Educational technology

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Educational technology, also termed instructional technology, information and communication technology (ICT) in education, EdTech, and learning technology, is "the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources."[1] A closely related term, e-learning, refers to the use of modern technology, such as computers, digital technology, networked digital devices and associated software and courseware with learning scenarios, worksheets and interactive exercises that facilitate learning.

Educational technology is used by learners and educators in homes, schools (both K-12 and higher education), businesses, and other settings. The term educational technology encompasses both material objects, such as machines and networking hardware, as well as theories such as instructional theory and learning theory. Educational technology is an integral part of society today.[2] Information and communications technology in education refers both to an array of tools and also to the principles for their effective application in learning. Educational technology relies on a broad defini methodologies and techniques, and skills assessments. Examples of these two dimensions are material aspects such as internet-based learning, and educational psychology aspects such as instructional theory, learning theory, media psychology and human performance technology, fields of study that apply theories of human behavior to educational technology.

Although there is some semantic debate,[3] educational "technology" refers to all valid and reliable applied education science, such as equipment, as well as processes and procedures, that are derived from scientific research. As such, educational technology in a given context may refer to theoretical, algorithmic or heuristic processes, and does not necessarily imply physical technology.

This vocabulary is consistent with educational technology as "the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources"[1] and the definition by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), which denoted instructional technology as "the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning."[4]

Educational technology thus refers to the use of both physical hardware and educational theoretics. It encompasses several domains, including learning theory, computer-based training, online learning, and, where mobile technologies are used, m-learning. Accordingly, there are several discrete aspects to describing the intellectual and technical development of educational technology:


Teacher showing primary school students how to work the program at a primary school in Santa Fe, Mexico City.

Since early history, mankind has devised means to help people learn in ways that are easier, faster, surer, or less expensive than previous means.[5][6] From this perspective, educational technology can be traced back to the emergence of very early tools, such as paintings on cave walls. However, the use of media for instructional purposes is generally traced back to the first decade of the 20th century[7] with the introduction of educational films (1900s) and Sidney Pressey's mechanical teaching machines (1920s). The first large-scale use of technologies may be training of soldiers in WWII by films and other mediated materials. The concept of hypertext is traced to Bush's description of memex in 1945.

In 1960, the University of Illinois initiated a classroom system based in linked computer terminals where students could access informational resources on a particular course while listening to the lectures that were recorded via some form of remotely linked device like a television or audio device.[8]

In the early 1960s, Stanford University psychology professors Patrick Suppes and Richard C. Atkinson experimented with using computers to teach math and reading to young children in elementary schools in East Palo Alto, California. Stanford's Education Program for Gifted Youth is descended from those early experiments. In 1963, Bernard Luskin installed the first computer in a community college for instruction. Working with Stanford and others he helped develop computer-assisted instruction. Working with the Rand Corporation, Luskin's landmark UCLA dissertation in 1970 analyzed obstacles to computer-assisted instruction.

The 1970s and 80s saw notable contributions in computer-based learning by Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hiltz at the New Jersey Institute of Technology[9] as well as developments at the University of Guelph in Canada.[10] In 1976, Bernard Luskin launched Coastline Community College as a "college without walls" using television station KOCE-TV as a vehicle.

By the mid-1980s, accessing course content become possible at many college libraries. In computer-based training (CBT) or computer-based learning (CBL), the learning interaction was between the student and computer drills or micro-world simulations.

Digitized communication and networking in education started in the mid-1980s. Educational institutions began to take advantage of the new medium by offering distance learning courses using computer networking for information. Early e-learning systems, based on computer-based learning/training often replicated autocratic teaching styles whereby the role of the e-learning system was assumed to be for transferring knowledge, as opposed to systems developed later based on computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL), which encouraged the shared development of knowledge.

The Open University in Britain[10] and the University of British Columbia (where Web CT, now incorporated into Blackboard Inc., was first developed) began a revolution of using the Internet to deliver learning,[11] making heavy use of web-based training, online distance learning and online discussion between students.[12] Practitioners such as Harasim (1995)[13] put heavy emphasis on the use of learning networks.

Cassandra B. Whyte researched about the ever-increasing role that computers would play in higher education. This evolution, which includes computer-supported collaborative learning in addition to data management, has been realized.[14]

With the advent of World Wide Web in the 1990s, teachers embarked on the method using emerging technologies to employ multi-object oriented sites, which are text-based online virtual reality systems, to create course websites along with simple sets of instructions for its students.

