The Field of Educational Technology: Update 1995--A
Dozen Frequently Asked Questions. ERIC Digest.
by Ely, Donald P.
Educational technology is a term widely used in the field of education
(and other areas), but it is often used with different meanings. The word
technology is used by some to mean hardware--the devices that deliver information
and serve as tools to accomplish a task--but those working in the field
use technology to refer to a systematic process of solving problems by
scientific means. Hence, educational technology properly refers to a particular
approach to achieving the ends of education. Instructional technology refers
to the use of such technological processes specifically for teaching and
Other terms, such as instructional development or educational media,
which refer to particular parts of the field, are also used by some to
refer to the field as a whole.
The purpose of this digest is to provide background information and
sources that help one to understand the concept of educational technology.
This digest should serve as a "pathfinder" to relevant and timely publications
that view the field from a variety of perspectives.
1. WHAT IS EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY?
The most recent definition of the field (which uses the term, instructional
technology) has been published by the Association for Educational Communications
and Technology (AECT): Instructional Technology is the theory and practice
of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes
and resources for learning.
The complete definition, with its rationale, is presented in the AECT
Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1994). "Instructional
technology: The definition and domains of the field." Washington, DC: Author.
An overview of the field can be found in:
Gagne, Robert M. (Ed.). (1987). "Instructional technology: Foundations."
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Anglin, Gary J. (Ed.). (1995). "Instructional technology: Past, present
& future" (2nd ed.). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
2. WHAT ARE THE ROOTS OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY?
The field is essentially a 20th century movement with the major developments
occurring during and immediately after World War II. What began with an
emphasis on audio-visual communications media gradually became focused
on the systematic development of teaching and learning procedures which
were based in behavioral psychology. Currently, major contributing fields
are cognitive psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, perception
psychology, and management. The basic history of the field was written
Saettler, Paul E. (1990). "The evolution of American educational technology."
Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
A briefer history may be found in:
Reiser, Robert. (1987). Instructional technology: A history. In: Robert
M. Gagne (Ed.), "Instructional Technology: Foundations." (pp. 11-48). Hillsdale,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
3. WHAT IS A GOOD SOURCE OF RESEARCH FINDINGS?
Thompson, Ann, Simonson, Michael, & Hargrave, Constance. (1992).
"Educational technology: A review of the research." Washington, DC: Association
for Educational Communications and Technology.
Means, Barbara et al. (1993). "Using technology to support education
reform." Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement,
U.S. Department of Education.
4. WHAT DO EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS DO?
Most educational technologists carry out one or a few of the functions
performed in the field. For example, some design instruction, some produce
instructional materials, and others manage instructional computing services
or learning resources collections. The competencies for instructional development
specialists and material design and production specialists are published
International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction.
(1993). "Instructor competencies: The standards" (Vol. 1). Batavia, IL:
A comprehensive description of the functions of education technology
personnel is given in:
Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1977). "The
definition of educational technology" (pp. 55-79). Washington, DC: Author.
5. WHERE ARE EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS EMPLOYED?
Until recently, most educational technologists were employed in schools
and colleges as directors of resource centers and developers of curriculum
materials. Many are still employed in such positions, but increasing numbers
are being employed by training agencies in business, industry, government,
the military, and the health professions. Colleges and universities employ
individuals who are involved in instructional improvement programs that
use a variety of technologies.
6. WHERE DO EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS OBTAIN PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION?
Professional programs are offered mostly at the graduate level, although
there are a few two-year postsecondary programs in junior and community
colleges. Lists of programs are found in:
Ely, Donald P., & Minor, Barbara B. (Eds.). (1994). Doctoral programs
in instructional technology (pp. 257-272), and Master's degree and six-year
programs in instructional technology (pp. 273-302). In: Donald P. Ely &
Barbara B. Minor (Eds.). "Educational media and technology yearbook 1994."
Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Johnson, Jenny K. (Ed.). (1995). "Graduate curricula in educational
communications and technology" (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Association for
Educational Communications and Technology.
