fact that the content of the half-hour program was exactly what was needed for the class. The material was current and relevant. However, in ordering the material, it would necessarily become a part of the library collection and accessible to any student or patron wanting to use it. From his experience in the media services portion of his position, he realized that purchase of sexually explicit materials would violate the unspoken set of rules among his co-workers. He felt that the material was 90% on target, but he had reservations about the remaining 10%. Jim sat pondering his dilemma. Should he buy and use the video or not?


The AECT Code of Professional Ethics—Section 1, Principle 5
In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the members shall follow sound professional procedures for evaluation and selection of materials and equipment.

Jim Shipp found himself with a media selection decision involving a clash of cultural values. The material under consideration was authentic and had aired on European television. Part of his purpose in using authentic material in class was to involve students in the foreign culture and, yet, here was a part of that culture that could offend at least some of his students and colleagues. Was there a degree of sex role stereotyping (AECT Ethics Code, Section l, Principle 8) going on in the foreign culture? Even if there were, shouldn't members of his class have a right to access materials from varying points of view (AECT Ethics Code, Section l, Principle 2)? Wasn't his own academic freedom to pick material for his course being curtailed by having to purchase the entire package? Would he be on less controversial ground if a committee of his colleagues previewed and ruled on the appropriateness of the material?

After more reflection, Jim determined that the priority message for the class was about European technology, with the rock video clips acting merely as distraction or interference. Consequently, he felt he had three options: (l) edit the videotape by making a second recording that omitted the questionable segments (a potential copyright infringement); (2) use the footage counter in class to play only the desired sections; or (3) locate new material. These were Jim's thoughts as he prepared for class.

J. Nicholls Eastmond, Jr.
Professor of Instructional Technology
Utah State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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