In 1993, Graziadei described an online computer-delivered lecture, tutorial and assessment project using electronic mail. By 1994, the first online high school had been founded. In 1997, Graziadei described criteria for evaluating products and developing technology-based courses include being portable, replicable, scalable, affordable, and having a high probability of long-term cost-effectiveness.[15]

By 1994, CALCampus presented its first online curriculum. CALCampus is where concepts of online-based school first originated, this allowed to progress real-time classroom instructions and Quantum Link classrooms.[16] With the drastic shift of Internet functionality, multimedia began introducing new schemes of communication; through the invention of webcams, educators can simply record lessons live and upload them on the website page. There are currently wide varieties of online education that are reachable for colleges, universities and K-12 students. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics estimate the number of K-12 students enrolled in online distance learning programs increased by 65 percent from 2002 to 2005. This form of high learning allowed for greater flexibility by easing the communication between teacher and student, now teachers received quick lecture feedbacks from their students. The idea of virtual education soon became popular and many institutions began following the new norm in the education history.

Online education is rapidly increasing and becoming as a viable alternative for traditional classrooms. According to a 2008 study conducted by the U.S Department of Education, during the 2006-2007 academic year about 66% of postsecondary public and private schools participating in student financial aid programs offered some distance learning courses; records show 77% of enrollment in for-credit courses with an online component.[17] In 2008, the Council of Europe passed a statement endorsing e-learning's potential to drive equality and education improvements across the EU.[18]

Today, the prevailing paradigm is computer-mediated communication (CMC), where the primary interaction is between learners and instructors, mediated by the computer. CBT/CBL usually means individualized (self-study) learning, while CMC involves educator/tutor facilitation and requires scenarization of flexible learning activities. In addition, modern ICT provides education with tools for sustaining learning communities and associated knowledge management tasks.

Students growing up in this digital age have constant exposure to a variety of media.[19][20] Major high-tech companies such as Google, Verizon, Microsoft are funding schools to provide them the ability to teach their students through technology, which may lead to improved student performance. [1]

Theory and practice[edit]

The theory of educational technology can be grouped into three main theoretical schools or philosophical frameworks: behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism.


This theoretical framework was developed in the early 20th century based on animal learning experiments by Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, and B.F. Skinner. Many psychologists used these results to develop theories of human learning, but modern educators generally see behaviorism as one aspect of a holistic synthesis.

B.F. Skinner wrote extensively on improvements of teaching based on his functional analysis of verbal behavior[21] and wrote "The Technology of Teaching",[22] an attempt to dispel the myths underlying contemporary education as well as promote his system he called programmed instruction. Ogden Lindsley developed a learning system, named Celeration, that was based on behavior analysis but that substantially differed from Keller's and Skinner's models.


Cognitive science underwent significant change in the 1960s and 1970s. While retaining the empirical framework of behaviorism, cognitive psychology theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning by considering how human memory works to promote learning. The Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's working memory model were established as theoretical frameworks. Computer Science and Information Technology have had a major influence on Cognitive Science theory. The Cognitive concepts of working memory (formerly known as short term memory) and long term memory have been facilitated by research and technology from the field of Computer Science. Another major influence on the field of Cognitive Science is Noam Chomsky. Today researchers are concentrating on topics like cognitive load and information processing. In addition, psychology as applied to media is easily measured in studying behavior. The area of media psychology is both cognative and affective and is central to understanding educational technology.


Educational psychologists distinguish between several types of constructivism: individual (or psychological) constructivism, such as Piaget's theory of cognitive development, and social constructivism. This form of constructivism has a primary focus on how learners construct their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality and with other learners who bring different perspectives.Constructivist learning environments require students to use their prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. Under this framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, providing guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge. Constructivist educators must make sure that the prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts being taught. Jonassen (1997) suggests "well-structured" learning environments are useful for novice learners and that "ill-structured" environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators utilizing a constructivist perspective may emphasize an active learning environment that may incorporate learner centered problem based learning, project-based learning, and inquiry-based learning, ideally involving real-world scenarios, in which students are actively engaged in critical thinking activities.


