Educational technology (also called learning technology) is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”The term educational technology is often associated with, and encompasses, instructional theory and learning theory. While instructional technology covers the processes and systems of learning and instruction, educational technology includes other systems used in the process of developing human capability. Educational Technology includes, but is not limited to, software, hardware, as well as Internet applications and activities.
Educational technology is most simply and comfortably defined as an array of tools that might prove helpful in advancing student learning. Educational Technology relies on a broad definition of the word “technology”. Technology can refer to material objects of use to humanity, such as machines or hardware, but it can also encompass broader themes, including systems, methods of organization, and techniques. Some modern tools include but are not limited to overhead projectors, laptop computers, and calculators. Newer tools such as “smartphones” and games (both online and offline) are beginning to draw serious attention for their learning potential.
Those who employ educational technologies to explore ideas and communicate meaning are learners or teachers.
Consider the Handbook of Human Performance Technology. The word technology for the sister fields of Educational and Human Performance Technology means “applied science.” In other words, any valid and reliable process or procedure that is derived from basic research using the “scientific method” is considered a “technology.” Educational or Human Performance Technology may be based purely on algorithmic or heuristic processes, but neither necessarily implies physical technology. The word technology, comes from the Greek “Techne” which means craft or art. Another word “technique”, with the same origin, also may be used when considering the field Educational technology. So Educational technology may be extended to include the techniques of the educator.
A classic example of an Educational Psychology text is Bloom’s 1956 book, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy is helpful when designing learning activities to keep in mind what is expected of—and what are the learning goals for—learners. However, Bloom’s work does not explicitly deal with educational technology per se and is more concerned with pedagogical strategies.
According to some, an Educational Technologist is someone who transforms basic educational and psychological research into an evidence-based applied science (or a technology) of learning or instruction. Educational Technologists typically have a graduate degree (Master’s, Doctorate, Ph.D., or D.Phil.) in a field related to educational psychology, educational media, experimental psychology, cognitive psychology or, more purely, in the fields of Educational, Instructional or Human Performance Technology or Instructional (Systems) Design. But few of those listed below as theorists would ever use the term “educational technologist” as a term to describe themselves, preferring terms like “educator”. The transformation of educational technology from a cottage industry to a profession is discussed by Shurville, Browne, and Whitaker.
Educational technology is intended to improve education over what it would be without technology. Some of the claimed benefits are listed below:
- Easy-to-access course materials. Instructors can post the course material or important information on a course website, which means students can study at a time and location they prefer and can obtain the study material very quickly.
- Student motivation. Computer-based instruction can give instant feedback to students and explain correct answers. Moreover, a computer is patient and non-judgmental, which can give the student motivation to continue learning. According to James Kulik, who studies the effectiveness of computers used for instruction, students usually learn more in less time when receiving computer-based instruction and they like classes more and develop more positive attitudes toward computers in computer-based classes.
- Wide participation. Learning material can be used for long distance learning and are accessible to a wider audience.
- Improved student writing. It is convenient for students to edit their written work on word processors, which can, in turn, improve the quality of their writing. According to some studies, the students are better at critiquing and editing written work that is exchanged over a computer network with students they know.
- Subjects made easier to learn. Many different types of educational software are designed and developed to help children or teenagers to learn specific subjects. Examples include pre-school software, computer simulators, and graphics software.
- A structure that is more amenable to measurement and improvement of outcomes. With proper structuring it can become easier to monitor and maintain student work while also quickly gauging modifications to the instruction necessary to enhance student learning.