Contemporary Understandings of Ed Tech

Hello fellow EC&I 833 classmates! It is so great to be back for another semester of ed tech learning!

In class this week, we discussed some definitions of educational technology and explored some of the historical contexts of technology and its impacts on society. You can read about my personal journey with technology in this blog post. My classmate Kyle provides his history with tech in his post found here and Scott provides a trip down memory lane as well.

This is my third ed tech course and we have spent a lot of time in all of the courses discussing how technology is simply a tool. It does not have positive or negative connotations associated with it but how people choose to use the tool does. In the spring session, our class debated whether or not technology enhanced learning. My classmate Erin used this graphic to highlight points from either side of the debate:

Despite some really relevant concerns that tech can possibly inhibit learning, most people felt that the positive aspects of ed tech outweighed the negative. To further this discussion, the SAMR model provides various steps in which technology can be integrated into the classroom in meaningful ways. My classmate Adam also share some of the tools he has used (many fit into this SAMR model!) that enhance or enrich student learning in his post.


This week, Alec presented us with some variations to the definition of educational technology. My personal understanding of educational technology combines the ideas I have presented above in that the purpose of educational technology is to enhance learning using a variety of technological resources. Critical to this understanding is the consideration and facilitation of ed tech resources by the teacher so as to use the technological resource to enhance and transform learning. Equally as important are the ethical implications that go along with using technology in terms of data collection and sharing and student privacy. The ethical use of technology often leaves many teachers at various stages of comfort with the use of tech. My classmate Channing explores her experience and comfort level with using tech in the classroom in her blog post found here.

As Tony Bates (2015) argues in A Short History of Educational Technology, that “there are some useful lessons to be learned from past developments in the use of technology for education, in particular that many claims made for newly emerging technology are likely to be neither true nor new”.

I find it very interesting that Bates compares the King of Egypt’s (fifth century) critique of writing (as a technology) to modern day critiques of social media: 

When we think about contemporary understandings of technology use in the classroom, Neil Postman (1998) provides some relevant ideas about the ever-changing world of technology. As our contemporary definition of educational technology continues to evolve, Postman’s ideas provide a continuous reminder about technology in general:

  • Idea #1: “For every advantage a new technology offers, there is a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost”. (I don’t agree with this statement in it’s entirety but the main point is relevant).
  • Idea #2: “The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. This means that every new technology benefits some and harms others”. Technology can be a driving force for equity or a driving force for inequity in society. To read more about my thoughts on this topic, visit this blog post.
  • Idea #3: I actually don’t really like Postman’s description of his 3rd idea. But what I think he is trying to get at it is Marshal McLuhan’s idea of “The medium is the message”.
  • Idea #4: Technological change is ecological / immersive and seeps into all elements of our society or ecology. Postman (1998) provides an analogy: “What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have new colouration to every molecule of water.” This idea also relates McLuhan’s understanding of technology within society and has a Foucaultian ring to it: when tech becomes so ingrained, society fails to continue questioning its relevance, purpose and impact.
  • Idea #5: Relates back to idea three and four. Postman (1998) argues “Technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things”…which be become dangerous for society.

I tend to agree with some of Postman’s ideas and I think they are important to consider when reflecting on a more modern understanding of educational technology. I do think that his article is outdated especially in the many examples he provides along with each of his five ideas. One premise that I wholeheartedly disagree upon is his positioning that schools/teachers can be replaced by technology. I will reiterate a point made in an earlier blog post this spring: Critical to technology integration is the role of the teacher. Technology does not and cannot replace the teacher. Teachers play a crucial role in implementing technology which allows students to be more prepared for the future. In this article, McKnight et al. (2016) indicate “Teachers play a critical role by organizing the learning environment to provide students with active, hands-on learning and authentic tasks and audiences for their work…Researchers have found that for technology to make a difference in learning, specific systems factors such as leadership support, frequency of technology use, and instructional models must be in place…Perhaps most importantly…technology transformed teachers’ roles as educators and activated cognitive processes that learning science tells us enhance learning”.

That’s all for now folks! I look forward to reading more of your blog posts in the coming days. Comments welcome!




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