To understand educational technology one must also understand theories in human behavior as behavior is affected by technology. Media and the family is another emerging area affected by rapidly changing educational technology.[24]


Educational media and tools can be used for:

  • task structuring support: help with how to do a task (procedures and processes),
  • access to knowledge bases (help user find information needed)
  • alternate forms of knowledge representation (multiple representations of knowledge, e.g., video, audio, text, image, data)

Numerous types of physical technology are currently used:[25] digital cameras, video cameras, interactive whiteboard tools, document cameras, and LCD projectors. Combinations of these techniques include blogs, collaborative software, ePortfolios, and virtual classrooms.

Audio and video[edit]

Radio offers a synchronous educational vehicle, while streaming audio over the internet with webcasts and podcasts can be asynchronous. Classroom microphones, often wireless, can enable learners and educators to interact more clearly.

Video technology[26] has included VHS tapes and DVDs, as well as on-demand and synchronous methods with digital video via server or web-based options such as streamed video from YouTube, Teacher Tube, Skype, Adobe Connect, and webcams. Telecommuting can connect with speakers and other experts.

Interactive digital video games are being used at K-12 and higher education institutions.[27]

Podcasting allows anybody to publish files to the Internet where individuals can subscribe and receive new files from people by a subscription.[28]

Computers, tablets and mobile devices[edit]

Computers and tablets enable learners and educators to access websites as well as programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PDF files, and images. Many mobile devices support m-learning.

Mobile devices such as clickers and smartphones can be used for interactive feedback.[29] Mobile learning can also provide performance support for checking the time, setting reminders, retrieving worksheets, and instruction manuals.[30][31]

OpenCourseWare (OCW) gives free public access to information used in undergraduate and graduate programs at institutions of higher education. Participating institutions are MIT[32][33] and Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan.[34]

Social networks[edit]

Group webpages, blogs, and wikis allow learners and educators to post thoughts, ideas, and comments on a website in an interactive learning environment.[35] Social networking sites are virtual communities for people interested in a particular subject or just to "hang out" together. Members communicate by voice, chat, instant message, video conference, and blogs, and the service typically provides a way for members to contact friends of other members.[36] The National School Boards Association found that 96% of students with online access have used social networking technologies, and more than 50% talk online specifically about schoolwork. These statistics support the likelihood of being able to bring these technologies into our classrooms and find successful teaching methods to employ their use in an educational setting. Social networking inherently encourages collaboration and engagement.[37] Social networking can also be used as a motivational tool to promote self-efficacy amongst students.  In  a  study  by  Bowers-Campbell (2008)  Facebook  was  used  as  an  academic motivation tool for students in a developmental reading course.[38] Group members may respond and interact with other members.[39] Student interaction is at the core of constructivist learning environments and Social Net-working Sites provide a platform for building collaborative learning communities. By their very nature they are relationship-centred and promote shared experiences. With the emphasis on user-generated-content, some experts are concerned about the traditional roles of scholarly expertise and the reliability of digital content. Students still have to be educated and assessed within a framework that adheres to guidelines for quality. Every student has his or her own learning requirements, and a Web 2.0  educational  framework  provides  enough resources, learning styles, communication tools and flexibility to accommodate this diversity.[40]

Study Cocoa


Webcams and webcasting have enabled creation of virtual classrooms and virtual learning environment.[41]


Interactive whiteboards and smartboards allow learners and instructors to write on the touch screen. The screen markup can be on either a blank whiteboard or any computer screen content. Depending on permission settings, this visual learning can be interactive and participatory, including writing and manipulating images on the interactive whiteboard.


Screencasting allows users to share their screens directly from their browser and make the video available online so that other viewers can stream the video directly.[42] The presenter thus has the ability to show their ideas and flow of thoughts rather than simply explain them as simple text content. In combination with audio and video, the educator can mimic the one-on-one experience of the classroom and deliver clear, complete instructions. Learners also have an ability to pause and rewind, to review at their own pace, something a classroom cannot always offer.

Virtual classroom[edit]

A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), also known as a learning platform, simulates a virtual classroom or meetings by simultaneously mixing several communication technologies. For example, web conferencing software such as GoToTraining, WebEx Training or Adobe Connect enables students and instructors to communicate with each other via webcam, microphone, and real-time chatting in a group setting. Participants can raise hands, answer polls or take tests. Students are able to whiteboard and screencast when given rights by the instructor, who sets permission levels for text notes, microphone rights and mouse control.

