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/ Home / Library / Articles on Education / Information & Technology / The Field of Educational Technology: Update 2000: A Dozen Frequently Asked Questions
The Field of Educational Technology: Update 2000: A Dozen Frequently Asked Questions
Author: Donald P. Ely
Date: March 2000
Educational technology is a term widely used in the field of
education (and other areas), but it is often used with different
meanings. The word technology is used by some to mean hardware-the
devices that deliver information and serve as tools to accomplish a
task-but those working in the field use technology to refer to a
systematic process of solving problems by scientific means. Hence,
educational technology properly refers to a particular approach to
achieving the ends of education. Instructional technology refers to
the use of such technological processes specifically for teaching and
Other terms, such as instructional development or educational
media, which refer to particular parts of the field, are also used by
some to refer to the field as a whole.
The purpose of this digest is to provide background
information and sources that help one to understand the concept of
educational technology. This digest should serve as a "pathfinder" to
relevant and timely publications that view the field from a variety
- What is educational technology?
The most recent definition of the field (which uses the term,
instructional technology) has been published by the Association for
Educational Communications and Technology (AECT):
Instructional Technology is the theory and practice of
design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of
processes and resources for learning.
The complete definition, with its rationale, is presented in the AECT
* Seels, B.B. & Richey, R.C. (1994). Instructional technology:
The definition and domains of the field. Washington, DC: Association
for Educational Communications and Technology.
An overview of the field can be found in:
* Gagne, R. M. (Ed.). (1987). Instructional technology:
Foundations. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
* Anglin, G. J. (Ed.). (1995). Instructional technology: Past,
present, & future (2nd ed.). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
- What are the roots of educational technology?
The field is essentially a 20th century movement with the major
developments occurring during and immediately after World War II.
What began with an emphasis on audiovisual communications media
gradually became focused on the systematic development of teaching
and learning procedures which were based in behavioral psychology.
Currently, major contributing fields are cognitive psychology, social
psychology, psychometrics, perception psychology, and management. The
basic history of the field was written by Saettler.
* Saettler, P. E. (1990). The evolution of American educational
technology. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
A briefer history may be found in:
* Reiser, R. (1987). Instructional technology: A history. In
Robert M. Gagne (Ed.), Instructional technology: Foundations. (pp.
11-48). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- What is a good source of research findings?
* Thompson, A., Simonson, M., & Hargrave, C. (1996).
Educational technology: A review of the research. 2nd ed. Washington,
DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.
* Jonassen, D. H. (Ed.). (1996). Handbook of research for
educational communications and technology. New York: Macmillan
- What do educational technologists do?
Most educational technologists carry out one or a few of the
functions performed in the field. For example, some design
instruction, some produce instructional materials, and others manage
instructional computing services or learning resources collections.
The competencies for instructional development specialists and
material design and production specialists are published in:
* Richey, R. & Fields, D. (Eds.). (In Press). Instructional
design competencies: Essential and advanced professional standards.
Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology
In the area of instructional design, the paper by M. Tessmer and J.
Wedman, "The practice of instructional design: A survey of what
designers do, don't do, an why they don't do it" is helpful. (See
ERIC document Reproduction Service No. ED 404 712)
- Where are educational technologists employed?
Until recently, most educational technologists were employed in
schools and colleges as directors of resource centers and developers
of curriculum materials. Many are still employed in such positions,
but increasing numbers are being employed by training agencies in
business, industry, government, the military, and the health
professions. Colleges and universities employ individuals who are
involved in instructional improvement programs that use a variety of
- Where do educational technologists obtain professional education?
Professional programs are offered mostly at the graduate level,
although there are a few two-year postsecondary programs in junior
and community colleges. Lists of programs are found in:
* Branch, R. M., & Minor, B. B. (Eds.). (1999). Graduate
programs in instructional technology (pp. 154-196) In Robert M.
Branch & Mary Ann Fitzgerald (Eds.). (1999). Educational media and
technology yearbook. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
* Johnson, J. K. (Ed.). (1995). Degree curricula in educational
communications and technology: A descriptive directory (5th ed.).
Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and
- What fields offer good preparation for educational technology?
Many people enter the field following an undergraduate program in
teacher education. More people come from the basic disciplines of the
arts and sciences-English, sociology, communications, psychology, the
physical sciences, and mathematics. Although there seldom are
prerequisites for study in the field, persons who have good
preparation in psychology and mathematics seem to have a head start.
Formal course work and experience in human relations are helpful.
- What are the major professional organizations?
In the United States, most educational technologists would be a
member of one or more of the following associations:
* American Educational Research Association (AERA)
1230 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-3078
* American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)
1640 King Street, Box 1443, Alexandria, VA 22313
* Association for Educational Communications & Technology
1800 North Stonelake Drive, Bloomington, IN 47404
* International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)
1300 L Street NW, Suite 1250, Washington, DC 20005
* International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
1787 Agate Street, Eugene, OR 97403-1923
* Society for Applied Learning Technology (SALT)
50 Culpeper Street, Warrenton, VA 20186
Major organizations in other parts of the world include:
* Association for Media & Technology in Education in
3-1750 The Queensway, Suite 1318
Etobicoke, Ontario M9C 5H5, Canada
* Association for Learning Technology (ALT)
Headington Hill Hall
Oxford OX3 0BP
- What publications do educational technologists read?
The most frequently read journals include:
* British Journal of Educational Technology, published by
Blackwell Publishers Limited, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1FH, United
* Learning and Leading with Technology, published by ISTE.
* Innovations in Education and Training International,
published by AETT, Kogan Page Ltd., 120 Pentonville Rd., London N1
9JN, United Kingdom
* Educational Technology, published by Educational Technology
Publications, 700 Palisade Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
* Educational Technology Research and Development, published by
AECT. 1800 North Stonelake Drive, Bloomington, IN 47404
* Journal of Research on Computing in Education, published by
ISTE. 1787 Agate Street, Eugene, OR 97403-1923
* TechTrends, published by AECT. 1800 North Stonelake Drive,
Bloomington, IN 47404
- What are the comprehensive references for the field?
There is one major encyclopedia:
* Plomp, T. & Ely, D. P. (Eds.). (1996). The international
encyclopedia of educational technology. 2nd ed. New York: Elsevier
There is one major yearbook which offers articles on current issues
and extensive lists of people, organizations, literature, and other
* Branch, R. M., & Fitzgerald, M. A. (Eds.). (2000).
Educational media and technology yearbook. Englewood, CO: Libraries
- What textbooks are commonly used?
There are dozens of books used in educational technology courses.
Selection of titles depends upon the content of the course, the
primary audience, and the instructor's objectives. General textbooks
that have been used in a variety of courses are:
* Heinich, R., Molenda, M., Russell, J., & Smaldino, S.
(1999). Instructional media and technologies for learning (6th ed.).
New York: Macmillan.
* Dick, W., & Carey, L. (1996). The systematic design of
instruction (4th ed.). Harper Collins College. Glenview, IL: Scott,
Foresman and Co.
- Where can more specific information about educational technology be found?
The ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) system sponsored
by the U.S. Department of Education has been selecting documents on
educational technology since 1966 and indexing articles from key
journals since 1969. Abstracts of the documents can be found in:
* Resources in Education, published monthly by the U.S.
Government Printing Office and available in more than 3,500 libraries
throughout the world.
Selected articles which have been indexed from educational technology
journals are listed in:
* Current Index to Journals in Education, found in many
libraries or available from Oryx Press, 4041 North Central at Indian
School Road, Suite 700, Phoenix, AZ 85012-3397. (800-279-6799)
ERIC Database. Computer searching of the ERIC database is available
in many academic and some public libraries. The ERIC database can
also be searched over the Internet and on some commercial networks.
Specific questions can be addressed to:
* ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology (ERIC/IT)
621 Skytop Road, Suite 160
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-5290
(315) 443-3640; (800) 464-9107
There are World Wide Web sites that focus on discussion of issues in
educational technology. The addresses are:
The ERIC/IT Clearinghouse has a publications list of monographs and
digests about current issues and developments in the field and
publishes a newsletter, ERIC/IT Update, twice each year. Both items
are available without charge.
This Digest was prepared by Donald P. Ely, Founding Director, ERIC
Clearinghouse on Information & Technology, and Professor Emeritus,
Instructional Design, Development & Evaluation, Syracuse University.
Revised March 2000.