Students involved in a process that allows a hands-on approach

How would you feel if every few years they change the word that we know as “milk”?  What kind of implications would this have in societal coherence and comprehension?  What if some regions were slower to adapt to the change than others?  It seems that over time producers, venders, and consumers would find themselves in whirlwind of confusion and frustration.  Fortunately, the word “milk” is pretty concrete and has been around a long time and I don’t see the term changing anytime soon.  Unfortunately, the term “educational technology” is much more abstract and over the years this scenario of change has been a reality.

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) is one of the primary standards for defining educational technology.  With regard to the definition, the AECT has made changes over the years.  So, does this mean we can blame them for any confusion in the term? Well, the reality is that the rapid advances of technology and its uneven distribution to society seem to be the main culprit to varied understandings of the term.  Meanwhile, the AECT is making their best effort to create a standard definition in a changing world.  In Chapter 1 of Educational Technology: “A Definition with Commentary”, the AECT admits that the definition will continue to undergo changes in the future. ( p. 1)

The current AECT definition states: Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (p.1).  This definition was carefully constructed with careful thought on each word.  However, the rest of this post will focus primarily on the processes, as it relates to the definition, and my educator’s perspective of the teacher’s role despite the inequality in the distribution of technology.

The “process” in education can be seen as a collaborative strategy for how and what students learn.  In chapter 1 it is defined as a series of activities directed toward a specified result (p.11).  It goes on to inform that prior to the 1990’s the process of technology was seen more as a tool to be in the teachers’ hands to apply to the lessons.  Later, a slow shift began by empowering students to use technology for the purpose of discovering and developing their own learning.  However, this led to a debate in education that hasn’t been able to find clear answers; how much teacher control is necessary and/or appropriate in this process?  In the same way, producers of educational technology resources struggle between providing a process that presents  technology to inform the learner or providing a  process that allows the students to manipulate technology for their learning needs.  None the less, applying a technological process to either learning environment requires a specific plan.

Therefore, the teacher is often navigating his or her lessons to satisfy the approved process of the administration while tending to the learning needs of the students.  Unfortunately, in my experience as a teacher, sometimes I have been in the middle of a tug-a-war between both sides.  In referring to the process in chapter 1 (p.11) the systematic approach to learning involves the teacher implementing the process in which students are merely recipients of knowledge.  However, earlier in the chapter, in the section “Facilitating”, it states: “With the recent paradigm shift in learning theories has come a greater recognition of the learner’s role as a constructor as opposed to a recipient of knowledge.” (p.4).  Again, in the section “Llearning” it states:  “Pursuing deep learning implies different instructional and assessment approaches than surface learning, so this shift in connotation has profound implications for what processes and resources are “appropriate.” ” (p.6).   Interpreting this for the purpose of educational technology means that the process should allow teachers to more focused on facilitating the inspiration while students need to be more involved in creating with the technology tools.  Yet, even if the administrative process supports the teachers in their endeavors to empower the students, there are other factors that may limit the educational technology learning process.

One of the limiting factors for teachers in implementing a process for educational technology is the unequal distribution of technology.  In my opening paragraph I used the milk scenario to imagine how confusion would mount among regions and the supply chain if a simple term such as milk was changing regularly.  In essence that has been a problem for educational technology.  In modern educational environment the concept of using technology has such a vast interpretation.  Starting from the point of reference of how schools and districts across the United States vary with what they understand and/or can provide in the way of technology.  Then we could look within specific districts and schools and see that not all teachers have equal knowledge or access to technology.  Unfortunately it does not stop there, even the students have varying levels of knowledge and access of technology.  In “A History of Instructional Media (Robert A. Reiser p. 60) much data is given concerning the increase of technology installation over the last decade and a half, but he cites that not all teachers and students have equal access.  He goes on to say “as has been the case throughout the history of instructional media, an increased presence of technology in the schools does not necessarily mean an increased use of that technology for instructional purposes.”  In my opinion, this shows that lack of funds and/or resources is not the only limiting factor, but it takes time changing and disseminating a process among the participants.

In conclusion, it is necessary through the passing of time there is a need to continually expand and modify the definition of educational technology.  It is also important to establish the process of educational technology that allows students to work within a technology format, giving them the opportunity to apply real world application to the learning process.  Unfortunately, many schools and educators have struggled to develop or maintain a process of high level of educational technology.  In their defense, I think the pace of technological advances is much faster than the adaption pace of education and society.  The good news is that there seems to be advancement, but there will always be front runners and too-slow-turtles in this race we call educational technology.

AECT, Chapter 1 in Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary.  Definition and Terminology Committee of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology.
Robert A, Reiser (2001) A History of Instructional Design and Technology:
Part I: A History of Instructional Media
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