What is educational technology?
As an academic discipline, the study of educational technology prepares individuals by helping them acquire a deeper understanding and mastery of:
- learning resources: messages, people, materials, devices, techniques and settings;
- processes for analyzing and devising solutions to those problems through research, theory, design, production, evaluation, utilization;
- the processes involved in organization and personnel management.
The focus is on effective processes to facilitate learning using technologies and understanding the impacts of technology on learners and organizations.
Areas of specialization may include distance learning, human performance technology, technology integration and management, media design and development, learning sciences, instructional design, change management, and communications processes. It should be noted that the field is not merely concerned with learning technical skills nor the simplistic use of technology for technology’s sake in teaching, a common misperception by non-educators. Practitioners in the field typically hold an advanced degree, Master's or doctorate.
The Association for Educational Communications and Technology, the professional society for ET, defines it as:
Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.
As a field, educational technology emphasizes communication skills and approaches to teaching and learning through the judicious use and integration of diverse media. Scholars in the field examine the uses of innovative media and technologies for education, examining all aspects from direct student learning to management and impacts on institutions. As in all forms of applied technology, the field studies how theoretical knowledge and scientific principles can be applied to problems that arise in a social context. Practitioners in educational technology seek new and effective ways of organizing the teaching and learning process through the best possible application of technological developments. These activities rely upon a body of knowledge for successful and ethical implementation, rather than routine tasks or isolated technical skills.
Research and Knowledge Base
The field provides the research base for effective utilization of new media in education and by default is interdisciplinary in its approaches and theories. This may include human-computer interaction and cognition, social and behavioral aspects of media in learning, or change and innovation theory among social and cultural groupings as the basis for research and study.
The knowledge base for the field has been well documented by the discipline’s major professional organization, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). While some programs refer to the discipline as instructional technology or instructional design, the UHM department has taken the more current terminology of “educational technology” reflecting the aspects of the field that go beyond instructional development to include the wider social and behavioral impacts of technology on education.
For a sense of the range of the field, check out the AECT web site.