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

All the Facts, Please

The Situation
Professor Joe Barkley had gained a national reputation for his expertise in the use of computers in schools. Not only had he worked closely with a number of school districts in developing innovative applications of computers to their educational programs but he had also visited several school districts that had made major commitments to incorporating computers into their daily operations. Furthermore, he kept up with all of the educational computing magazines and journals so that he would be aware of the most current trends and research in the field. Professor Barkley was, indeed, a recognized expert in his field.

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."


Discussion

The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 2, Principle 2
In fulfilling obligations to society, the member shall represent accurately and truthfully the facts concerning educational matters in direct and indirect public expressions.

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
Professor Emeritus of Education
Pennsylvania State University


Updated January 21, 2008
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