Module 01: The Field of Educational Technology

1. How might you define Educational Technology?

Educational Technology can be very broadly defined to mean anything from training people in the use of technology (The President's Educational Technology Initiative) to the use of technology to train people - including all of the factors that impact this spectrum of activities. However, in the context of this program, the latter portion of that spectrum would be the primary focus. As such Educational Technology can be defined as an interrelated series of disciplines that involve the use of a variety of technologies to design, produce, manage and evaluate training, instructional and performance programs and curricula. As an academic discipline, it would also encompass research about these areas.

2. What is the relationship among educational, instructional and performance technologies? How are they similar? How do they differ?

Educational Technology, Instructional Technology and Performance Technology all seek to improve human performance and all utilize systematic and defined processes to accomplish this goal. All disciplines seek to eliminate the gap between expectations for performance with the actual performance. All three technologies start with analysis of the situation and a clear definition of performance and expectations. Many in and out of the field use the terms interchangeably, but reserve use of each for the different arena they are applied in—education, business, the military, and government. We propose that the fields and use of the terms are slightly different in their focus, application and methods. Our description follows.

Educational Technology encompasses the total range of processes, systems, tools, technologies, resources and strategies to improve performance through learning and training solutions. The focus is on increased knowledge and improved skills through training, instruction and learning. Educational Technology, as well as the other disciplines, follows a systematic process to achieve its goals. The process with the acronym ADDIE—analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation—is executed by effective project management. Educational technology also involves the overall management of the learning process as well as the delivery methods, techniques and systems employed. In many cases practitioners use educational technology to designate activities in the educational arena—schools (K-12) and colleges.

Instructional Technology also works to improve performance through increased learning and improved skills but focuses more on the instructional or delivery component of the process. This term is also used to describe a technology or media focus to the delivery of educational components. The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) in their 1977 paper The Definition of Educational Technology (updated in 2000) defines Instructional Technology as a sub-set of Educational Technology. They would define instruction as the delivery of learning components and thus a sub-set of education which is the total process of learning and all the resources used to achieve that. Practitioners use the term to designate training and learning activities in business, industry, government and the military and can be associated with media and delivery systems.

In whatever way you define Instructional Technology or Educational Technology they both focus on improving performance through training and education. They address processes that attempt to solve performance problems with an increase in knowledge and skills. It’s as if they have a hammer and every problem is a training or learning nail. Performance Technology goes beyond this and seeks to improve performance not only through training but also through other interventions and solutions beyond learning and training. Performance Technology is particularly focused on improving performance and productivity in the workplace. It includes training solutions but also encompasses other strategies and techniques. Performance technology includes incentives, motivation, job aids, system and infrastructure design, software, tools and other additional resources at hand. It is not a sub-set or super-set of either educational technology or instructional technology but includes both as part of its domain as well as additional tools to close the gap between expectations and performance.

Some define Instructional Technology as a sub-set of Educational Technology. Others would say the terms are interchangeable but the disciplines operate in different arenas.

3. What does the "Technology" refer to in Educational Technology and Performance Technology?  Can you be an educational technologist and not work with computers or electronics?

When we speak of the “Technology” component of Educational and Performance Technology we refer to the use of tools and a body of knowledge applied in a systematic and integrated process to improve performance, learning and achievement. The variety and range of tools employed includes computers and electronics but also books, manuals, film, media, multi-media, and even paper and pencil. These tools are used to analyze problems, design, develop and implement solutions as well as to evaluate and measure results. Instructional technologists and educational technologists use computers and electronics to pursue their professions. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine anyone in today’s world doing their job or pursuing their profession without using them, but one can still be an educational or performance technologist without using either.

4. Educational Technology is used in a variety of sectors in our society: K-12 schools, universities, government, public service organizations, corporations. Name some specific examples of Educational Technology in action within these various sectors.

Until relatively recently Educational Technology in the K-12 environment was primarily focused on two key areas: training students (and frequently their teachers) in the use of technology and using multimedia tools as a delivery mechanism for course content. While these are still a major focus, more instructors and administrators are looking at various technologies, especially the Internet as a medium to cost-effictively streamline workflow and enhance communications between faculty, staff, students and parents. Sites such as make it easy for teachers to post and track assignments online to help bridge the gap between classroom activities and support required from home.

