You are on page 1of 12

Defining Educational Technology for Classroom Learning

Dr. Marshall G. Jones Winthrop University

There is a difference between Technology in Education and Educational Technology. The former describes the application of particular tools, such as computers, in the classroom. The latter is the name of a unique discipline and area of study. This article seeks to provide some basic definitions and to promote a better understanding of Educational Technology as a discipline in order that we can better apply it to classroom learning. Educational Technology or Instructional Technology You may have heard of some terms, such as Educational Technology, Instructional Technology, or Instructional Design and Technology. All of these terms refer to the same field, and they are used by many people interchangeably. Seels and Richey (1994) offered this definition of the field of Instructional Technology Instructional Technology is the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning. (page 1) I would argue that Seels and Richeys definition is a good one for the field. However, for the purposes of discussing the relationship to classroom learning, I prefer the term Educational Technology because it promotes a broader understanding of the application of the field. The term Instructional Technology is often used to define an area of specialization within the field that deals with training, the systematic design of instruction, and the part of our field that is most often associated with professional education as it is practiced in the military industrial complex. This is an important component of the field of Educational Technology and one that has tremendous influence in the development of our field. The term Instruction describes well what is done in those areas, namely training people to do particular tasks. But there is a difference between instruction and education. Instruction implies a narrow focus on a particular task, such as reciting your multiplication tables, locating the subject and verb in a sentence, or balancing a particular chemical equation. This is actually a form of training someone to do a particular task. The goal of instruction is typically narrow and can often result in a visible manifestation of success. So if you are going to assess the results of instruction on locating the subject and verb in a sentence you can see a physical manifestation of it, such as underlining the subject and circling the verb. Instruction often provides quite logical assessment strategies: whatever the skill is, have them perform it. So the term instruction is associated more with task specific learning. Education, however, is a broader term that implies life-long learning, and lifelong learning is a goal associated more with traditional classroom environments than with training departments.

What is Educational Technology | Page 1 of 12

Education is a broad term that describes what happens during classroom learning. While we may have goals for our students during their education, it is often the case that while everybody learns something, not everybody learns the same thing. This is because learning is an internal cognitive event and a complicated one at that. Learning involves many internal cognitive processes, and those cognitive processes are often not visible, or at least do not lend themselves easily to obvious physical manifestations. While we cannot see someone learn their multiplication tables, for example, we can see them provide the correct answers to the question, What is six times seven? Assessing instruction is easy; assessing learning is more difficult. Learning is often a private, internal event for many people, and everyone does not learn the same way. In order for learning to occur, instruction often happens. We provide small, unique instructional modules to help people meet a larger educational goal. This is the nature of curriculum: one thing builds on another. So in the field of Educational Technology we use the broader term Educational Technology because it can absorb the more specific term Instructional Technology. Educational Technology is not the same thing as Technology in Education. Technology in Education is one of the four perspectives we will discuss later but for now the best thing to do is to define the term Educational Technology. What is Educational Technology? Educational Technology is a field of study, much like history or literature is a field of study. Researchers and practitioners in the field of Educational Technology may specialize in particular areas, such as corporate training, k-12 education, or Internet based learning, much like an Historian might focus on American History or European History. But as with most fields, the field of Educational Technology holds some commonly held beliefs. The most important one is that Technology is defined broadly. The term technology comes from the Greek word techn, which was defined by the Greeks as a particular activity or kind of knowledge (Saettler, 1990). So in the Greek tradition techn could be a physical device such as a computer or a video camera, but it could also be a type of knowledge, such as Gardners multiple intelligences (Smith, 2005). Society today defines technology much more narrowly. Technology today is most often used today to mean a device. In Education today most people think of technology almost exclusively as the computer. But technology could be any tool that can be used to help promote human learning including video cameras, digital cameras, MP3 players, Portable Digital Assistants, and, of course, the computer. But in the field of Educational Technology we embrace the original definition of technology to mean not only devices (we do love things that plug in), but also processes and strategies as well. To illustrate this point we offer up the classic Educational Technology question:

Upon its release, what technology had the greatest impact on Western Civilization?