A virtual classroom also provides the opportunity for students to receive direct instruction from a qualified teacher in an interactive environment. Learners can have direct and immediate access to their instructor for instant feedback and direction. The virtual classroom also provides a structured schedule of classes, which can be helpful for students who may find the freedom of asynchronous learning to be overwhelming. In addition, the virtual classroom provides a social learning environment that replicates the traditional "brick and mortar" classroom. Most virtual classroom applications provide a recording feature. Each class is recorded and stored on a server, which allows for instant playback of any class over the course of the school year. This can be extremely useful for students to review material and concepts for an upcoming exam. This also provides students with the opportunity to watch any class that they may have missed, so that they do not fall behind. It also gives parents and auditors the conceptual ability to monitor any classroom to ensure that they are satisfied with the education the learner is receiving.

In higher education especially, the increasing tendency is to create a virtual learning environment (VLE) (which is sometimes combined with a Management Information System (MIS) to create a Managed Learning Environment) in which all aspects of a course are handled through a consistent user interface throughout the institution. A growing number of physical universities, as well as newer online-only colleges, have begun to offer a select set of academic degree and certificate programs via the Internet at a wide range of levels and in a wide range of disciplines. While some programs require students to attend some campus classes or orientations, many are delivered completely online. In addition, several universities offer online student support services, such as online advising and registration, e-counseling, online textbook purchases, student governments and student newspapers.

Augmented reality (AR) provides students and teachers the opportunity to create layers of digital information, that includes both virtual world and real world elements, to interact with in real time. There are already a variety of apps which offer a lot of variations and possibilities.

Learning management system[edit]

A learning management system (LMS) is software used for delivering, tracking and managing training and education. For example, an LMS tracks attendance, time on task, and student progress. Educators can post announcements, grade assignments, check on course activity, and participate in class discussions. Students can submit their work, read and respond to discussion questions, and take quizzes.[35] An LMS may allow teachers, administrators, students, and permitted additional parties (such as parents if appropriate) to track various metrics. LMSs range from systems for managing training/educational records to software for distributing courses over the Internet and offering features for online collaboration. The creation and maintenance of comprehensive learning content requires substantial initial and ongoing investments of human labor. Effective translation into other languages and cultural contexts requires even more investment by knowledgeable personnel.[43]

Internet-based learning management systems include Canvas, Blackboard Inc. and Moodle. These types of LMS allow educators to run a learning system partially or fully online, asynchronously or synchronously. Blackboard can be used for K-12 education, Higher Education, Business, and Government collaboration.[44] Moodle is a free-to-download Open Source Course Management System that provides blended learning opportunities as well as platforms for distance learning courses.[45] Eliademy is a free cloud based Course Management System that provides blended learning opportunities as well as platforms for distance learning courses.[46]

Learning content management system[edit]

A learning content management system (LCMS) is software for author content (courses, reusable content objects). An LCMS may be solely dedicated to producing and publishing content that is hosted on an LMS, or it can host the content itself. The Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC) specification provides support for content that is hosted separately from the LMS.

A recent trend in LCMSs is to address this issue through crowdsourcing (cf.SlideWiki[47]).

Computer-aided assessment[edit]

Computer-aided assessment, also but less commonly referred to as e-assessment, ranges from automated multiple-choice tests to more sophisticated systems. With some systems, feedback can be geared towards a student's specific mistakes or the computer can navigate the student through a series of questions adapting to what the student appears to have learned or not learned.

The best examples follow a formative assessment structure and are called "Online Formative Assessment". This involves making an initial formative assessment by sifting out the incorrect answers. The author of the assessment/teacher will then explain what the pupil should have done with each question. It will then give the pupil at least one practice at each slight variation of sifted out questions. This is the formative learning stage. The next stage is to make a summative assessment by a new set of questions only covering the topics previously taught.

Learning design is the type of activity enabled by software that supports sequences of activities that can be both adaptive and collaborative. The IMS Learning Design specification is intended as a standard format for learning designs, and IMS LD Level A is supported in LAMS V2.elearning and has been replacing the traditional settings due to its cost effectiveness.