Colleges and Universities
More and more institutions of higher learning are offering individual courses as well as entire degree programs (such as ours) completely on line. The Yahoo! Directory lists approximately 400 colleges and universities that offer distance learning programs that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago (and SDSU is not even on the list, so it it obviously incomplete). These courses and programs use resources such as the Blackboard Portal to create a "virtual classroom" environment. Individual university departments are also using technology to share their specialized fields with a broad audience in areas from healthcare to seismology. Another area of higher education that has been impacted by technology involves standardized tests, such as Graduate Record Examinations, which are now taken on, and to some extent graded by, computers.

All levels of government have made some surprisingly good use of various forms of instructional technology. The military uses high-tech simulations to train soldiers in the effective use of sophisticated equipment -- from weapons systems to fighter jets. On a more personal level, government web sites are available that provide a wealth of instructional material about everything from filing our taxes to getting a driver's license to starting a small business.

Public Service Organizations
Non-profit and public service organizations are finding that new multimedia and Internet technologies can enable them to use their limited budgets to reach more people, more effectively than ever before with training about subjects from safety and health care to pet care and wildlife management.

The corporate world is using various implementations of Educational Technology to train their customers and vendors as well as their own employees. Not surprisingly some of the most robust training offerings for consumers come from high tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Macromedia. Some of these educational offerings are designed to reduce customer service expenses and others as marketing tools to promote product use, while some charge for the courses and generate revenue. For some corporations, such as ElementK and VTC, computer-based and online training about various topics are their products. Internally, corporations large and small are finding that effective use of tools from simple PowerPoint presentation software and corporate Intranets to sophisticated Macromedia Director authorware and Final Cut Pro or Premier video editing to create training programs and job aids can increase productivity and quality, improve job performance, facilitate communications and enhance job satisfaction.

5. What are some basic job skills common to the variety of careers in which educational technologists may find themselves?

The skills rated as most valuable to an aspiring educational technologist are simpler than might first be conceived. Three of the six responses to the surveys submitted to six IT professionals listed good customer service (people) skills--the ability to listen, communicate, and 'getting along' with people as the most valuable skill. Additional skills listed by these same respondents included:

  • the ability to learn new technologies as they evolve
  • the ability to problem solve with existing technology
  • time management

The remaining, yet important, skills were:

  • a strong work ethic and service orientation to the customer
  • the ability to see technology as something beyond computer hardware and software
  • a broad range of hardware and software knowledge
  • office organization

In an effort to be even more concise, personal skills were summarized when these same instructional technologists were asked to provide five adjectives to effectively describe an Educational Technologist. Multiple responses included the adjectives knowledgeable (3), creative (2), dedicated (2), and persistent (2). Other adjectives included hard working, caring, friendly, professional, flexible, systematic, systemic, willing, assistive, responsible, motivational, interesting, focused, and problem-solver (Ducey, 2003), (Greene, 2003), (LaBello, 2003).

Good customer service skills are important for the profession. You must be patient and understanding of faculty since many times, they know what they want, but cannot express it in technical terms, or are able to create the applications themselves. Without good people skills, you are going to turn people away from using the technologies(Greene 2003).

Good writing skills are essential. Writing in clear and compelling ways will enable the educational technologists to be successful. The use of solid communication skills when convey thoughts and ideas are important.

Working in interdisciplinary teams is the norm. Organizing information and presenting it in a way that is easy to understand is what many educational technologists do on a daily basis.

According to Daryl LaBello, an educational technologist has to be the renaissance person of this century.

SDSU provides an online self-assessment to determine if being an Educational Technologists is for you.

6. What kinds of products and services do educational technologists produce in their various jobs?

Educational Technologists produce different products from simple graphic banners for a web-based course to full sets of training materials. Some produce articles and white papers on emerging technologies for upper management. While others conduct faculty workshops.