Many people will respond that the printing press had the greatest impact. And while the printing press was important, you need to remember that when it was invented in 1450

What is Educational Technology | Page 2 of 12

not that many people could read. Other people will site the automobile, the airplane, the telephone or the Internet. All of these were major and important inventions and technologies to be sure. But the technology that had the greatest impact on Western Civilization was in fact three field crop rotation. Three field crop rotation, for those of you who arent agrarian by training or disposition, is when you divide up your fields and rotate what you plant in them. Planting the same crop year after year in the same field robs the land of its nutrients. Three field crop rotation in Feudal Europe, according to the Encarta Encyclopedia, meant that during one year: The arable land was divided into three fields: one sown in the autumn in wheat or rye; a second sown in the spring in barley, rye, oats, beans, or peas; and the third left fallow (Encarta, 2005). The following year, the farmer would rotate the crops to a different field. The results were amazing (Saettler, 1990). Three field crop rotation dramatically increased the yield of the crops in Feudal Europe. There was more and a greater variety of foods to eat. Nutrition got better, and when that happened, birth rates sky rocketed. People spent less time worrying about food and could spend more time engaged in other pursuits, such as art, music, and education. There are other examples of technology that do not include a device, such as raised field agriculture in the Peruvian Andes and the use of the assembly line in factories (Saettler, 1990). The point is that technology does not have to be something that plugs in. Technology can also be a set of processes that makes what you do better, easier or more effective. So as this applies to Educational Technology, we certainly DO value hard technologies, like video, computers, MP3 players and other devices and software applications. But we also value soft technologies, such as theories and processes relating to learning. It is important to remember that people in the field of Educational Technology do not see our selves as technicians. We see our selves as applied learning theorists. We use technology in a manner that manifests appropriate learning theory to promote human learning. A Brief and Sketchy History of Technology in the Classroom Teachers and technology have always had a strained relationship. Teachers reactions to the introduction of new technologies ranges from fear to skepticism. Really this is completely understandable because the history of technology in the classroom suggests one very clear pattern: technology is going to replace the classroom teacher! Consider the following: In the early 1890s Thomas Edison invents the motion picture. As film becomes readily available, more popular and easier to produce and distribute, educational experts begin to speculate. Kids love movies, they think. We can put projectors in every classroom. Kids will sit for hours and watch movies. We can put all educational content on the films. It will revolutionize education. It will replace the classroom teacher! Of course, film did not replace the classroom teacher. But teachers are a bit worried by it.

What is Educational Technology | Page 3 of 12

In the 1920s radio, or the ability to broadcast audio messages over wireless signals, became commercially viable. Soon radio was all the rage. People loved to listen to the radio for everything from news to entertainment. Educational experts began to speculate. Kids love radio, they said. We can put radios in every classroom. Kids will sit and listen to the radio for hours. And this is different than film because now we can broadcast live information and prerecorded information. It will revolutionize education. It will replace the classroom teacher. Of course, radio did not replace the classroom teacher. But now two new pieces of technology have been advocated for classroom use. And that use has not included the teacher. Teachers worry even more. In the 1960s and 1970s Educational Television (ETV) is making great strides. States, South Carolina being one of them, begin to make enormous investments in ETV. This, think educational experts, is it. ETV will revolutionize education. Kids love TV, and they will love ETV. And this is, educational experts stress, a completely new technology. Much different than film or radio. This will revolutionize classroom learning. This will replace classroom teachers! Of course, ETV did not replace classroom teachers. But now, we have a pattern. New technologies are introduced to education, and they keep talking about replacing teachers. This is not making teachers comfortable at all. I could go on. And on. There was computer-based education (CBE) in the 1980s and that too was going to revolutionize education. But it didnt. Interactive video disk in the 1990s would REALLY revolutionize education, and replace classroom teachers, but, by virtue of the fact that you are reading this to prepare to become a classroom teacher you have to have figured out that, it did not. But the history of the introduction of technology into classrooms has got to make you nervous. To be fair to the educational experts, I may have exaggerated their desire to replace classroom teachers. And, to their credit (and mine too, I suppose since I am educational expert dealing in technology) they did realize that technology would not replace the teacher. Technology, they rightfully posited, could be used to make good teachers better teachers. And that is about right from my perspective. The bottom line is that classroom teachers will not be replaced by machines. But what machines can do is to make education a richer, fuller experience for learners. More on that in a later article, but the bottom line for the moment is how this relates to the idea of techn. Technology, the device (film, radio, ETV, CBE, ETC.) will not make education better and will not, by itself, promote human learning. But the purposeful, carefully considered and theory driven application of technology to the learning environment will promote human learning.