Electronic performance support systems (EPSS)[edit]

An Electronic Performance Support System is, according to Barry Raybould, "a computer-based system that improves worker productivity by providing on-the-job access to integrated information, advice, and learning experiences".[48] Gloria Gery defines it as "an integrated electronic environment that is available to and easily accessible by each employee and is structured to provide immediate, individualized on-line access to the full range of information, software, guidance, advice and assistance, data, images, tools, and assessment and monitoring systems to permit job performance with minimal support and intervention by others." (Gery, 1989).[49]

Data system Student data systems have a significant impact on education and students.[50] Over-the-counter data (OTCD) refers to a design approach which involves embedding labels, supplemental documentation, and a help system and making key package/display and content decisions.[51]


Benefits of incorporating technology into the classroom may include:

defray travel costs

  • Easy-to-access course materials. Course material on a website allowslearners to study at a time and location they prefer and to obtain the study material very quickly.[52]
  • Student motivation. According to James Kulik, who studies the effectiveness of computers used for instruction, students usually learn more in less time when receiving computer-based instruction and they like classes more and develop more positive attitudes toward computers in computer-based classes.[53] Teachers must be aware of their students' motivators in order to successfully implement technology into the classroom.[54] Students are more motivated to learn when they are interested in the subject matter, which can be enhanced by using technologies in the classroom and targeting the need for screens and digital material [55] that they have been stimulated by outside of the classroom.
  • More opportunities for extended learning. According to study completed in 2010, 70.3% of American family households have access to the internet.[56] According to Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission Canada, 79% of homes have access to the internet.[57] This allows students to access course material at home and engage with the numerous online resources available to them. Students can use their home computers and internet to conduct research, participate in social media, email, play educational games and stream videos.

Using online resources such as Khan Academy or TED Talks can help students spend more time on specific aspects of what they may be learning in school, but at home. These online resources have added the opportunity to take learning outside of the classroom and into any atmosphere that has an internet connection. These online lessons allow for students who might need extra help to understand materials outside of the classroom. These tutorials can focus on small concepts of large ideas taught in class, or the other way around. Schools like MIT have even made their course materials free online so that anybody can access them. Although there are still some aspects of a classroom setting that are missed by using these resources, they are still helpful tools to add additional support to the already existing educational system.

  • Wide participation. Learning material can be used for long distance learning and are accessible to a wider audience.[58]
  • Improved student writing. It is convenient for students to edit their written work on word processors, which can, in turn, improve the quality of their writing. According to some studies, the students are better at critiquing and editing written work that is exchanged over a computer network with students they know.[52]
  • Differentiated Instruction. Educational technology provides the means to focus on active student participation and to present differentiated questioning strategies. It broadens individualized instruction and promotes the development of personalized learning plans in some computer programs available to teachers. Students are encouraged to use multimedia components and to incorporate the knowledge they gained in creative ways.[59] This allows some students to individually progress from using low ordered skills gained from drill and practice activities, to higher level thinking through applying concepts creatively and creating simulations.[60] In some cases, the ability to make educational technology individualized may aid in targeting and accommodating different learning styles and levels.

Overall, the use of internet in education has had a positive impact on students, educators, as well as the educational system as a whole. Effective technologies use many evidence-based strategies (e.g., adaptive content, frequent testing, immediate feedback, etc.), as do effective teachers.[61] It is important for teachers to embrace technology in order to gain these benefits so they can address the needs of their digital natives [62]

  • "Additional Benefits":
  • The Internet itself has unlocked a world of opportunity for students. Information and ideas that were previously out of reach are a click away. Students of all ages can connect, share, and learn on a global scale.
  • Using computers or other forms of technology can give students practice on core content and skills while the teacher can work with others, conduct assessments, or perform other tasks.[61]
  • Using technology in the classroom can allow teachers' to effectively organize and present lessons. Multimedia presentations can make the material more meaningful and engaging.
  • "“Technology’s impact in schools has been significant, advancing how students learn, how teachers teach and how efficiently and effectively educational services can be delivered,” said Carolyn April, director, industry analysis, CompTIA.” With emerging technologies such as tablets and netbooks, interactive whiteboards and wireless solutions gaining ground in the classroom, the reliance on IT by the education market will only grow in the years ahead.”[63]
  • Studies completed in "computer intensive" settings found increases in student-centric, cooperative and higher order learning, students writing skills, problem solving, and using technology.[64] In addition, positive attitudes toward technology as a learning tool by parents, students and teachers are also improved.