During an informational interview process, three practicing professionals in the field of Educational Technology gave the following answers to the question listed above:

  • Web-based design
  • Instructional development and delivery systems (i.e. Astound, Authorware, Hypercard, HyperStudio, Director, Visual Basic, BlackBoard, and WebCT)
  • Multimedia
  • Distance learning technologies
  • Productivity software (i.e. Word, Excel, Microsoft Office)
  • Digital video knowledge (i.e. Premiere)

In one qualifying statement made by Greene (2003) appropriately pointed out the fact that necessary skills for an Educational Technologist might be totally dependent upon the needs or wants for the employing institution. He felt that it was more important to have an overall idea how software or multimedia development takes place. Individuals could learn a specific application program once they obtained a position and understood the intent of the program within the college, university, or corporation. By contrast, Ducey (2003) felt that the most important skill would be to stay on top of the latest technologies (i.e. to stay up to date).

7. Based on your team's experiences, what are the different careers paths you bring to the educational technology field?

Albertha Cahee

  • Data Entry Operator
  • Computer Operator
  • Programmer
  • Programmer/Analyst
  • Network Administrator
  • PC Support
  • Technical Instructor
  • Consultant

James Richardson

  • Biomedical Engineering Technician
  • Field Service Engineer
  • Field Service Training Specialist
  • Customer Training Manager
  • Professional Development Manager

Susan Connell

  • Journalist
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Technical Writer
  • Desktop Publishing Pioneer
  • Marketing Manager
  • Public Relations Executive

Jerry Marino

  • Writer
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Consultant
  • Publisher
  • Information Product Developer
  • Teacher
  • Speaker
  • Trainer

8. Describe emergent career opportunities for educational technologists.

OD Consultant
Responsibilities include generating new business/sales, establishing and maintaining client relationships, designing and executing of complex change projects successfully while leading multi-consultant projects.

Instructional Designer
Primary duties include working with client and content experts to design and develop instructional materials and programs for e-learning, self-paced instruction, classroom and other delivery methods. The Instructional Designer will; conduct needs assessments to define learning and performance improvement needs, use authoring software to develop interactive e-learning including Macromedia Authorware, HTML authoring programs such as Dreamweaver, design and develop instructional methods, such as, case studies, role-plays, simulations, learning games, leaders guides, participant manuals and write and maintain policy and procedures materials when necessary.

Performance Improvement Specialist
Consult with managers on performance improvements and technology that will identify and fulfill key skill and knowledge deficits and lead to better business results. Responsible for leading content gathering sessions and group design meetings while designing measurable learning interventions and behaviorally-based learning objectives. This position requires a strong background in instructional systems design methodology and excellent

Curriculum Developer
The Curriculum Developer will work with Subject Matter Experts and management to develop instructor led training programs. Will design and develop training courses, manuals, lab exercises, lecture notes, and peripherals. Will establish project outlines and deadlines and maintain project schedules while partnering with other departments to set up project plans, critical paths, and deployment methods for training material.

Learning and Development Manager
Provide leadership to the core training design team, responsible for designing and maintaining business and soft skill training with organization-wide scope. Coordinate core team design efforts and methodologies. Provide L & D and adult learning consultation to ensure strict compliance with regulatory requirements. Establish requirements in all new training programs and program maintenance. Influence program and design strategies, leveraging blended learning solutions as appropriate.

Educational Technology Consultants
Educational Technology Consultants (ETCs) are primarily responsible for internal software sales training, providing pre- and post-sales software training to Course Technology customers, and conducting high-level sales presentations to higher education, high school, and technical training instructors. The ETC also assists in coordinating customer technical support by working closely with the Technical Support Services team.

Instructional Technology Facilitator
Plans and implements appropriate technological activities designed to promote academic, social, and emotional growth for children with varying needs and for teachers who are striving to better integrate technology within their curricula. Manages the hardware and software of all classroom computers. Coordinates training and professional development for technology

Training Consultant
Develop, and maintain training documentation. Provide training and implementation to clients. Manage customer relationships during the duration of the project. Assist with sales process as needed. Assist with internal support of staff as needed.

