Introduction to Educational Technology

Overview of Introduction to Educational Technology

Emergence, borrowing, and convergence

Introduction to educational technology, During the various stages of the development of educational technology, there are phases of its emergence, its borrowings from other fields, and its contribution to or convergence with other fields of study. Before we take up these three aspects, it is important to note that in the early sixties, ET emerged as an occupational category with specialized jobs or field of work; and that is the phase when ET was formally recognized by many. As you would have seen in Unit 1, the emergence of educational technology can be traced to ‘audio-visual aids’ and ‘programmed learning’. Therefore, it is not surprising that many educational technologists owe their origin to these two fields. The audio-visual movement facilitated student learning within classrooms by enhancing motivation, attention and other stimuli, and also outside classrooms through mass media such as television. On the other hand, the programmed learning movement facilitated ‘individualized learning’ which has so far been the major domain of distance education and other computer-mediated learning (Panda, 1990). In the following discussion, let’s focus on the four developments within ET: i) audiovisual aids, ii) instructional technology, iii) individualized learning, and iv) the systems approach. Following this discussion, we shall expand these four aspects and include many other developments within a historical perspective.

Introduction to Educational Technology

Audiovisual aids

The beginning of the development of educational technology was the use of various audiovisual(AV) aids to enhance the quantity and quality of communication so as to facilitate teacher presentation and student learning. This was intended to increase the accuracy and variety in the presentation of information. The audiovisual approach emerged in 1928 which later on led to the use of optical and electronic equipment. This approach combined both hardware and software:

  • Hardware: Equipment such as tape recorder, overhead projector (OHP), the microcomputer
  • Software: Learning materials, audio programmes, overhead transparencies, computer programmes.

Though many educators do not consider this aspect to be included at all within educational technology, many educational technologists argue that the beginning of this field is the audiovisual aids. The merit of AV aids was that it exemplified both verbal communication and abstract learning experiences so that learning experience became more concrete. The demerit was that teachers used to lay more stress on the audiovisual materials than their usefulness in teaching learning. The AV approach may be referred to as ‘technology in education’ (as you have seen in Unit-1 of this block). During the 1950s, there were developments of communication theories which were applied to the AV approach to teaching-learning. While earlier the emphasis was on the product, this new development focused on the process of communication. This resulted in effective communication through educational television, and later through computer programming. Therefore, both radio (and audio) and television (and video) had to have principles of design for learning (or instruction) which differed from the way verbal classroom communication (or teaching) took place. Subsequent to this, both audiovisual aids and communication processes, combined with the developments in learning theories, led to the development of the area of instructional technology and instructional design as discussed here.

Instructional technology

There were gradual developments in various learning theories, starting with ‘behaviourism’ which applied laboratory experiments to human learning (and teaching-learning). ‘Technology of education’ (as you have seen in Unit 1) was the result of the combined contribution of instructional scientific research, learning theories, and educational research. Instead of stressing the use of audiovisual aids, this approach (called ‘instructional technology’) emphasized the intangible aspects of learning (i.e. the underware aspects) and the techniques of teaching-learning. The technology of education included hardware, software, courseware, and instructional strategy. Self-instructional strategies such as programmed learning were developed, and teaching or instruction was designed based on definite principles of learning theories.

Following the application of physical sciences and engineering technology ‘instructional devices’ were developed, and the application of learning theories led to developments in ‘technology of learning’. Considerable research took place in the area of the science of human learning, and their application to the design of teaching-learning strategies (and various media to facilitate them) – this precisely led to the development of the field of ‘instructional technology’. Later on, cognitive and constructivist psychologists contributed to this. Cognitivism contributed to the design for remembering, problem-solving, thinking, reasoning; and major contributions came from Piaget, Glaser (1976), Reigeluth (1979), Merrill (1983). Their research led to the serious design for instruction, instructional strategies, and development of instructional systems/instructional systems design. The later developments in constructivism (Jonassen, 1991) led to the design on the individual construction of knowledge and group negotiation of meaning. The developments in Web 2.0 and social technologies (as we shall see later in this Unit) have significantly contributed to the constructivist view of learning and enrichment of the quality of individualized learning.

A simple form or process of instructional design is presented in Figure 2.1 in which you will find that the design of instruction or teaching-learning proceeds with the setting of learning objectives, development of instructional materials and procedures (i.e. actual teaching-learning), and assessment and evaluation at the end ( on which feedback is provided to further revise learning objectives) based on the learner’s style and pace of learning and the teaching-learning processes, and also an in-built mechanism for revisiting also on revise the teaching-learning process itself.

In a scholarly work on describing the historical development of instructional technology, Shrock (1991) has recorded the following chronological developments which will give you a general idea as to how this field has evolved (especially from the American perspective):

  • Pre-1920s: The earlier works of psychologists like E.L. Thorndike provided the base to how human beings learn and how teaching-learning should be organized, and how assessment and evaluation (through measurement) should take place.
  • The 1920s: This was the decade of the development of learning objectives, i.e. design of instruction or teaching-learning based on pre-stipulated learning outcomes. The Dalton plan was developed, and instructional development was associated with individualized instruction and mastery learning, and the development of self-learning materials.
  • The 1930s: Grounded on the work of R.W. Tyler, there were further refinements in writing of instructional objectives based on students’ behavior (which were later termed as behavioral objectives); the development alternative curricula and alternative learning resources and the emergence of the idea of formative evaluation.
  • The 1940s: In this decade following World War II, there was a significant development in instructional media and technology – especially films and other such instructional materials. Though the focus/emphasis was more on instructional media (rather than instructional technology), there was the emergence of the concept of mediated instruction and also the breed of instructional technologists who were to facilitate the subject-matter experts. This may be related, for instance, to the need for the trio (subject-matter expert, instructional designer/ technologist, and the producer) in the production of educational video/television programmes at BBC-Open University Production Centre in the UK and/or the Countrywide Classroom of the University Grants Commission (UGC) in India.
  • The 1950s: This was the decade of programmed instruction based on the work of B.F. Skinner relating to operant conditioning. The following steps were clearly devised and categorically followed in programmed learning: learning objectives, content presented in smaller chunks, self-pacing and individualized progress in learning, self-assessment questions with active learner response and immediate feedback, and further improvement in the process. The programmed learning movement contributed to well-designed learning materials, self-pacing in learning, and mastery learning; and later to task analysis and content analysis. This was the period when Benjamin Bloom developed the taxonomy of educational objectives which is being used even today in the context of online learning as well.
  • The 1960s: This was the decade of instructional systems development, especially Robert Glaser’s instructional system, and Robert Gagne’s conditions of learning. There were further developments in norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing. Instructional developers gained further legitimacy, though their defined profession was contested by media specialists who claimed to be educational technologists too.
  • The 1970s: This decade was the decade of the recognition of ‘instructional design and development’ as a profession. Cognitive psychologists contributed immensely to instructional design and development to this.
  • The 1980s: the 80s saw the advent of microcomputers and rigorous process of instructional systems development. Due to the emphasis laid on training (especially corporate training), there was a greater focus on performance technology which took into consideration both instructional and non-instructional aspects to achieve the desired level of performance.

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