Many states spend large sums of money on technology. However, no state looks at technology return on investment (ROI) to connect expenditures on technology with improved student outcomes.[65]

New technologies are frequently accompanied by unrealistic hype and promise regarding their transformative power to change education for the better or in allowing better educational opportunities to reach the masses. Examples include silent film, broadcast radio, and television, none of which have maintained much of a foothold in the daily practices of mainstream, formal education.[66] There is a growing awareness that technology, in and of itself, does not necessarily result in fundamental improvements to educational practice.[67] Rather than having blind faith that technology will lead to improvements, it is becoming increasingly recognized that focus needs to be on the learner's interaction with technology—not the technology itself . With that being said,technology should not be seen as a quick fix .It needs to be recognized as “ecological” rather than “additive” or “subtractive”. In this ecological change, one significant change will create total change.[68] Unless and until that happens, it is likely that expectations in learning outcomes will continue to exceed those observed in reality.

Technology based educational videos and games are being integrated into the lives and classrooms of new generations. These videos and games are meant to be used as tools to help growing minds develop and increase knowledge. There are many benefits of using technology in the education system, however there are also negative aspects. According to Branford, Brown, and Cocking, (2000) “technology does not guarantee effective learning” and inappropriate use of technology can even hinder it [69] The University of Washington study of infant vocabulary shows that it is slipping due to educational baby DVDs. Published in the Journal of Pediatrics, a 2007 University of Washington study on the vocabulary of babies surveyed over 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota. The study found that for every one hour that babies 8–16 months of age watched DVDs and Videos they knew 6-8 fewer of 90 common baby words than the babies that did not watch them. Andrew Meltzoff, Ph.D, a surveyor in this study states that the result makes sense, that if the baby's 'alert time' is spent in front of DVDs and TV, instead of with people speaking, the babies are not going to get the same linguistic experience. Dr. Dimitri Chistakis, another surveyor reported that the evidence is mounting that baby DVDs are of no value and may be harmful.

Electronic devices such as cellphones and computers facilitate rapid access to a constant stream of sources, each of which may receive cursory attention. Michel Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the center on Media and Child Health in Boston, said of the digital generation, "Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task, but for jumping to the next thing. The worry is we're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently." [70] Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters but computers and cellphones are a constant stream of stimuli that poses challenge to focusing and learning. Although these technologies affect adults too, young people are more influenced by it as their developing brains can easily become habituated to constantly switching tasks and becoming unable to sustain attention.[70]

As part of educational reform, new instructional materials and tests are being developed which are online and adaptive. This means that a computer will tailor questions to each student’s ability and calculate their scores. This initiative is pushed more by for-profit companies to increase the use of their products which is now a multi-billion dollar market. Online educational resources like Khan Academy is used as learning materials, but it is criticized for not looking into process and content but only the end result. Computer-based instructional model also encourages students to work individually rather than socially or collaboratively (Kruse, 2013). Social relationships are important but high-tech environments may compromise the balance of trust, care and respect between teacher and student [71]

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), although quite popular in discussions of technology and education in developed countries (more so in US), are not a major concern in most developing or low-income countries. One of the stated goals of existing MOOCs is to provide less fortunate populations (i.e., in developing countries) an opportunity to experience courses with US-style content and structure. However, research shows only 3% of the registrants are from low-income countries and although many courses have thousands of registered students only 5-10% of them complete the course [72] MOOCs also implies that certain curriculum and teaching methods are superior and this could eventually wash over (or possibly washing out) local educational institutions, cultural norms and educational traditions [73]

Everest effect[edit]

“The learning environment is a complex system where the interplay and interactions of many things impact the outcome of learning.”[74] When computers are brought into an educational setting just because they are there, the entire pedagogical setting of the classroom changes. This is known as the " Everest Effect", which leads to more “technology-driven” teaching," where the entire meaning of an activity changes without adequate research validation.” This leads to unclear learning objectives and standards that are not met by the end of a lesson. If classroom technology continues to monopolize an activity, the students involved begin to develop the sense that “life would scarcely be thinkable without technology."[75] This concept goes along with Postman's claim that "it is more important for learners to reflect on the implications and consequences of process of information gathering, than it is to simply acquire the skills to generate,receive, gather and distribute information in easier and faster ways".[67]


