Every day, countless forms of educational technology, or EdTech, help people learn any number of subjects and new concepts. What exactly is EdTech, and how does it work? Follow along for the information.
EdTech: The Basics
Simply defined, educational technology is any concept or tool that facilitates learning by way of technological resources. This definition is a very wide one but is the true definer of what is EdTech. An ancient abacus with its sliding beads for counting and math work is as much a form of EdTech as is a modern computer in the classroom today. This is the basic definition of this term today; if it uses some sort of technology to teach, then it is a form of EdTech.
Old School Education Done New School
Since most people exploring the concept of educational technology are probably concerned with the way it is used in modern culture, we can “tweak” that definition a bit. Educational technology uses terms like digital, database, e-learning, online learning, streaming and others to describe a process that takes old-school educational principles and uses them as foundations for learning skills in the 21st century. For instance, one principle of learning is that material that activates several of a student’s senses will be more readily retained. To address that idea, today’s educators sometimes use video games to allow students to “participate.” Using technology to meet evidence-based learning principles is the focus of educational technology, not merely the random employment of technology. There are several different types of EdTech. A few of these are:
• eLearning: This is the use of computer technology to provide educational material in a classroom setting or other settings.
• Information and communication technology: Virtual classrooms are an example of this type of EdTech. It uses telecommunications, computers and other technologies to give students interaction with other students and with the instructor in real time. “Zoom Meetings” are an example of this concept in action.
• Technology enhanced learning: This is the use of several different types of technology to create and enhance the educational experience. Included are things like artificial reality, programs that allow students to share virtual learning experiences or even in-person learning through a “technology-enabled classroom.”
E-Learning and M-Learning
Today, some of the most widely influential and easily recognized forms of EdTech can be seen in the vast and ever-growing worlds of e-learning and m-learning. E-learning, or electronic learning, is the use of computers and the internet for learning purposes. M-learning, or mobile learning, is the use of mobile tech, such as mobile phones and tablets for learning. Distance learning, or learning via the internet across geographic distances, utilizes both m-learning and e-learning.
For Non-Traditional Learners
While educational technology is widely used in the classroom, it has also filled an important need in the economy. It is helping to close the “skills gap.” Technology, as a whole, is increasing exponentially. MOOC’s have shown a 640% increase in one year according to The Conversation.com. This increase is most likely due to the Covid pandemic, but these “massive open online courses” have been part of the education scene for more than ten years. They allow people to take courses without registering for specific programs. There are MOOC classes in almost anything you can imagine. They can even be taken as learning “modules”( microcredentials) that can be combined for a degree.
They are important to the economy, however, because artificial intelligence and digital automation are becoming common in the workplace and many employees do not have the skill set necessary to utilize those technologies. College programs do not address the need, but employees can take a MOOC course or two and be “up to speed.” MOOC classes are a form of educational technology that utilizes both eLearning and mLearning. People can study at the workplace in actual scenarios.
More Examples of EdTech
Beyond distance learning platforms and the ancient benefits of simple tools like the abacus, there is a massive, growing, and often very intriguing world of technological learning tools emerging across the world today. This can be seen in the increasing use of computers and learning software in classrooms everywhere. Audio and visual aids for various impairments are another prime example of a modern form of EdTech.
On the more intriguing side of emerging EdTech today are some of the medical industry’s newest learning tools. Among the most fascinating tools here are artificial cadavers with which medical students are beginning to practice medicine as opposed to with real cadavers. These artificial bodies can be set up to act much like a real human with a blood supply, functional organs and systems, lifelike skin and textures, and everything else reflective of human feature and function.
In the aviation field, there have also been many advances in technology for learning. One of these advances has been the use of computerized simulations for new and learning pilots. Simulations like these as well as new crash-testing tools and methods lead the way in the ultimate mastery of human flight. A recent New York Times article covering the importance of plane-specific simulators in pilot training illustrates just how dependent the industry has become on this particular type of computerized EdTech.
Artificial Intelligence Educational Technology
As a Teacher Aid
An article in Forbes Magazine says that another educational technology, artificial intelligence, will never replace human teachers, but will certainly augment their capabilities. For instance, it can be used to create differentiated or individualized learning for some students. Individuals with intellectual challenges are able to use a computer to learn small “ chunks” of information through gaming or other methods. The information is juggled and reframed until the person masters it, and them the program moves on to the next skill. The same process is used to present information in a way the student can master it best. So far, the technology is not available on a large enough basis to offer it for all students, but while teachers work with the rest of the students, individuals with special needs can learn in an inclusive classroom.
Some platforms even let students leave the learning program to access adjunct material such as videos, virtual tools and other information before returning to the main program. All of that freedom, mike a virtual Montessori school, allows students to enrich their learning experiences.
