Elements of Educational Technology

Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary

Definition:

Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.

Within the latest definition of the concept of educational technology one may find many interesting connotations and implications. The element of facilitating learning within the definition is the topic of this analysis.

It is difficult to separate the two concepts within the definition because in order to achieve deep understanding,  students must be immersed in an authentic educational experience and environment. Therefore, it is our job as educators to facilitate these experiences.

The concept of measuring learning has evolved from retention of a body of knowledge to the applied use of this knowledge in a meaningful way. The definition of educational technology includes the concept of facilitating learning because technology has the potential to provide the environment, resources and tools to attain a higher level of understanding. The author states in his description of the shift in educational philosophy that we must recognize, “…  the learner’s role as a constructor as opposed to a recipient of knowledge”. The learner as constructor is required to use the tools provided to  question, explore, study and assess the world around them. By asking questions and actively seeking out the answer, students will build meaning and relevance in their own education. Technology can provide the platform for this construction by allowing students to actively seek out the answers to their questions, thereby deepening understanding and claiming ownership for their own learning. Once understanding has been achieved the final step in the learning process is to use the newly acquired knowledge and skills in a meaningful way.This demonstration of learning will solidify understanding and can be used by the educator for assessment, evaluation, and revision of techniques.

The concepts outlined above are directly transferable and strikingly similar to the theories governing the value of Project Based Learning. Theories such as student centered learning, in-depth investigation and inquiry on curricular topics within the interest of the student, and the production of an artifact that demonstrates understanding.

An example of the relationship between facilitating learning (using technology) and project based learning is evident in a unit I recently completed with a group of 9th grade English students. After viewing a video from Ted.com where James Geary discusses the concept of metaphor, the students were asked to examine the use of metaphor in everyday language and how metaphor can shape the way we view the world around us.The entire class did research and brainstorming activities on a shared Google Document. We narrowed the ideas down to 6 main topics and the students arranged themselves into groups according to which topic they were most interested in.

The smaller groups then continued to do guided research and activities on their chosen topic with the ultimate goal of creating a short (5-10 minute) documentary examining and educating their audience in an entertaining and informative way. Throughout this process the class was given access to the appropriate technologies during the development, production, and publication of their work. Students examined abstract concepts of metaphor, chosen by them, and were able to create a technological artifact (video) demonstrating their understanding of learning through visually defining and educating their audience.

Through carefully planned guidance, educators can assist students in using technology to facilitate authentic learning experiences, deepen learning, and demonstrate understanding.

Sources:

1. Chapter 1 in Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary

2. Michael M. Grant Volume 5, Issue 1, Winter 2002- Getting a grip on projectbased learning: Theory, cases and recommendation,Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal,Publication Number ISSN 1097 9778. (PDF version of document downloaded January 25, 2011)

3. Video Link: http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning

4. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/Hippocampus_%28brain%29.jpg

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