Educational Technology: An Overview

Educational technology is a field of study that investigates the process of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating the instructional environment and learning materials in order to improve teaching and learning. It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of educational technology (also referred to as instructional technology) is to improve education. We must define the goals and needs of education first and then we use all our knowledge, including technology, to design the most effective learning environment for students.

Instructional technology can also be seen as a process of solving educational problems and concerns, which might include motivation, discipline, the drop-out rate, school violence, basic skills, critical thinking, and the whole list of educational concerns. First, the problem is identified, an analysis of the factors of the problem is made, and possible solutions to the problem are presented. Then, the student population and the curriculum are analyzed. The next step is to select the most appropriate instructional strategies for the particular situation. Next, instructional materials and resources are selected that are suitable for the curriculum and the mode of instruction chosen. Finally, the program is implemented, evaluated, and revised as needed in order to meet the stated goals for school improvement.

The learning materials today have greatly expanded because of the various technological advances. Instructional materials include more conventional materials, such as the blackboard, overhead projectors, televisions, VCRs, overhead projectors, slide projectors, and opaque projectors, as well as newer materials, such as the computer, various software applications, LCD projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, scanners, the Internet, satellite, interactive TV, audio and video conferencing, artificial intelligence, and so on.

Teachers in the public schools and faculty at universities need to understand what types of materials are available, how to use them, why they should be used, when they should be used, and how to integrate them into the teaching/learning environment in order to meet the ultimate goal of improving education. Teachers also need to seriously consider how these newer materials can affect what and how we learn and teach.

The issue of what these materials are and how to use them is a first step. But we must quickly begin to discuss how these materials should be used and how they affect the curriculum and instruction in our schools. Technology can be used to perpetuate a teacher-led, knowledge-based learning approach or it can be used to help us implement a student-centered, constructivist, and progressive approach. We need to help teachers to understand the bigger picture of how technology can revolutionize education. Just teaching teachers how to use the technology will lead to enhancing a knowledge-level educational system. Teaching them the real potentials of technology will lead to promoting higher-level thinking, independent learning, and life-long learning.

The skills and issues that need to be addressed by teachers are vast. To help in understanding what these skills and issues are, the Coordinator of Educational Technology at UNCA has created a list of items regarding educational technology. These are items that the faculty at the universities need to understand so that they can incorporate them into their own teaching and thus help preservice teachers understand them so that they can more effectively utilize technology in their own teaching as well.

Remember, in all of these areas of educational technology that the goal of improving a specific aspect of teaching and learning comes first. The technology is selected to help us meet these goals.

For more information on Instructional Technology, click here.

Software Tools

Word processing, database, spreadsheet, telecommunications, presentation, authoring, graphic paint programs. Teachers need to know how to use them, how to teach them to students, and how and why to use them in the classroom.

Software Types

Drill and practice, tutorials or computer-based instruction, and simulations. Teachers need to know what these are as well as why, when, and how to incorporate them into their teaching.

Integrated Learning Systems

Also known as computer-managed instruction. Teachers need to know what this is, how to use it, when to use it, with what grade levels and subject areas to use it, with what students to use it, and its role in the educational process.

Equipment Use

Digital camera, scanner, camcorder, CD-writer, computer, modem, printer, VCR, LCD projector, laser-disc player, and others. Teachers need to know how to use them and how they can be used in the classroom.

Multimedia Integration

Create and find graphics, images, audio files, video files, and animations. Import these multimedia objects into their presentations and learning materials. Understand how and why the integration of multimedia helps them to teach and how it helps students to learn.

Audio and Video Conferencing

Understand what these are and how to incorporate them into the educational process. Understand various teaching methods that best utilize these tools. Understand how these can affect how we learn.

Distance Education

Understand what it is, types of instructional delivery systems and media to be used (i.e., self-instructional manuals, slides, satellite, videotaped instruction, interactive TV, and the Internet), how to design courses using distance education, the differences in this type of learning and teaching, techniques for delivering instruction in this method, and why and how this approach can be used at various grade levels.

Classroom Configurations

How to best equip and utilize technology in the classroom. How to use the technology in the classroom. Classrooms need multimedia technology in each classroom. Teachers need access to teaching computers, LCD projectors, scanners, and other equipment in the classroom. Teachers need to be able to quickly use this equipment and access software when needed. Teachers need to be able to access and display the Internet and know how to utilize the Internet, software programs, presentation software, videotapes, and so on, in their teaching methods. Classrooms also need software and equipment available to their students.

Web Board

How to use it, how to set up discussion groups for students, how to post assignments and readings, and how to use it for students to post their assignments. Teachers need to understand how and why this technology can affect their teaching approach.

Web Pages

How to create web pages, how to use them in their teaching, and why they should use them. Web pages can have many functions for displaying information and creating student interaction. Web pages can also be used for helping students be more independent learners.

The Internet

What it is, how to use it, and how to incorporate it into the teaching/learning process. Teachers need to know how to search for information, how to critically analyze and evaluate this information, how to use FTP (file transfer protocol), telnet, email, mailing lists, and newsgroups. Teachers need to know how this powerful system can affect what is learned and how learning can best occur.

Software Review and Evaluation

How to select appropriate software for specific grade levels and content areas, how to evaluate the effectiveness of this software, and what types of software are available. Teachers need to be thoroughly familiar with many of the software options available and understand when and how to use them in the classroom.

Integration of Technology

Teachers need to understand the three technological configurations available – additive, integrated, and independent. They need to understand which configuration that they would like to implement, why this one is best for them and their students, and how to implement this method of integration. Teachers need to know how, when, and why to use any technology in the classroom. Teachers need to be able to modify how they teach in order to incorporate this technology.

Design and Create Instructional Materials

How to design and create various instructional materials for learners. Teachers need to understand design principles, how to create instructionally effective materials, what types of materials to create to best meet the learner needs, and how they can utilize these materials in their teaching. Instructional materials that teachers need to know how to create range from bulletin boards and transparencies to PowerPoint, HyperStudio, and web-based materials.

Moral, Legal, and Ethical Issues

Teachers need to understand these issues and how they might affect what and how they teach. These issues might be copyright and fair use issues to issues involving access to information. Teachers need to be aware of society’s view on the use of technology and how these issues might affect what they can do in the classroom.

New Software and Hardware

Teachers need to keep up with what types of instructional materials and tools that are being developed and how these new materials might be useful to them as teachers. They need to learn how to use these new materials and how to incorporate them into their teaching.

Philosophical Questions and Issues

What is the role of technology in education? How should technology be used for teaching and learning? When should it be used? What types of learners (learning styles, ages, ability levels, gender, etc.) can best benefit from what types of technology? How does technology affect what and how we teach? How does technology affect our lifestyles and our whole educational system? Should we reconstruct education because of technology? What should the educational system look like in the next few years because of these advancements in technology?