In Global Classrooms
The emergence of online learning has created the concept of global universities. The problem, however, is that students in one country taking courses from another must understand the language of that country. Hearing impaired students face the same difficulties. A new artificial intelligence program that is being developed to solve that problem will translate a lecture into the language of the student through real-time captions in a Power-Point program.
Multi-media learning is another area where educational technology is affecting learning. The term refers to the use of pictures and words in learning, according to The Center for Educational Innovation. When students use more than just one sense to learn something, the educational experience is deeper. Additionally, some students who have difficulties learning more complex curriculum such as mathematics can be helped through tactile or experiential EdTech. While teacher lectures are still the primary method for delivering course information, they can be coupled with other media.
This, however, demonstrates the challenge of educational technology. The addition of images to text doesn’t automatically enrich the educational experience. This is where the concept of using a foundational “old school” principle to present the additional images in an efficient way comes into play. The fundamental principle concerns the limited capacity of the memory and brain processing along with an understanding of how the brain functions. This foundation is used to develop material that doesn’t deliver a “cognitive overload” to the student. This is an important point because there is such a vast amount of data available that can be incorporated into educational programs.
In the 1950s, for instance, teachers used slide presentations to augment their lectures. Before that, however, another interesting tool called a Cuisinaire Rod was used to help students understand addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. These are colored rods of differing lengths that students use to visualize concepts. As a matter of fact, they are still utilized today, as this short video demonstrates. They are certainly educational tools, but they fit neatly into our definition of the digital educational technology because students can access the rods virtually and manipulate them the way they would the traditional tools.
Jobs In Educational Technology
Teaching and school administration are the first jobs that come to mind when educational technology is mentioned. There are other jobs, however, that are outside the realm of traditional educational boundaries. Recent listings on Indeed.com are:
• Educational Content Manager: This position is for a manager of content in a young child curriculum developing corporation. The person hired would develop curricula, train other development staff in child development and in the early childhood education resources such as Head Start as well as collaborate with a marketing team.
• A Learning Technology Specialist: This job is as a developer/ trainer for technology in education at a large university.
• Virtual Content Manager : This specialist opening is in a governmental agency designing virtual learning opportunities to combat childhood obesity and other health issues.
• Curriculum Manager, Customer Training : This is an industry-related position. The professional directs the development and accessibility of educational information for a company that helps corporations attract and hire staff.
Degrees in Educational Technology
Whether people enter the area of educational technology as an instructor, a researcher or in industry, an understanding of some of the principles of EdTech is valuable. It helps teachers modify and strengthen their curriculum, and it helps those involved in with adult learners understand how that field is different than working with children. Even those involved in creating programs for workplace education profit from understanding principles of learning and teaching. Because all areas of EdTech incorporate principles of brain function and learning as well as theories and principles of education, universities have created degrees and specializations in educational technology. There are about 297 universities and colleges that have EdTech programs and another 24 schools offer certificates. A handful of schools offer associate degrees in the discipline.
A degree in educational technology, especially at the master’s or doctoral levels, equips graduates to work in K-12 education, in non-profits and governmental agencies, in universities and in corporate positions. While there are associate degree and certification programs that can help professionals gain some skills in the field, most positions in educational technology require at least a bachelor’s degree. The most common course of action is earning an educational specialist degree ( Ed.S.) with a specialization in educational technology. This specialization is also referred to as curriculum or instructional design.
Courses of Study
These programs include courses in statistics and research methods as well as in psychology and sociology. They prepare graduates to design digital learning programs and help them create modalities to use in assessing the effectiveness of the programs. There are also course in using technology to teach, in emerging technological developments and in learning cultures.
As far as history records, humankind has sought out better and quicker ways with which to learn. EdTech is the subsequent use of technology and its tools to satisfy that drive to learn and grow. Whether it be a simple tool or the most advanced computer known, if it’s used to orchestrate human learning, it’s a form of educational technology.
While educational technology actually incorporates all kinds of learning procedures and aids, today’s definition focuses on the digital world and its opportunities. There are so many possibilities out there to address the needs of educators from how to deal with exceptional children to how to train an adult employee in the use of digital automation and artificial intelligence. The reality is that in the global culture we live in, all education must be universally accessible and yet have the potential to create specialized learning for individuals. That is a difficult gamut to run. Additionally, much of education today is self-directed. That is the result of plentiful online courses and opportunities. Still, culture changes every day, and the pool of big data gets deeper each moment. Educational technology evolves with research and experiential documentation. Relying on yesterday’s or even today’s educational patterns and procedures will be inadequate to meet the demands of tomorrow’s society.
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