All the Facts, Please
It was not surprising, therefore, when he received a call from Dr. Jeffrey Leask, the superintendent of a nearby school district, seeking his help. Dr. Leask explained that he was eager to place his school district on the cutting edge in the use of computer technology. However, he was having difficulty convincing his school board and the community that the investment was worthwhile and would pay off in terms of improved student achievement. The school board had scheduled an open meeting on the subject in the high school auditorium the following month and was urging the citizens of the community to come and participate. "What we need is a leading expert like you to convince these people that this is the way that our school district needs to got" exclaimed Dr. Leask. With this, he offered Professor Barkley a sizable consulting fee for the one evening of services.
Professor Barkley was impressed with Dr. Leask's enthusiasm and commitment to introducing computer technology into his schools. So, to gather some additional background for his presentation, he asked what he considered to be some key questions. What is the current level of computer competence of your faculty? What is the overall attitude of the teachers in the district toward this proposal? Has the curriculum been reviewed, revised, and adjusted for computer integration? Has computer software been identified that will meet your needs for instruction and instructional management?
The evasive nature of Dr. Leask's responses to his questions soon led Professor Barkley to have some serious reservations. As a result, he suggested to Dr. Leask that perhaps the school district needed to do more extensive planning before making a major investment in computers. To this Dr. Leask replied, "I understand what you are saying, Professor. However, all that I'm asking you to do is to convince the community and the school board that it is important to have computers in the schools as soon as possible and then I'll take care of all of these other details."
The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 2, Principle 2
This situation that Professor Barkley encountered is not uncommon for experts who are approached to serve as consultants. Too often they are asked to support one side of an issue in order to advance the bias or cause of one individual or group rather than to contribute expertise that will help to solve a problem in a manner that is in the best interest of everyone concerned. In this case Professor Barkley felt that he was being asked to help push through a proposal to purchase computers in the absence of a plan for the wise use of those computers. Without such a plan, he reasoned, the purchase of computers at this time might not be an appropriate decision. Indeed, from his knowledge of the history of educational technology in recent decades, he was painfully aware that the rush to purchase new media and technology by schools has often resulted in these new acquisitions either not meeting educational expectations or just being stored away unused. Either way, this result has often led to a disenchantment with educational technology in general and a sincere skepticism about any subsequent new technological development that has become available to the schools.
Knowing that he could not, in good conscience, respond to Dr. Leask's request, Professor Barkley began to steer the conversation in the direction of ways in which he might assist the school district in developing a plan that would help to ensure that technology would have a positive impact on their educational program.
Paul W. Welliver