Defining educational technology in 2014

Firstly welcome back to my blog if you haven’t been here in a while then you haven’t missed much because I haven’t been here either! Having a semester or four off studying, changing schools, changing jobs, and now learning in a new role managing and leading almost 20 teachers takes up a bit of your time… and headspace. 

But I’m back and what did I notice first? Change. WordPress now has an “easier way to post”, google docs is now “google drive” but still has a special “docs” viewer within it.  Moodle has even changed and improved the way you interface with course material.. I particularly like the checklists in modules.. very nice, very nice indeed.  But I digress…

loose change

Yes change, just like the loose change in your pocket at the end of a day is a sign you’ve spent some money, or interacted in the consumer world that we live in, so is change ever present in Educational technology.  It’s not just the tools but also the processes that change, as we refine, learn, and redefine what we can and cannot still do with Educational technology.  All educators are on their own journey with Edtech and are at different stages, with each stage having its own rate of change, possibly in proportion to how much you already know.

But underpinning this weeks reflection is the question that was posed to me in our first module – how do you define Educational Technology?

I couldn’t help but think back to my first subject in this Masters, ET501, and the fact that I think I’ve pondered this question before… and here it is: a post from January 2011.
What struck me as fascinating is that the school I now work in has “appropriate technology” as a key guiding principle its Learning and Teaching philosophy.  So without much ado I’ve ended up in a school that is cutting edge in so many ways and has essentially subscribed to the AECT’s defintion of educational technology “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”


Yet as I started up this process of further study again I found myself approaching discussion forums within Moodle in my traditional frame of mind… “devil’s advocate”.  I like to ask challenging questions even when I disagree with the proposition of the question, I like to be provocative and I wonder where that comes from? I could easily sit back and just do the readings and just post some quotes and do “what is expected”… but that is just it …is that really what is expected? Online learning is really still in it’s infancy and we’re subscribing to this process of creating learning communities within courses of digital profiles where we introduce ourselves and share a little personal info in order to feel safe sharing our intellectual opinions. It works, well it seems too but I’ve also never seen it “not work”.  What does that look like? Where is the “naughty class” online? Just my thoughts..


But back to this module reflection, and after reading all the posts in our class discussion I feel there has been none better written than that of a peer, Carrie Day: 

“Educational Technology or Instructional Technology is defined by Roblyer and Doering (2005) as,  “a combination of the process and tools involved in addressing educational needs and problems” (p. 6). This definition sifts through the decades of Educational Technology struggling as a field to define itself. “The process includes the systematic approach for utilizing tools, techniques, theories of learning, and methods from multiple knowledge domains”  (Luppicini, 2005). The tools, ever changing, support teaching and learning to facilitate all aspects of learning. However, Valdez, McNabb, Anderson, Hawkes & Raack (2000) state “the success or failure of technology is more dependent on human and contextual factors than on hardware and software” (p. 6). Seemingly placing the tools secondary to the goal-oriented process.”

She just absolutely nails it.  Just as Luppicini (2005) wrote in his abstract where he quoted the 1977 preface of the AECT definition “I firmly believe that the future of Educational Technology is now in the hands of the thinkers. What is needed is a handful of experienced people who have thought widely and deeply, and who are literally obsessed by the problems posed. These people must have the ability to analyze and synthesize, and, in effect, to invent whole new conceptual frameworks. If they do not have this latter ability, they will soon be reduced merely to improving what is (AECT, 1977).”  I believe Ms Day is one of these thinkers and that as a digital librarian leading over 700 young minds we’re in good hands.

Image source:

Image source:

I also believe that with minds like Koehler, Matthew and Mishra (2009) and the TPACK framework finally Educational Technology is starting to be linked to pedagogical frameworks and concepts like Lee Shulman’s 1986 construct, and hence it no longer stands alone.  I think the term Educational Technology comes laden with all the baggage of unsuccessful applications of “tech” in schools globally.  Of course where there has been success there was always a pedagogical focus first and the process and tools second but rarely is the pedagogy given the kudos for these successes.  Newsletters and word of mouth in parents and communities around these success stories always focus on the tangible “tech tools”.

Finally I wanted to leave you with a little experiment.  Hopefully it shows both sides of this issue of defining educational technology.  Behind technology is just data, binary data and this is computationally powerful but lacking in judgement. I’ve taken all the “data” from our discussion module on this topic and dumped the text into a word cloud creator, in theory it should highlight the key words, the common themes, the strength and common elements to our class’s views on the topic… does it? Or is some form of synthesis still required? 

I leave that thought up to you. The learner.



Koehler, Matthew, and Punya Mishra. “What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)?.” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education 9.1 (2009): 60-70.

Luppicini, Rocci. “A systems definition of educational technology in society.” Educational Technology & Society 8.3 (2005): 103-109.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Valdez G, McNabb M, North Central Regional Educational Lab. O, et al. Computer-Based technology and learning: Evolving uses and expectations. Revised Edition. [serial online]. May 1, 2000;Available from: ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 30, 2014.


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