What is Educational Technology | Page 4 of 12

A Brief and Sketchy History of Educational Technology -OrEducational Technology Goes to War Archie Bunker from All in the Family used to call World War II (WWII) The big one. And for Educational Technology it certainly was. While Educational Technology made steady progress in American schools before WWII, it was WWII that gave the field its big break, if you will. Consider historically where we were during WWII. We were in the worst depression in our history. The economy was terrible. People were very cynical of the military. WWI, while we won, had changed all of our romantic notions about war. WWI had introduced terrible weapons such as the machine gun, poison gas and artillery capable of remarkable accuracy from miles away. You have read about the terrible agony that was trench warfare. It was not pretty. The military had downsized. We lacked personnel and equipment. We had fought the war to end all wars and, quite frankly, we thought that should be enough, thank you very much. But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we were at war. And when war came, we had a lot to do. People volunteered for military in staggering numbers. And we drafted more people. And suddenly we had this remarkable mix of people before us. The men and women in the military varied widely. Some were educated, others were not. But they did have one thing in common: they needed to be trained. And training takes a lot of time. The U.S. Office of Education, led by Commissioner John W. Studebaker was responsible for this (Saettler, 1990). Saettler (1990) wrote the book, figuratively and literally, on the history of Educational Technology. And in his book there is remarkable and compelling detail about how WWII influenced the field of Educational Technology. But there are two important points that need to be made here. The first is that the Military needed a way train people quickly. Classical education was being used in schools and universities at the beginning of WWII. Clearly we did not have time to engage in classical education with millions of new soldiers to train (remember the difference between instruction and education). So the United States Office of Education hired Educational Psychologists to work on this issue. Educational Psychologists were asked this question: How can we train these people quickly and correctly? The Educational Psychologists worked on ways to focus learning into smaller instructional events. They used what they knew about teaching and learning and the research available to them to promote the use of clearly defined instructional objectives. They developed a new, streamlined approach to training. This would be the precursor to Instructional Design, one of the major components of the field of Educational Technology. It was a process to train people. And it was incredibly effective. Techn strikes again. The second point is that the US military spent a great deal of time and money developing training materials that used a large amount of media. Educational Psychologists realized that they could use film to illustrate complex tasks. They could take abstract ideas and make them more concrete. The military had the financial and personnel resources to create educational films in a way that was unique in the history of education. Educational films were used extensively in training every body from Airborne troops to radio repairmen. And they were remarkably successful. This new process for designing instruction coupled with the liberal use of media made for a powerful

