Elements of Educational Technology

Although the preface to the AECT definition of Educational Technology in Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary states outright that views of educational technology have been “evolving as long as the field has,”  the current definition is :

“Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating
learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing
appropriate technological processes and resources.”

One of the most integral parts of this definition is “resources.”  No doubt, the view of what resources have been available and useful has long been a concern of educators and those involved in the field of educational technology.  Today, however, the word “resources” takes on a much bigger scope and, in my opinion, changes the potential for learning for every person with a connection to the internet.

While the reading describes resources as “people, tools, technologies, and materials designed to help learners,” much of the description is limited to (or at the very least slanted towards) materials that can simply relay information of one sort or another to the learner.  I could certainly spend time discussing the fact that the availability of information in nearly every field has exploded in recent years.  However, as is the case with knowledge acquired through any means, technological or not, the possession of the knowledge if of limited practical use without the ability to apply it to real-world situations and problems.  Although there is a reference in the “Learning” section of this chapter to the different types of learning (retention, understanding and active use), it is not as clear how educational technology can facilitate the “deeper learning.”  Obviously, the ability to efficiently relay concepts and facts is a very valuable asset.  I do feel, however, that something is left out by the limited scope of the definition: community.  (Although this is implied by the inclusion of “people,” I feel this warrants individual recognition.)

As I get ready to publish this post, someone, somewhere is about to take to the internet in search of some analysis of educational technology.  If they happen to come across this post and decide to share their views in the comments area, a connection has been made.  It is possible that a dialogue will then follow in the form of back and forth comments in which we debate some of the points of this post.  Perhaps this reader then tweets the post to a colleague to get their input.  Now another voice joins the conversation.  The process continues as long as the learners are each having a learning need satisfied.   A learning opportunity has presented itself in a form that is something greater than simply “people.”  A learning community has formed.  A chance for individuals to come together to explore an idea, push each others thinking and come away with, potentially, different outcomes.  This idea of a community or network of learners is explored a bit in this post by Will Richardson, in which he looks at the networking of teachers.

Last year, I took part in a program that provided a structure such as this (PLP).  Time and time again, my thinking and learning was enhanced by connections I made with people, most of whom I had never met.  One of the leaders of the program wrote a blog post that highlighted just how much I was influenced by this style of learning.  One idea that I came away with is that the ability to connect and share ideas with a community of people is, perhaps, the best asset of modern educational technology.  It is also becoming increasingly more important for teachers to help students make similar connections.

I don’t mean to argue the fact that there exist now better and more varied ways for content to be relayed to learners.  As a science teacher, it is nearly impossible for me to teach without spending a great deal of time helping my students work their way through the basic content.  The resources described, “people, tools, technologies, and materials designed to help learners,” certainly fit the bill in that regard.  The point is that once the learner has a basic foundation, the development of ideas and the road to deeper understanding comes from the sharing with a greater community.  Because our virtual communities can be as important and enlightening as our face-to-face communities, it is important to recognize and develop these connections in the field of educational technology.

References:
 Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary
“Personal Professional Development” by Karl Fisch
“I Never Knew I Could Have a Network”  by Will Rirchardson
Powerful Learning Practices
Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary

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One response

  1. Jon,
    I like your thoughts about learning communities. An extension of that is that once a teacher sees themselves as co-learners with their students and allow (and help foster) their students to be co-teachers, then a whole new level of learning can take place.
    Mike

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