What is the purpose of educational technology?

What is the purpose of educational technology?

June 30, 2024 Off By JR

Martin Weller kicks off an interesting question, that honestly, would be an amazing session in an EdTech program (hint hint), what is the purpose of educational technology?

I don’t mean that title as a rhetorical, smartass, question, but rather a more fundamental one. It’s probably not one we ask ourselves very often, we tend to be caught up in the application of a particular technology, or trying to solve a specific problem. But at the more abstract level, what do you think educational technology is for? When we adopt it, what is the purpose we are intending it to fulfil? I expect the answer will vary depending on technology or context, and not be limited to one function overall. But of you had to answer the question “what is the main purpose of educational technology?” at a cocktail party, what would you answer (apart from asking yourself how did you get invited to a party where this is the conversation). Here are some potential responses I think:Martin Weller

Martin proposes:

  • Improve learning performance: Educational technology aims to enhance learning outcomes as measured by assessments and tests, though long-term impacts on performance may vary.
  • Making learning more accessible/flexible: Ed tech provides opportunities for remote and flexible learning, making education accessible to a wider audience, including during disruptions like the pandemic.
  • Financial benefits: While not always resulting in cost savings, educational technology can be more economical than traditional infrastructure and open new revenue streams through online offerings.
  • Student experience and choice: Technology enriches the student experience by offering skills in digital navigation, collaboration, and varied learning methods, enhancing their overall learning journey.
  • Improved pedagogy: Ed tech enables innovative teaching methods, such as access to extensive databases and simulations, making learning more engaging and effective.
  • Reflection on practice: The introduction of new technologies prompts valuable reflection on educational practices and fundamental questions about the purpose of education.
  • Administration and monitoring: Educational technology supports essential administrative tasks and student monitoring, though it can also introduce concerns over excessive control and surveillance.

There might be others, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts. One that I could see as either one Martin missed or as an addendum would be performance support. Martin speaks about learning performance grounded in a context of courses (in university). One area of ID/learning design that is often missed by those in higher ed contexts is performance support, which can be a big portion of work for IDs outside of higher ed. One could argue both, edtech exists outside of formal institutions, but also some of the outside tech also bleeds in. One example of performance support would be something like an electronic performance support system, which allows an ID to layer additional information onto an existing page/platform. For example, most times when teaching faculty how to use an LMS centers for teaching and learning might make a stand alone course in the LMS and offer workshops. An EPSS would allow a designer to layer instructions onto the LMS screens to assist faculty at the moment of need. This is particularly helpful for instances across the other moments of need other than “learning something new.”

I think there’s an aspect of efficiency that didn’t seem to be explicitly addressed in Martin’s post. One, not exciting example, would be distribution of varied exams. When I worked in K12, I knew teachers that had multiple multiple documents they had to manually distribute to students. With edtech, some products use things like question banks and allow randomization or questions, and even auto generation of some types of questions, for varied exams between students. There’s a whole values and paradigm thing here, but that’s out of scope for this response.

What other purposes of edtech are there?