What is Educational Technology | Page 5 of 12

combination. Of course, people training to go into combat are a pretty motivate group of learners, to be sure, so a combination of carefully designed instruction and motivated learners helped to guarantee a certain amount of success. Even after WWII the US military would continue to sponsor research and development efforts into the use of Educational Technology. And the soldiers, airmen, and sailors who came through this type of training found it both effective and efficient. As they left the military they would remember the training they went through and they would advocate its use in the businesses they would ultimately run and in the schools they would eventually teach in. Educational Technology as a discipline was born. Perspectives in Educational Technology When people say Educational Technology (or Instructional Technology) they may mean different things. Roblyer (2003) tells us of four of these perspectives: 1. Media and Audio Visual Communication There are many ways to learn using technology, and one of the earliest ways to learn from technology was by using technology as a way to present information to learners. Historically this goes back as early as the 1826 when the lantern slide made it possible to project images onto a screen so that an entire roomful of people could see an image at one time, and indeed by 1874 visual education was becoming a growing educational movement (Saettler, 1990). Before this people lived in a pretty media poor world, and most media was produced for an individual to use, such as a book or a newspaper or magazine. Educators realized that being able to project an image for an entire classroom of students could help to make abstract ideas more concrete. It could also help to bring in images of the outside world that students may have never seen before. The people in the field of Educational Technology who work within this perspective or area are concerned with the design and development of effective communication materials, particularly as they apply to learning with media. They may work with educational films and video or they may be graphic artists who create images to be used in teaching and learning. In schools today we have Media Specialists whose job it is to help schools and individual teachers to use select and implement media solutions in classrooms. And more and more people who work with media and audio visual communication are moving to work with interactive media, such as educational software and online learning environments. 2. Technology in Education When some people hear the term Educational Technology they immediately think of the use of technology in education. But this perspective can be interpreted in many ways. For some people technology in education may mean vocational education, such as traditional shop classes, or classes in Computer Aided Drafting (CAD). In many shop classes today students learn sophisticated technology skills such as digital video editing and robotics. And remember that since we take a broad definition of technology, technology could be anything that is used in any classroom, from the obvious use of the Internet for research on a paper to the less obvious use of power tools for set preparation in a theater class. For others Educational Technology means teaching about the computer. This might mean classes in keyboarding, graphic arts, or other discipline specific

What is Educational Technology | Page 6 of 12

pieces of software. Teaching about the computer used to be defined as computer literacy, a term that means that people know how the computer works and how to perform some troubleshooting and maintenance tasks. Computer literacy may not be as important today as it once was. Many students seem to come to school with a excellent set of technology skills (CNN,2005). For others Educational Technology may mean an Integrated Learning System, such as Accelerated Reader, CCC, or Jostens Learning to name but a few. These systems provide basic instruction and a type of assessment for students. Students will log in with a username and password and work through modules in a variety of subjects from math to music. There will be quizzes and tests for the students to take, and the system can track the performance of the learner to help give the teacher a picture of how well a student is doing. While there are advantages to ILSs they are often seen as a blanket solution to the issue of using technology in the classroom. But too often they are not used in the classroom. Students go to the computer lab and work. In many schools the teacher does not go to the computer lab while students work on an ILS. So if you are asking the question how best to integrate technology into teaching and learning, ILS may not be the best answer. For others Educational Technology means integrating technology into teaching and learning, or, as it often called, technology integration. The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) address issues of technology integration. NETS standards exist for a variety of people in an educational system. NETS-T standards are National Educational Technology Standards Teachers; NETS-S standards are National Educational Technology Standards Students, and NETS-A standards are National Educational Technology Standards Administrators. We will spend a lot of time working with these standards, and everything you do in this class will be based on the use of NETS-T and NETS-S. A full listing and explanation of the NETS-T&S standards is available at: The standards themselves are listed in the table below.