In addition to the change in classroom environment, technology is also "rapidly and profoundly altering our brains."[76] High exposure levels stimulate brain cell alteration and release neurotransmitters, which causes the strengthening of new neural pathways and the weakening the old ones. This leads to heightened stress levels on the brain that, at first, boost energy levels, but, over time, actually augment memory,impair cognition, lead to depression, alter the neural circuity of the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex. These are the brain regions that control mood and thought. If continued to be unchecked, even more underlying structures of the brain could be altered.[77] Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School believed that “downtime to the brain is what sleep is to the body. But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.[78] There are also concerns that this over-stimulation due to technology begins too young. When children are exposed before the age of seven, important developmental tasks may be delayed and bad learning habits might develop, which could lead to poor motivation. In turn, this "deprives children of the exploration and play that they need to develop.” [79]

Sociocultural criticism[edit]

Phantom objectivity[edit]

Leo Marx identifies the word “technology” itself as problematic.[80] He argues that the word came into use as a way to fill a general semantic void resulting from the rise of sociotechnical systems surrounding America’s growing electrical and chemical industries. However, the broad generality of the notion of “technology” made it susceptible to reification while giving it the air of “phantom objectivity” that concealed its fundamental nature as something that is only valuable insofar as it benefits the human condition. Technology ultimately comes down to affecting the relations between people, but this notion is obfuscated when technology is treated as an abstract notion devoid of good and evil. In this way, Marx suggests that the adaption of a workman to his work, rather than work to its workman as occurred during the industrial revolution could be seen as progress dictated by the phantom objectivity of technology, rather than as a great evil negatively affecting the lives of millions of workers. Langdon Winner makes a similar point by arguing that the underdevelopment of the philosophy of technology leaves us with an overly simplistic reduction in our discourse to the supposedly dichotomous notions of the “making” versus the “uses” of new technologies, and that a narrow focus on “use” leads us to believe that all technologies are neutral in moral standing.[81] These critiques would have us ask not, “How do we maximize the role or advancement of technology in education?”, but, rather, “What are the social and human consequences of adopting any particular technology?” Automatically assuming that more or better technology is automatically a good thing, they caution, could be dangerous.

Cultural impact[edit]

Winner [81] argues that it is useful to view technology as a “form of life” that not only aids human activity, but also represents a powerful force in reshaping that activity and its meaning. For example, the use of robots in the industrial workplace may increase productivity, but they also radically change the process of production itself, thereby redefining what is meant by “work” in such a setting. In education, standardized testing has arguably redefined the notions of learning and assessment. We rarely explicitly reflect on how strange a notion it is that a number between, say, 0 and 100 could possibly accurately reflect a person’s knowledge about the world. According to Winner, the recurring patterns in everyday life tend to become an unconscious process that we learn to take for granted. Therefore, it becomes very important to carefully weigh the implications before introducing new technologies. Winner writes,

By far the greatest latitude of choice exists the very first time a particular instrument, system, or technique is introduced. Because choices tend to become strongly fixed in material equipment, economic investment, and social habit, the original flexibility vanishes for all practical purposes once the initial commitments are made. In that sense technological innovations are similar to legislative acts or political foundings that establish a framework for public order that will endure over many generations. (p. 29)

Seymour Papert (p. 32) points out a good example of a (bad) choice that has become strongly fixed in social habit and material equipment: our “choice” to use the QWERTY keyboard.[82] The QWERTY arrangement of letters on the keyboard was originally chosen, not because it was the most efficient for typing, but because early typewriters were prone to jam when adjacent keys were struck in quick succession. Now that typing has become a digital process, this is no longer an issue, but the QWERTY arrangement lives on as a social habit, one that is very difficult to change. This example illustrates that when adopting new technologies, as Winner warns us, there may be only one best chance to “get it right.” This is also an example where the unintended consequences could, perhaps, have been foreseen.

Neil Postman endorsed the notion that technology impacts human cultures, including the culture of classrooms, and that this is a consideration even more important than considering the efficiency of a new technology as a tool for teaching.[83] Regarding the computer’s impact on education, Postman writes (p. 19):

What we need to consider about the computer has nothing to do with its efficiency as a teaching tool. We need to know in what ways it is altering our conception of learning, and how in conjunction with television, it undermines the old idea of school.