7. WHAT FIELDS OFFER GOOD PREPARATION FOR EDUCATIONAL
Many people enter the field following an undergraduate program in teacher
education. More people come from the basic disciplines of the arts and
sciences--English, sociology, communications, psychology, the physical
sciences, and mathematics. Although there seldom are prerequisites for
study in the field, persons who have good preparation in psychology and
mathematics seem to have a head start. Formal course work and experience
in human relations are helpful.
8. WHAT ARE THE MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS?
In the United States, most educational technologists would be a member
of one or more of the following associations:
American Educational Research Association (AERA)
1230 17th St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-3078
American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)
1630 Duke Street, Box 1443
Alexandria, VA 22313
Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT)
1025 Vermont Avenue, Suite 820
Washington, DC 20005-3547
International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)
1300 L Street N.W., Suite 1250
Washington, DC 20005
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
1787 Agate Street
Eugene, OR 97403-1923
Major organizations in other parts of the world include:
Association for Media & Technology in Education in Canada
3-1750 The Queensway, Suite 1318
Etobicoke, Ontario M9C 5H5 Canada
Association for Educational & Training Technology (AETT)
Centre for Continuing Education
The City University
London EC1V 0HB, U.K.
9. WHAT PUBLICATIONS DO EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS READ?
A recent study of journals read by educational technologists listed
over 50 journals in the field. The most frequently read journals include:
"British Journal of Educational Technology," published by the National
Council for Educational Technology, Sir William Lyons Road, Science Park,
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7EZ, England, U.K.
"Learning and Leading with Technology," published by ISTE.
"Innovations in Education and Training International," published by
AETT, Kogan Page Ltd., 120 Pentonville Rd., London N1 9JN, England, U.K.
"Educational Technology," published by Educational Technology Publications,
700 Palisade Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632.
"Educational Technology Research and Development," published by AECT.
"Journal of Research on Computing in Education," published by ISTE.
"TechTrends," published by AECT.
10. WHAT ARE THE COMPREHENSIVE REFERENCES FOR THE FIELD?
There are two major encyclopedias:
Eraut, Michael, (Ed.). (1989). "The international encyclopedia of educational
technology." New York: Pergamon Press.
Unwin, Derek, & McAleese, Ray (Eds.). (1988). "The encyclopedia
of educational media communications and technology." (2nd ed.) Westport,
CT: Greenwood Press.
There are two major yearbooks which offer articles on current issues
and extensive lists of people, organizations, literature, and other resources:
Ely, Donald P., & Minor, Barbara B. (Eds.). "Educational media and
technology yearbook." Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Osborne, Christopher W. (Ed.). "International yearbook of educational
and instructional technology." London: Kogan Page, and Phoenix, AZ: Oryx
11. WHAT TEXTBOOKS ARE COMMONLY USED?
There are dozens of books used in educational technology courses. Selection
of titles depends upon the content of the course, the primary audience,
and the instructor's objectives. General textbooks that have been used
in a variety of courses are:
Heinich, Robert, Molenda, Michael & Russell, James. (1993). "Instructional
media and the new technologies of instruction." (4th ed.) New York: Macmillan.
Dick, Walter, & Carey, Lou. (1990). "The systematic design of instruction."
(3rd ed.) Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co.
12. WHERE CAN MORE SPECIFIC INFORMATION ABOUT EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
The ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) system sponsored
by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department
of Education has been selecting documents on educational technology since
1966 and indexing articles from key journals since 1969. Abstracts of the
documents can be found in:
"Resources in Education," published monthly by the U.S. Government Printing
Office and available in more than 3,500 libraries throughout the world.
Selected articles which have been indexed from educational technology
journals are listed in:
"Current Index to Journals in Education," found in many libraries or
available from Oryx Press, 4041 North Central at Indian School Road, Phoenix,
Computer searching of the ERIC database is available in many academic
and some public libraries. It can also be done over the Internet and on
some commercial networks. Specific questions can be addressed to:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology (ERIC/IT)
4-194 Center for Science and Technology
Syracuse, NY 13244-4100
(315) 443-3640; (800) 464-9107
There is a listserv on the Internet that focuses on discussion of issues
in educational technology. The address is:
The ERIC/IT Clearinghouse has a publications list of monographs and
digests about current issues and developments in the field and publishes
a newsletter, ERIC/IT Update, twice each year. Both items are available