Why Educational Technology?

The advent of the personal computer and the Internet is impacting upon every aspect of our society. The way we do business, socialize, amuse ourselves and learn are all being radically changed. The use of technology in education is well established, with computer assisted learning programs being available at least as long ago as the early 1980s.

This continually evolving resource is designed to provide an introduction to the topic of educational technology. It is aimed at educators wanting to employ technology in their teaching, technologists – Web designers, developers, multimedia producers etc – contemplating entering this huge and growing market, educational administrators, learners, potential learners, employers or just about anyone with an interest in learning in the 21st century.

A Definition of Educational Technology

Also known variously as e-learning, instructional technology and learning technology, educational technology is the use of technology to support the learning process. Although the term can refer to all kinds of analogue technologies, eg photographs, film, video, audio recordings etc, it is usually used to talk specifically about digital computer technology.

Although technology is widely used in the administration and management of education (eg student records, marketing, procurement, finance etc) and in research, educational technology is only concerned with technology as it impacts upon the learning process, eg in delivering learning materials, facilitating communication and providing assessment and feedback. As society grows ever-more complex, at an ever-faster rate, so the demand for knowledge increases exponentially, with e-learning emerging as a major channel for meeting this demand.

Early technology-mediated education was notoriously tedious for learners ploughing through screen upon screen of text, each ending with the prompt “click next to continue”. The process could be likened to pigeons being conditioned to peck the appropriate colored lever. However, the advent of the information age, and in particular the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies, has taken educational technology into a new era as well as giving it the snappy new name of e-learning.

Educational Technology is BIG – A Google search return 2.6 million hits for “educational technology”, and no less than 106 million for “e-learning”. Technology is already serving millions of learners worldwide. However, in my experience, there remains a considerable sense of unfulfilled potential among the educational technology community and examples of wasted effort and disappointing results abound.

Educational Technology Insight aims to make sense of this rapidly evolving discipline by providing a single portal to relevant technologies, research, opinion, and bodies of expertise within the field. More than this, as part of Web 2.0 in its own right, Educational Technology Insight invites readers to join the debate by contributing their own comments and experience.