Thursday, 12 June 2014

Defining Educational Technology

I am stuck between considering myself an Educational Technologist, Instructional Technologist, Instructional Designer or a Learning Technologist. I am sure I do elements of all of these in my role as a K6-12 teacher, technology coach, and a developer of training resources for teachers in the use of technology.

How are the terms defined by researchers and the organisations that define the brand?

Educational Technology -
The Association for Educational Communication and Technology’s definition of educational technology given by Januszewski & Molenda (2008):

“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).

Instructional Technology -
"Is the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning" (Januszewski, 2001).

The two definitions above are similar. Januszewski & Molenda focus in on the facilitation of learning and the improvement of performance in their Educational Technology definition while the Instructional Technology definition has the extra evaluation term included.

Larson and Lockee (2013, p7) place more emphasis on the process: 
"...instructional technology as a process refers to the systematic treatment of the craft of designing instruction, through the application of learning theories and the use of technology products to support solutions to educational problems."

Yes, I agree with this but it doesn't tune Januszewski’s Instructional Technology definition any further, rather it enhances the message and provides greater clarity to the definition.

I do not consider myself an instructor, particularly when I am in my K6-12 classes where I aim to be a facilitator. The professional development sessions I organise are aimed at giving teachers the opportunity to find the answers for themselves and try out new styles and skills. Therefore, I like the current definition for Educational Technology but would improve it by including the “evaluation” term as a process - iterative evaluation must always be involved in order to improve the outcome:

“Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, managing, and evaluating appropriate technological processes and resources”

While technological products continue to advance faster than the rate at which researchers can gauge their effect on our ability to learn with them, do we need to incorporate a consideration for mobile technologies, gamification, games, MOOCs, etc. into the definition? What about wearable and implanted technology, 3D displays, and immersive technologies?  Or do we need to consider social media and connectivist approaches to learning? I believe the definition covers these as it refers to “the study...of facilitating learning” and “ using..., and evaluating appropriate technological ...resources.” The definition should be able to incorporate new technological products, processes and theories.

I return now to my original question - am I a Learning Technologist or an Educational Technologist?


Januszewski, A. (2001). Educational Technology: The Development of a Concept. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (Eds.), Educational technology: A definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Larson, M. & Lockee, B (2013). Streamlined ID. A Practical Guide to Instructional Design. New York and London, Routledge

Lowenthal, P. & Wilson, B. G. (2010). "Labels Do Matter! A Critique of AECT’s Redefinition of the Field." TechTrends 54.1 (2010): 38-46.

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