What is Educational Technology?

“You work in educational technology? So you get iPads and computers into the classroom?”

It’s a common misconception that someone who studies or works in the field of educational technology is looking for ways to get more technology into education. This puts the emphasis in the wrong place, however. The top billing isĀ education for a reason.

The field of educational technology is, first and foremost, about education. The technology is a tool, like a piece of chalk or a film projector (remember those?). An engineer looks at a situation and envisions ways to make the process or product more efficient and effective. There are many tools and solutions available, but what is the best one? This is what an educational technologist does, but the process is learning, and the product in knowledge.

Technology does not produce learning or knowledge, any more than a textbook does, unless properly designed, implemented, and utilized by instructors and students alike. Researchers and practitioners in educational technology look for situations and opportunities to enhance learning through technology. They don’t simply throw technology at the problem and forget about it.

The real work is planning and design at the beginning, testing and implementation in the middle, and evaluation and revision at the…well, it never really ends. Data gives us clues and tells us if what we are doing works. If learning doesn’t improve, it isn’t working. If it isn’t working, it needs to change.

No matter how slick or entertaining the technology seems, if it isn’t enhancing education, it isn’t educational technology.

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