Digital divide[edit]

Main article: Digital divide

The concept of the digital divide is a gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not.[84] Access may be associated with age, gender, socio-economic status, education, income, ethnicity, and geography.[84][85]

Teacher training[edit]

Teachers have gaps in understanding the appropriate uses of technology in a learning environment.[86] Similar to learning a new task or trade, special training is vital to ensuring the effective integration of classroom technology. The current school curriculum tends to guide teachers in training students to be autonomous problem solvers.[85] This has become a significant barrier to effective training because the traditional methods of teaching have clashed with what is now expected in the present workplace. Today’s students in the workplace are increasingly being asked to work in teams, drawing on different sets of expertise, and collaborating to solve problem.[85] These experiences are not highly centered on in the traditional classroom, but are twenty-first century skills that can be attained through the incorporation and engagement with technology.[87] Changes in instruction and use of technology can also promote a higher level of learning among students with different types of intelligence.[88] Please see the presentation on Ted Talks by Sir Kenneth Robinson where he discusses the ways in which schools kill creativity.[89] Therefore since technology is not the end goal of education, but rather a means by which it can be accomplished, educators must have a good grasp of the technology being used and its advantages over more traditional methods. If there is a lack in either of these areas, technology will be seen as a hindrance and not a benefit to the goals of teaching.

The evolving nature of technology may unsettle teachers who may experience themselves as perpetual novices.[90] Marc Prensky discusses the idea that teachers are digital immigrants, and students are digital natives. Teachers must continuously work at learning this new technological language, whereas students were born into retrieving information, problem solving, and communicating with this technology.[91] The ways in which teachers are taught to use technology is also outdated because the primary focus of training is on computer literacy, rather than the deeper, more essential understanding and mastery of technology for information processing, communication, and problem solving.[90] New resources have to be designed and distributed whenever the technological platform has been changed. However, finding quality materials to support classroom objectives after such changes is often difficult even after they exist in sufficient quantity and teachers must design these resources on their own. The study by Harris[90] notes that the use of random professional development days is not adequate enough in order to foster the much-needed skills required to teach and apply technology in the classroom. “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist..using technologies that haven’t been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet”.[92] Learning, therefore, becomes an on-going process, which takes time and a strong commitment among the community of educators.[90]

Teachers may not feel the need to change the traditional education system because it has been successful in the past.[85] This does not necessarily mean it is the right way to teach for the current and future generations. Considering that today's students are constantly exposed to the impacts of the digital era, learning styles and the methods of collecting information have evolved. To illustrate this concept, Jenkins[85] states, “students often feel locked out of the worlds described in their textbooks through the depersonalized and abstract prose used to describe them”, whereas games can construct worlds for players to move through and have some stake in the events unfolding. Even though technology can provide a more personalized, yet collaborative, and creative, yet informative, approach to learning, it may be difficult to motivate the use of these contemporary approaches among teachers who have been in the field for a number of years.


There are two distinct issues of assessment. First, there is the issue of assessing learning technologies and the learning outcomes they support. Second, there is the issue of using technologies for the purposes of assessing students.

Assessment of technology

There is a great deal of apprehension associated with assessing the effectiveness of technology in the classroom and its development of information-age skills. This is because information-age skills, also commonly referred to as twenty-first-century literacies, are relatively new to the field of education.[93] According to the New Media Consortium, these include “the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual, and digital literacy overlap”.[85] Jenkins modifies this definition by acknowledging them as building on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills and critical-analysis skills taught in the classroom.[85]

Assessment with technology

Technology for assessment is used in many countries, and an example is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA is for 15 year olds and it is held in 70 countries every three years. This exam will be next held in 2015, and it will include adaptive components to evaluate hard-to-measure skills such as collaborative problem solving. However critics state that when learning is data driven it threatens the essence of schooling and turns them into factories.[94] Technology is pushed into the learning environment as a tool for assessment but it is an initiative for for-profit business. Although computers have started to assess student abilities, it is far from the skills that teachers have acquired over years of experience and have done for decades. Those who oppose the use of technology in education believe that instead of invest

Professional societies[edit]

Societies concerned with educational technology include:


Educational technologists and psychologists apply basic educational and psychological research into an evidence-based applied science (or a technology) of learning or instruction. These professions typically require a graduate degree (Master's, Doctorate, Ph.D., or D.Phil.) in a field related to educational psychology, educational media, experimental psychology, cognitive psychology or, more purely, in the fields of Educational, Instructional or Human Performance Technology or Instructional Systems Design. The transformation of educational technology from a cottage industry to a profession is discussed by Shurville, Browne, and Whitaker.[95]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Standards and specifications: