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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 learning.
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 of perspectives.

  1. 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 publication:
    * 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 Library Reference.

  4. 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)

  5. 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 technologies.

  6. 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 Technology.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 (AECT) http://www.aect.org
    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 Canada (AMTEC)
    3-1750 The Queensway, Suite 1318
    Etobicoke, Ontario M9C 5H5, Canada
    * Association for Learning Technology (ALT)
    http://www.alt.ac.uk
    Headington Hill Hall
    Oxford OX3 0BP
    United Kingdom

  9. 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 Kingdom
    * 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

  10. 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 Science.
    There is one major yearbook which offers articles on current issues and extensive lists of people, organizations, literature, and other resources:
    * Branch, R. M., & Fitzgerald, M. A. (Eds.). (2000). Educational media and technology yearbook. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

  11. 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.

  12. 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
    URL: http://ericir.syr.edu/ithome
    e-mail: eric@ericir.syr.edu

    There are World Wide Web sites that focus on discussion of issues in educational technology. The addresses are:
    http://www.aect.org/
    http://h-net.msu.edu/~edweb
    http://www.askeric.org

    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.


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