What is educational technology?
At first, this may seem as though it can be defined by a simple, yet precise, dictionary definition such as the one included on Wikipedia. However, it is more complex than it seems. With a long and often forgotten history, educational technology encompasses a variety of elements that cannot be summarized properly in a but a few lines or two.
However, the bigger you go, and the more you try to include, the more difficult it becomes to synthesize into a working definition that includes all the complexities it should, but is still easy to comprehend. In order to achieve this, I really needed to reflect on my own understanding of educational technology, how I use it, and how it permeates the school and the division in which I teach.
Where did it come from?
As a history buff and teacher, I feel it always important to look at the past to understand the present and change the future. For those reasons, I felt it important to really look back and see what kind of history educational technology has and how this history has helped to form a current and contemporary definition of educational technology. You can find its history anywhere on the internet, either by reading short articles or watching YouTube videos like the one below:
Although definitely biased towards Smart Technologies in the more recent years, this video can help contribute to the notion of what educational technology means for us in today’s world. History plays an important role in understanding where we come from and what this means for our current age. Education, as a whole, has evolved throughout centuries, with a new technology defining the way we learn and grow as a society. The most recent tools or ideas – be it the Pythagorean Theorem, the chalkboard, the floppy disk, the computer, or the internet – have all helped learners develop both the skills and the knowledge required to meet the outcomes set out by educational ministries.
Most timelines agree that educational technology didn’t start out as such. Usually, the tech comes from different areas of development, such as military or business purposes. However, they tend to be used well within education as a means to improve the learning and growth of all individuals.
To be able to define educational technology, you need to address what is included in this definition. As previously mentioned, it can be any tool, idea, notion, or device that can be used in education to help, enhance, or improve learning. The video above noted quite a few examples of previous objects and ideas known as technology in their time; however, this video is woefully incomplete. So many other things have helped to deepen
understanding and comprehension in particular topics. Take, for example, the microscope. A thoroughly impressive technological advancement, one that continues to improve upon itself to this day. Biology classes would not be what they are today without this piece of technology, which helps not only to deepen understanding, but also to intrigue learners and help them become more involved in their learning. That is merely one example of a piece of technology used in the classroom that can enhance learning. So many more exist, as I am continually newly inspired week by week through Twitter, a technological piece itself that helps spread other tech ideas through the use of hashtags such as #edtech and #edtechchat.
A quick look at school supply lists, and you can see both old and new educational technologies that have withstood the test of time to be seen as critical for the learning to progress throughout the year. A quick look at Wilfrid Walker’s Supply List for 2016-2017 (my previous school), and you see the tried-and-true necessities such as pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners, highlighters, scissors, glue sticks, duo-tangs, dictionaries, , calculators, rulers, and geometry sets, to name a few.These, too, were on my elementary class lists fifteen years ago. At one point, these were the pinnacle of the edtech advancement; a means to achieve educational goals. However, new and improved things have made the list, such as dry erase markers and earphones for a computer. These are the new supplies – the newer bits of educational progression – that continue to help students learn to their best. Other things have been replaced – the good ol’ floppy disk from my list has become extinct, as has its’ successor, the USB stick. Although still a useful piece of technology, the USB stick is no longer required with educational advancements such as Google Drive, where documents and presentations are saved automatically, available on any computer with access to internet. So much so that our newest computers in our schools – Chromebooks – have access only to Google Drive and the Internet. Gone are the days of accessing Word – a huge advancement in educational technology – on every computer in the school.
What’s the purpose?
The purpose of educational technology has permeated this entire blog post thus far; its’ goal is to continually evolve and grow to help learners and educators achieve their own goals and requirements through advanced means. This is not all.
The importance of this video is that educational technology does not only help improve education through the use of different devices, tools, and ideas. It helps to inspire it. Different skills, intelligences, and abilities can be targeted through the use of educational technology to help diversify the classroom environment. Differentiated learning and instruction is all the more possible with the technology that exists, and assistive technology is in itself an educational domain that offers many the opportunities to thrive in areas they thought impossible. When I was tutoring at the Neil Squire Society in the past, it was incredible to see the ways that Dragon Naturally Speaking and even Zoom Text could help learners with certain difficulties achieve their goals – and even the same goals as those that did not struggle with those same difficulties. Educational technology offers everyone the chance to meet their needs in the classroom and grow at their own individual paces.
Final thought: Tech as education vs tech for education
Briefly, when I was thinking this week of my own personal definition of educational technology, I began to think of tech as education vs tech for education. Technology is great and helps to enhance learning in multiple ways. However, technology cannot replace education. It can only enhance it and help it grow. The idea of robots as teacher has been around even since I was in elementary school with television shows like the Jetsons. This, in my opinion, can never happen (as we discussed in class this week as well). I firmly believe that technology cannot be the sole means to achieve our educational goals. Now, this can be argued that everything we use in the classroom is, in fact, a form of technology and therefore tech is education. I tend to disagree. Relationships, social skills, and behaviours permeate our schools. Discussions – a tried-and-true teaching technique that continues to be used in classrooms – are essential to growth and development. All of these are intertwined with the knowledge outcomes we wish to achieve in the classroom. Technology can help, but it is not education on its own.
Personal contemporary definition
Therefore, in a nutshell, educational technology is a ensemble of ideas, notions, tools, and devices that help to nourish and grow students’ abilities, understanding, and knowledge in a way that can diversify and inspire their learning, all the while helping them meet their personal and educational goals. It is a means to enhance our education, and help make it as approachable and individual as possible. This is not a complete definition. As I mentioned early on in the post, I do not believe educational technology can be summarized in but a few lines. It is a beginning to what educational technology can mean, but that is all.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Your comments are always welcome below!