January 17, 2008

Educational technology

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Educational technology is a field of study within education. The term educational technology is often associated with, and encompasses, instructional technology and learning technology. While instructional technology covers technology used within the processes of learning, educational technology includes other systems used in the process of delivering education, such as registration or library systems. One who practices educational technology is called educational technologist. For being an educational technologist a PhD. on the field is required.[citation needed]
Educational technology is not restricted to the education of children, nor to the use of high technology. The particular case of the meaningful use of high-technology to enhance learning in K-12 classrooms and higher education is known as technology integration.


One of the earliest fields of study within educational technology was instructional systems design (ISD). This was developed by the United States military during World War II, in order to train large numbers of people more effectively. In a common ISD model, the ADDIE Model, the steps involved are: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Perhaps the earliest educational technologist was Robert M. Gagné, although many other early scholars may also claim this title.
More recently several universities have opened tracks for graduate programs in the field of Educational Technology.[1][2][3][4] A more extensive list can be found within this database of graduate programs.

Theories and practices

Three main theoretical schools or philosophical frameworks have been present in the educational technology literature. These are Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism. Each of these schools of thought are still present in today's literature but have evolved as the Psychology literature has evolved.


This theoretical framework was developed in the early 20th century with the animal learning experiments of Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, B.F. Skinner and many others. Many Psychologists used these theories to describe and experiment with human learning. While still very useful this philosophy of learning has lost favor with many educators.

Skinner's Contributions

B.F. Skinner wrote extensively on improvements of teaching based on his functional analysis of Verbal Behavior,[5] and wrote "The Technology of Teaching",[6] an attempt to dispel the myths underlying contemporary education, as well as promote his system he called programmed instruction. Ogden Lindsley also developed the Celeration learning system similarly based on behavior analysis but quite different from Keller's and Skinner's models.


Cognitive science has changed how educators view learning. Since the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, learning theory has undergone a great deal of change. Much of the empirical framework of Behaviorism was retained even though a new paradigm was begun. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning. So for example how the natural physiological processes of encoding information into short term memory and long term memory become important to educators.
Once memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's Working memory model were established as a theoretical framework in Cognitive Psychology, new cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Today researchers are concentrating on topics like Cognitive load and Information Processing Theory. These theories of learning are very useful as they guide the design of instructional technologies.


Constructivism is a learning theory or educational philosophy that many educators began to consider in the 1990s. One of the primary tenets of this philosophy is that learners construct their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality or others with different perspectives.
Constructivist learning environments require students to utilize their prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. Under this framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, providing guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge. Constructivist educators must make sure that the prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts being taught. Jonassen (1997) suggests "well-structured" learning environments are useful for novice learners and that "ill-structured" environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators utilizing technology when teaching with the constructivist perspective should choose technologies that reinforce prior learning perhaps in a problem-solving environment.

Instructional technique and technologies

Problem Based Learning and Inquiry-based learning are active learning instructional techniques used to teach learners. Technology can be incorporated into project, problem, inquiry based learning as they all have a similar educational philosophy. All three are student centered, typically involving real world scenarios in which students are actively engaged in critical thinking activities. Both the process students engage in and end products of all the learning theories can be implemented with a number of technological tools. A growing and engaging technology tool that classrooms are beginning to employ that involves active learning are 3D virtual environments, particulary on the classroom interactive whiteboard. One example of this technology is the open source Edusim project.
Learners should be guided during the instructional process, but after initial instruction has taken place these more active techniques may be used (Kirschner et al., 2006). Quite often an instructor will introduce material through a lecture and then offer a think quest or web quest as reinforcement. These teaching strategies would be beneficial because they provide students with a structured presentation of the problem or project. During the first phase students begin the inquiry process, they can brainstorm using web mapping software or an interactive whiteboard to record their initial thoughts and create a plan of action. Both of these products promote student interaction and input into the developmental process.

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