Media Instructional Designers
Media Instructional Designers are responsible for designing and storyboarding interactive multimedia content for online delivery. This role provides a bridge between Interactive Products and Content—communicating technical online needs to Content Developers and conveying content’s instructional design needs to Multimedia Developers and to members of the Art and Media department.

9. What are the personal and professional attributes or character traits that contribute to success in this field? (For instance, what qualities would it take to produce an entire instructional product from start to finish?)

The ideal trainer works long and cheap,
can travel great heights with a single leap;
can live with an image that is less than flattering,
and when budgets are tight sustain constant battering;
has no need of a home, a family or future,
and can hold life together with humor for suture.

-Author Unknown

  • project management skills
  • written and verbal communication skills
  • time-management skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • detail oriented
  • sense of humor
  • presentation skills
  • questioning skills
  • ability to multi-task
  • bias towards quality
  • strong work ethic
  • interpersonal skills
  • non-defensiveness
  • sensitivity
  • flexibility
  • enthusiasm
  • business/political savvy
  • personal integrity
  • friendliness
  • patience
  • fairness
  • openness

Educational Technologists need to stay immersed in some aspect of the technology while keeping abreast of educational theories. It is essential that they be self-starters. Learning on your own will be a factor to any job in technology. Being open to new ideas, co-workers ideas, client ideas and overall other ways of thinking is key. Multi-tasking is the only way to get projects done. It is essential to do this without going nutty.

Becoming territorial or closed off with a project is not a good idea. The ability to work as a team member is an important asset. Educational Technologists need to be able to deal professionally and courteously with all types of people. The following are just few of the important attributes that contribute to success in this field:

    1. The ability to break complex technologies down into terms that can easily be communicated to non-technical folks,
    2. The ability to multi-task and work on more than one project at a time,
    3. The ability to instill trust in the people they are working with, and finally
    4. The ability to quickly troubleshoot and problem solve to overcome obstacles.

The above data were derived from an informational interview from the following Educational Technologists.

Jill Ducey, M.Ed.
Educational Technologist
The University of Kansas Medical Center

Daryl LaBello
Educational Technologist
Embry-Riddle University
Michael Greene
Educational Technologist
Niskayuna Central Schools

10. What are some of the current trends that may affect the study and/or practice of educational technology?

Educational Technology will certainly grow and change based on the many advances in technology, the Internet, knowledge management, networking, communications, collaborative software, authoring tools, conferencing capabilities and knowledge of emergent (grass roots) learning methods. Increasing corporate recognition of the difference between training and educational technology and the value of performance technology could lead to increased demand for educational technologists.

As we all have greater access to computers, networks and fast Internet connections, we imagine distance learning methods, tools and strategies will become more powerful and more effective. Wireless networking and the growth of ubiquitous wireless networks gives greater access to information and instruction. Conferencing improvements will improve delivery and access to instructional programs. Groupware and collaborative software will facilitate development and also delivery of instruction. In addition increased use of knowledge management systems will affect Educational Technology and Performance Technology. They will allow better access to information, greater sharing of tacit and working knowledge and shorter “learning curves” in places that effectively employ those strategies.

Reduced travel in all aspects of our society will affect how we deliver and receive instruction. The private and public sectors have already seen travel and offsite training budgets reduced. As this increases in the future it will impact the need and acceptance of distance learning and remote conferencing.

Research and knowledge gains in psychology and learning styles will also affect design, development and delivery of instruction. We already see new teaching methods and strategies based on current knowledge of learning styles and emotional intelligences. We believe that this understanding will fuel development and refinement of teaching and learning methods such as simulations, games and interactive learning environments.

Finally, we see the increased research and knowledge about human networks and emergent (grass roots) learning to have great affect on educational technology. We are just now codifying observations and information about how we learn from each other and how learning and subsequent organization of knowledge can be accumulated and aggregated from individual observations. This creates a bottom-up approach to learning and its organization rather than a top-down approach based on the current model of analysis, design and development, implementation and evaluation.

Educational Technology, its methods, knowledge base, growth and implementation will be greatly affected by trends in all these areas. We are still learning a great deal about learning—how we learn, how we deliver learning components and how we effectively transfer knowledge.


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