What is Educational Technology | Page 7 of 12

1. Basic operations and concepts Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems. Students are proficient in the use of technology. 2. Social, ethical, and human issues Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology. Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software. Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity. 3. Technology productivity tools Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity. Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works. 4. Technology communications tools Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences. Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences. 5. Technology research tools Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources. Students use technology tools to process data and report results. Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks. 6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions. Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

What is Educational Technology | Page 8 of 12

NETS-T I. A. B. TECHNOLOGY OPERATIONS AND CONCEPTS. Teachers demonstrate a sound understanding of technology operations and concepts. Teachers: demonstrate introductory knowledge, skills, and understanding of concepts related to technology (as described in the ISTE National Education Technology Standards for Students) demonstrate continual growth in technology knowledge and skills to stay abreast of current and emerging technologies. PLANNING AND DESIGNING LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS AND EXPERIENCES. Teachers plan and design effective learning environments and experiences supported by technology. Teachers: design developmentally appropriate learning opportunities that apply technology-enhanced instructional strategies to support the diverse needs of learners. apply current research on teaching and learning with technology when planning learning environments and experiences. identify and locate technology resources and evaluate them for accuracy and suitability. plan for the management of technology resources within the context of learning activities. plan strategies to manage student learning in a technology-enhanced environment.


. A. B. C. D. III.

TEACHING, LEARNING, AND THE CURRICULUM. Teachers implement curriculum plans, that include methods and strategies for applying technology to maximize student learning. Teachers: . facilitate technology-enhanced experiences that address content standards and student technology standards. A. use technology to support learner-centered strategies that address the diverse needs of students. B. apply technology to develop students' higher order skills and creativity. C. manage student learning activities in a technology-enhanced environment. ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION. Teachers apply technology to facilitate a variety of effective assessment and evaluation strategies. Teachers: apply technology in assessing student learning of subject matter using a variety of assessment techniques. use technology resources to collect and analyze data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning. apply multiple methods of evaluation to determine students' appropriate use of technology resources for learning,communication,and productivity.


. A. B.


PRODUCTIVITY AND PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE. Teachers use technology to enhance their productivity and professional practice. Teachers: . use technology resources to engage in ongoing professional development and lifelong learning. A. continually evaluate and reflect on professional practice to make informed decisions regarding the use of technology in support of student learning. B. apply technology to increase productivity. C. use technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, parents, and the larger community in order to nurture student learning. SOCIAL, ETHICAL, LEGAL, AND HUMAN ISSUES. Teachers understand the social,ethical,legal,and human issues surrounding the use of technology in PK-12 schools and apply those principles in practice. Teachers: . model and teach legal and ethical practice related to technology use. A. apply technology resources to enable and empower learners with diverse backgrounds, characteristics, and abilities. B. identify and use technology resources that affirm diversity C. promote safe and healthy use of technology resources. D. facilitate equitable access to technology resources for all students.


What is Educational Technology | Page 9 of 12

3. Computers and computer systems For still others, Educational Technology means keeping the computers and computer networks running. In the last fifteen years or so this perspective has been gaining ground as what many people think of when they hear the term Educational Technology. And as more and more pieces of the educational system rely on technology the more important it is to have people in the building who can keep the computers and the networks up and running. In many schools today teachers report attendance through the schools network, and most report grades are now turned in on the computer. If you add on to that the dependence most people have on electronic mail for communication and the Internet for research you can see how important this perspective is. However it is important to note that technology is a tool to be used in the classroom, and while some educators may have technical skills, most technicians and network managers are not educators. In schools it is important for the people who know the most about teaching and learning (that being the teachers) to make the important pedagogical decisions about how to use technology in the classroom. 4. Instructional Systems While I understand, appreciate, and can work in the three previous perspectives of the field of Educational Technology; this is the perspective that I typically think of when I think of the field of Educational Technology. When thinking of education from a systems perspective one accepts that any system is the sum total of its interconnected components. Banathy (1968 and von Bertalanffy (1968) area good place to start when discussing education from a systems perspective. They argued that all of the components of a system had to work together in order for the system to meet its goals. So within an educational system such as a high school, to take but one example, there are many components that make the high school work. Some components are easy to recognize: teachers, students, administrators, parents, and school board members all impact the educational system. But others are often overlooked, despite their importance. Consider for a moment what would happen to a high school if the janitorial staff did not do its job. And despite the universal criticism of it, what would happen to a school that did not have a school cafeteria? While cleaning services and food preparation may not impact instruction directly, the presence and the quality of these services can make an enormous difference in how effective a school can be. Jones, Harmon, and Lowther (2001) provide us with three principles for educational systems: a. Principle 1: A system is a set of organized components working toward a common goal; b. Principle 2: A change to one component of a system may cause a change in every other component of that system; c. Principle 3: Every educational system is different. So within the Instructional Systems perspective, we hold the belief that all components are important to the success of our ultimate goal, that being to improve human learning, or to help our students meet the curriculum standards

