Professional ethics has long been a topic that has engaged the attention of theorists, philosophers, and professionals. The widely-known Hippocratic Oath written in 15 BCE and still recited today is essentially a set of professional ethics that are intended to guide the practice of medical doctors. Educational Technologists also have a set of professional ethics.
Ethics according to Harpham (1995) should not be seen as a solution to problems but as a structure to the problems that may arise. If we were to combine Harpham, and the propositions of Heinich (1970, 1971) that “technology makes instruction visible” and “technology can only be effective when we pull apart the elements of a process and step by step devise technical means to achieve goals in a systematic way”, it could be argued that professional ethics allow for a guide to apply to the actions of professionals who use technology to determine compliance or non-compliance.
Therefore, professional ethics in educational technology serve as a guide and a basis to determine compliance or non-compliance of the responsibilities of educational technologists.
The AECT Code of Professional Ethics which were constituted “to be guiding principles which are intended to aid members individually and collectively in maintaining a high level of professional conduct to Individuals, the Society and the Profession.”
Ms. Susan, an English Teacher, believes that reading is most essential to children to develop their cognitive skills. With the plethora of e-books available, she has been able to obtain several interesting and interactive e-books which she thinks can serve as a motivation for getting students to read.
She has an online course page on a learning management system where she upload these e-books and makes them accessible to students.
Ms Susan has received high commendations from the Principal, her peers, parents and students for her initiative. Her initiative has caused a greater desire for reading amongst students in her class and her students have excelled in Reading, even better than other students who once scored higher than her students.
Mr. Troy, the Educational Technologist, raises a concern about her actions as it relates to if she has been granted permission by the authors or publishers of the e-books to make them accessible to students. She dismisses the concern as frivolous and asks Mr Troy if he has never heard of the Fair Use policy on educational material.
Mr Troy has been called into a meeting with the Principal as Ms Susan accuses Mr. Troy of not being supportive of her initiative.
Section 3 – Commitment to the Profession
In fulfilling obligations to society, the member:
8. Shall inform users of the stipulations and interpretations of the copyright law and other laws affecting the profession and encourage compliance.
Mr Troy should remain respectful but resolute in his position, quoting relevant laws as necessary but being mindful to compliment the effort that Ms Susan has made since her initiative has the interest of the students at heart although not fully legal.
The Principal and Ms Susan should be made aware that although the Fair Use concept in copyright “recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright or its agent, these instances are only for minimal use that do not interfere with the copyright holder’s exclusive rights to reproduce and reuse the work.”
Furthermore, the Barbados Copyright Act (CAP 300), section 58(2) limits copying of any work for private study and teaching to 5% of a work. The initiative to make the e-book available to all students would need to be approved by the copyright holder as making it available on the online course page constitutes multiple copies and is in excess of 5% of the work to be considered fair use.
Mr Troy being a member of the AECT would have complied with Section 3(8) by informing users of the stipulations and interpretations of the copyright law.
Professional ethics is not about forcing good behavior since an understanding of what constitutes good behavior is a subjective cultural norm. However, having defined principles on what constitutes professional ethics can serve as a consensual norm to establish how members of a profession should be guided.
Technology for education continues to constantly evolve, however, educational technology cannot be seen solely from the perspective of using technology in education, but must include a standard guide-post to which professionals agree upon. This guide-post being the code of professional ethics, would not and should not evolve as rapidly as technology but can serve as a differentiating factor between a person using technology in education from an Educational Technologist.
Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (n.d.a). A code of professional ethics. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://aect.site-ym.com/members/group_content_view.asp?group=91131&id=309963
Harphram, G. G. (1995). Ethics. In F. Lentricchia. & T. McLaughlin (Eds.), Critical terms of literary study (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Januszewski A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary. New York: Routledge.
Laws of Barbados. (2006). CAP 300: Copyright Act. Retrieved September 14, 2015 from http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=191403