What is Edtech?

My personal understanding of educational technology has evolved over the last 20 years from my experiences as a student and now teacher. Very simply, Edtech to me means any technology that is used for educational purposes. This is a very broad statement when we consider the technological changes and advances that have occurred in our lifetime.

tech·nol·o·gy /tekˈnäləjē/

noun: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.

Educational technology could then mean that the technology serves a purpose to teach, provide instruction or information. This week during our lecture, Dr. Couros shared two definitions of educational technology from The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT):

My own understanding of educational technology aligns more closely with the 2008 definition and is influenced by my personal experience in school.  I started Kindergarten in the mid-1990s, which is around the same time that the constructivist movement in technology started to gain momentum. “Early advocates of constructivism used the term as an umbrella term for a wide range of innovative instructional methods” (Molenda, 2008, p. 15).

In school, I remember thinking of what what we would now consider educational technology as fun and exciting parts of the day.  An example was the use of our school “mini-lab” – a collection of Macintosh Classic computers.  The highlight of our “computer” time was practicing All the Right Type. Then eventually we could type up final copies of any writing assignments.  At this point, technology was used as a substitution tool (based on the SAMR model). 

Some of these early experiences in technology followed the broad principals according to M.P. Driscoll and were highlighted in the “Historical Foundations” chapter by Michael Molenda. These include:

  1. Embed learning in complex, realistic, and relevant environments. 
  2. Provide for social negotiation as an integral part of learning. 
  3. Support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation. 
  4. Encourage ownership in learning. 
  5. Nurture self-awareness of the knowledge construction process

The standout principal to me was #4 – Encourage ownership in learning.  By incorporating new technology at school, I developed an interest in exploring technology (especially the computer) at home.  The important part about these experiences is it gave me the confidence to try new things and not be afraid of “breaking” the technology tool (something that can often be a barrier for older generations and using technology).  This carefree and fearless attitude allowed me to discover how technology tools worked and apply my knowledge in different settings. 

Social media has been a huge part of how my understanding and practice of educational technology has been shaped.  Tony Bates describes a variety of different technologies, like blogs, wikis, YouTube videos and other school media sites.  The idea of creating user generated content and sharing/exchanging information is an exciting way to create online communities.  This became extremely important during the Spring 2020 COVID-19 pandemic shutdown as we tried to continue our daily education routines online. 

My classmate Melinda highlighted some very important issues regarding the digital divide and the students who benefit from technology.  This was painfully obvious during the remote learning period.  The access to technology was a benefit for students who had technology and Internet at home during the shutdown.  The new remote learning options were harmful for students who did not have access as they were essentially left out from all the educational opportunities in the spring.  Neil Postman explained these ideas in his article “Five things we need to know about technological change”. While there were many advantages to new technologies during this period, there were corresponding disadvantages (Zoom fatigue, anyone?).

So where does this leave us? Is there a contemporary definition of educational technology?

The TPACK model shows that when the three different areas of education and technology intersect (Technichal, Content and Pedagogical Knowledge), we are able to create a seamless educational experience.  Technology is no longer an add-on or “fun” tool in schools, but rather a part of education every moment of every day.  It is up to educators to support students and create rich learning experiences. I recently discovered the Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) report and the challenge of how we use technology education today.  A major conclusion was that digital technology in education is not optional and can and should bring joy and engagement. I would love to hear your thoughts on this report and how it influences our ideas of educational technology today!

Until next time, 

@Catherine_Ready

 

8 thoughts on “What is Edtech?

  1. Hi Catherine! Great blog post. I love how much you focused on the definition of educational technology and how it has changed and molded over your experience. I remember the excitement of using “All the Right Type” too, and I think we used “Math Circus” too! I think you do an excellent job of explaining your definition and connecting it to the readings we had this week. It’s crazy to imagine how much things have evolved over time and like you said, we have gotten better at blending technology into our classrooms instead of just substituting it. I have never heard of ETAG before so thank you for pointing that out and I’ll be sure to check it out!

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I credit my excellent typing skills to All the Right Type 😂. I don’t know much about the ETAG resource yet, but felt the image I shared to be very fitting for our contemporary ideas of edtech!

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  2. Great post Catherine! I loved the part at the end when you mentioned the TPACK Model and how technology is no longer an add-on or “fun” tool in schools. At the beginning of the school year my principal sent out an email about purchasing Mathletics. He wanted to know how many teachers were using Mathletics as part of the daily math routine, as opposed to using it as a “filler” in class. He encouraged teachers to really look at how they used the program and whether or not it could be replaced by some free online math websites, because Mathletics is crazy expensive! I think that this needs to happen more often. I really enjoyed reading your post!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Allison. That is interesting about Mathletics and smart for schools to continue to reflect on the tools they use. In my school, students have used Mathletics for a few years, but I wonder if it is starting to get boring or “old news”. You’re right – these conversations need to happen way more often and we need to think if the tool is enhance or engaging our students!

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  3. Great post. The point about digital technology not being optional was very interesting. I have seen an increase in Ts adapting and effectively using digital tech but many I work with still see it as optional in my opinion. Can it be mandated that digital tech has to be incorporated? There would be a big push back from some I work with on that.

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