There are five key components of my own definition of educational technology that are meant to tie the multiple facets of the concept together. Key parts of the definition are implicit in the terms chosen, and I purposefully chose this somewhat “between-the-lines” approach in order to allow for future developments within the field (as well as in service of my own preference for economy of statement when defining anything of significant value).
Any technology, whether physical or conceptual, has value-beyond the purely philosophical when it is implemented and subsequently utilized by a population. Implementation is essential, especially when one understands that educational technology is about affecting particular outcomes. The idea that the implementation should be “considered” means additionally that there is an assessment loop built into the process; as outcomes are measured, effective use of technology us repeated, while ineffective use is either improved or abandoned. Indiscriminate implementation is a frivolous use of intellectual, capital and temporal resources, and it is all to often found to be the methodology in education environments. Finally, the considered implementation speaks to the need for effective
leadership. What methodologies will be adopted? What tools will be acquired? The strong leader in education will provide the guidance necessary to ensure the best use of resource.
Appropriate tools, techniques, or processes
When thinking of educational technology, this segment of my definition is likely the piece that first comes to mind. Almost reflexively, the general public, as well as the seasoned educator, looks for the silver bullet in addressing shortcomings in our system of education, and the physical trapping of technology are especially seductive. Certainly, these object have demonstrable value, however techniques and processes in teaching and learning are at least equally important. As educators and more generally, we have developed methodologies for accomplishing tasks and obtaining desired outcomes. These methodologies have been and continue to be refined over time, just as the latest advancements in computing technology continue to roll out unceasingly and with regularity. It is quite important to include the modifier of “appropriate” to this component, otherwise we see an ever-increasing use of technology that adds no value to education yet exacts a heavy price, again in multiple resource categories. The use of appropriate tools, techniques, or processes is much more likely to result in the outcomes that educators desire.
Facilitate the application of senses, memory and cognition
It is in this component of my definition where I stepped the farthest away from the majority of existing definitions of the field. My intent here was to generalize the concept of learning both as a process of internalization as well as demonstration of ability. This formulation might serve as summary of Bloom’s Taxonomy overlaid on learner, where learning outcomes in the form of know, do, and value are summarized by the combination of the human mind and body. But human capabilities are not wholly adequate to the demands of the modern teaching and learning enterprise, and this is where technology as facilitator has a role. The use of video to bring the depths of the universe to the learner’s eyes; the use of the Internet to give the learner instant access to thoughts and observations of humanity’s greatest thinkers–these are examples of technology facilitating the application of our own senses, memories, and cognitive abilities.
Enhance teaching practices
Learning in our formalized education context does not exist in a vacuum; that is, we do not simply provide learners with access to information and resources with the expectation that they will learn through discovery. In fact, our educational infrastructure is based largely on the idea that the learner will progress far more quickly under
the mentor ship of a skilled instructor-both knowledgeable in the subject matter and competent in instructional methodologies. In the previous component discussion I made my case for technology as a facilitator on the learner’s side of education; likewise, technology should also assistance and support to instructors during the teaching and
learning process. Demonstrations, illustrations, instruction across learning styles, all of these are areas in which technology may provide those teaching with more leverage over learner gaps in knowledge and understanding.
Finally, all else might turn out to be simply exercises with no point if we are improve learning outcomes. If no improvements are made with the adoption of new technology, then there is no point to utilizing any technology except for the most basic required to obtain that unchanging level of learning. Therefore, to justify the continued
experimentation with and exploration of new technologies: smart classrooms, use of podcasts, access to the internet, laptops for every child, and on and on, we need to assess our outcomes, make incremental changes in our methodologies to address shortcomings, then assess again, closing the loop in order to evaluate the efficacy of our work. We succeed when we are able to show improved learning outcomes, and as long as our metrics accurately
represent the entire cross-section of the learner’s experience, we have a legitimate case for the continued use of technology in the teaching and learning endeavor.
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