Learning from Mistakes and Ethics #IDT

For my Foundations of Instructional Design and Technology course, I offered my thoughts on ed-tech cyclical failures and a need for ethical design.

Comments to my discussion board post, which is locked away inside a LMS, referred to ed-tech adoption and implementation within schools or ethics. After reading my initial post, one instructional designer from the corporate world wondered if teachers really did have that much influence in regards to what ed-tech sticks. Others commented on how ed-tech promises to be a cure-all, but never is, or how ed-tech needs deliberate planning and instructional strategies to support its use.

Regarding ethics, here’s the most insightful comment:

As for choosing ethics models, it seems like an impossible task. While educators can probably all agree on the loose expectation — to make teaching decisions with the needs and interests of students in mind — the specific behaviors this actually entails are elusive. We are back to the essential question, “What do students need?” This is a question educators, researchers, psychologists have been disputing forever. Standardizing an ethics expectation with a clear and actionable model is a tall task indeed.

So, with that, the long tail of ed-tech failures in classrooms and the quagmire of ed-tech, economics, and ethics.

After reading chapters 1 and 3 of Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology by Robert A. Reiser, I had two thoughts running almost parallel, as I’m sure in the future they will meet, I’m just not sure where and how yet.

First, I was struck by how clearly Reiser showed the cyclical hype-disillusionment reception of instructional media. The timeline begins with the visual instruction movement of the early 1900s, then continues with audiovisual media, radio, television, and the personal computer. Presently, we could extend this timeline with MOOCs. The year 2012 was deemed “The Year of the MOOC,” quickly followed by headlines in 2014 questioning whether the MOOC was dead (and now, some have observed the MOOC founders are jumping ship.) Larry Cuban, who still blogs about instructional technology and public education, often concludes that the lack of impact with each new technology is a combination of factors: a lack of guidance, resistance to change, and low-quality or technical problems. As budding instructional technologists, we should remember these failures to ensure our future work avoids this problems. Yet, we should also look carefully at how these cycles begin.

Reiser states that the visual instruction movement invested and lost more than $50 million dollars, which immediately brought to mind the $1.3 billion iPad rollout and failure in Los Angeles. Returning to the visual instruction movement, we see a similar enganglement of public education and instructional technology/media. In 1908, the Keystone View Company “published Visual Education, a teacher’s guide to lantern slides and stereographs.” Why might they create such a guide? In 1905, Keystone  “began its Educational Department, selling views and glass lanterns slides” – the same year it incorporated and became “the largest business of its kind in the world” (Wikipedia). Perhaps they recognized the need reach new customers by targeting schools. One hundred years later, history repeats itself with the Chromebook and Google Classroom. Although Google Apps for Education started in 2006 with Arizona State University, one might argue that the Chromebook and Google Classroom work in tandem to keep students and schools dependent on Google products. More recently, the online ed-tech news site EdSurge wrote in 2015 this headline: How to Get Your Name into the Minds and Hearts of Teachers. The answer: “Sponsor an Edcamp-in-a-Box, and you will have an opportunity to put your company’s brand right into the hands of dozens of motivated and impactful teachers!”

Which brings me to the second thought I had: ethics. In chapter 1, Resier notes the 2008 AECT definition of instructional design and technology includes “one key term” ethics: “This term focuses attention on the fact that those in the profession must maintain a high level of professional conduct” (4). The text is pretty thin on what exactly ethical conduct is outside of professionalism and references the AECT Code of Ethics. The code has two parts: “With respect to self” and “With respect to others.” Under “others,” the code states, “Exercises professional judgment in the choice of teaching methods and materials appropriate to the needs and interests of each student.” Which brings back to this long history of designing and developing instructional methods and models around products. What theories and research should IDT professionals use to guide the selection and implementation of technology? Who should IDT look to for guidance?

For those working in public education, the stakes are high, especially for those working in K-12 schools that serve students who are still developing. Beyond keeping students’ best interests at heart, there are also public funds to respect and use wisely, which means not being fooled by ed-tech marketing and choosing instructional media and technologies that will endure. Back to Google, the Chromebook, which was adopted by many school systems to provide one-to-one computing, is now five years old, and facing an End of Life Policy. This means these Chromebooks may or may not stop receiving security updates. For schools that depended on Google for security, how will they adapt and how will protect students’ personal identifiable information (PII)? These are ethical questions not only for school administrators but also for the instructional technology staff who guide these decisions.

Again, what ethical models should we, as IDT professionals, use to guide our instructional media and technology choices?

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