What is Educational Technology | Page 10 of 12

and objectives set before them. Because of that, technology does not hold a more important place than any other part of the system. Within this perspective we combine the teacher and the media as equal parts of the educational system. What becomes important is using the technology to support and promote the improvement of human learning. And within this perspective we realize that learning theory is of vital importance to us as well. Because we must not only have technology, but we must have a way of using that technology in a manner that promotes human learning. We will discuss behavioralist and constructivist learning theories as we move forward in this class, and we will discuss various cognitive learning theories as well. That is to say that we will look at not only technology as a device, but technology as a process. Which, of course, brings us right back to where Saettler (1990) would want us to begin: techn.

Conclusions or- What does this have to do with me? Educational Technology is important to schools. It can be an important and appropriate strategy to help in the advancement of human learning. The use of technology, both the device and the theoretical constructs behind its implementation, can help people to learn because technology tools can be used in learning environments that are active and participatory. For many years technology was considered something that people learned from. Students might watch an educational video, or read the content from a web page. But we know today that technology should be used to create environments where students not only learn from the technology, but use the technology to help them actively master the concepts they are studying. Jonnassen (1999) called these Mindtools, and I quite agree with what he has to say about students using computer tools as a way of working with content to help them master that content. I would remind you that technology is not good; technology is not bad. Arguments from Philosophers like Kipnis (1990), Ferr (1988) and Winner (1986) not withstanding, I consider technology in education value neutral. What matters is not the technology itself but rather how you use that technology to create active, participatory environments that promote human learning. As we begin our study of how to do this, to create these active, participatory environments I feel it is critical that you understand a bit about the history and the underlying philosophy of Educational Technology. This understanding will help you learn to make critical decisions that will help you create learning environments that will help to promote human learning.

What is Educational Technology | Page 11 of 12

References Banathy, B.H., (1968). Instructional Systems. Belmont, CA; Fearon Publishers. Ferr, F. (1988). Philosophy of Technology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice Hall Publishers. Jones, M. G., Harmon, S. W., & Lowther, D. L. (2002). Internet-based learning and Technology Integration: A Systemic Approach. In Reiser, R.A., & Dempsey, J.V. (Eds.). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. (pp. 295-306). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall. Jonassen, D. H. (1999). Computers as Mindtools for Schools: Engaging Critical Thinking. 2nd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Merrill Prentice-Hall, Inc. Kipnis, D. (1990). Technology and Power. New York, NY. Springer-Verlag. Crop rotation: Encarta (2005). Feudal Agriculture. Available: #p52. Retrieved: July 28, 2005. Roblyer, M. K. (2003). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Merrill Prentice-Hall, Inc. Saettler, P. (1990). The Evolution of American Educational Technology. Englewood, CO. Libraries Unlimited. Seels, B. B. and Richey, R. C. (1994). Instructional Technology: The definition and domains of the field. Washington, DC. The Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Smith, M. K. (2002) 'Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences', the encyclopedia of informal education, Last updated: January 28, 2005. von Bertalanffy, Ludwig: (1968) General Systems Theory. New York, NY. George Braziller. Winner, L. (1986). The Wale and the Reactor: A search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago, IL. The University of Chicago Press.

What is Educational Technology | Page 12 of 12