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

Adopting and Promoting New Ideas

The Situation
It was late in the afternoon on a brisk, chilly day in early December. Professor Billings had just completed the last session of his graduate seminar in instructional technology. As he returned to his office, he began to feel the weariness brought on by a long and busy semester. So, as he approached his desk, he closed the door behind him and slumped into his chair without even turning on the lights. Because it was after five o'clock, the building was quiet. He lapsed off into reflections about the past few months. Although tired, he was pleased with what he had accomplished in his classes. He felt confident that he had provided his students with a solid theoretical foundation for their future careers in instructional technology.

As he pondered, he became aware of a heated discussion among a group of people as they walked down the hallway. He recognized the voices of students who he had just left in his class. He didn't pay much attention to what they were saying until, as they passed his door, one of them was heard to exclaimed: ~~I can hardly wait to start my new job so I can forget all of this theoretical nonsense."

Professor Billings was jarred into dismay and disappointment!


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 1, Principle 7
In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the member shall promote current sound professional practices in the use of technology in education.

A frequent misconception among graduate students and many professionals is that educational theory is "bunk" and not relevant to the job of an instructional technologist. A related misconception is that one's schooling ends with earning a degree. Although one's academic role as a student ends with graduation, at that stage real professional growth only begins and must be an ongoing process in order to avoid stagnation and remain effective. Applying the right mixture of theory, practice, experience, and creativity in the design of instruction can be difficult and demanding but it is what distinguishes a professional from a technician.

We all expect other professionals who serve the public to be current in their fields. So, too, should we expect members of our profession, in order to be of maximum service to our clients, to be not only conversant with new ideas and issues, but also prompt in applying them to our jobs. As an example, it is useful to compare changes in the education of dental professions over the last hundred years. One shudders to think what a visit to the dentist's office would be like if as many real changes had taken place there as have occurred in the classroom. Try to imagine many of the current ideas in educational technology as being like Novocain or high-speed drills and then hearing the dentist boast about having them on the shelf, but unwilling to restructure his or her practice to include these innovations.

Real potential for change in a profession rests with the commitment to growth within each professional. Each professional, to responsibly serve his or her clients, must be willing to consistently don the cap of a student and accept and apply new theories and information as they become available—being "open systems" as it were. Not only is it the professional thing to do; it's a matter of ethics.

Lloyd P. Rieber
Associate Professor of Instructional Technology
University of Georgia

Paul W. Welliver
Professor Emeritus of Education
Pennsylvania State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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