Educational Technology, Knowledge, and Learning

What is my personal definition of educational technology? That is a great question and not something I have stopped to put much thought into before. When I think of my own elementary school experiences and educational technology these are the tools that come flashing back.

What did these tools provide me with? What did I learn? I remember sitting in the computer lab typing in rows of code to establish an end goal of watching a ball or a stick person walk across the screen. The little professor calculator was impressive as it gave you math questions to answer rather than you having to create your own. The days when the film projector was rolled into the classroom were always great days. I do remember receiving the established job of being the student who got to sit next to the projector and turn it off when the film was over so that it didn’t spin for too long. Did these tools impact my learning? In thinking about these memories from long ago I can say that technology provided me with excitement for learning. Jumping back to today, has that changed? What does educational technology provide us? Reflecting on those questions I can say that my definition of educational technology is technology that is used purposefully to facilitate and enhance learning.

As technology has changed so much over the years and with the changes that continue to happen, it was interesting to read the article The Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change by Neil Postman. He brought up some very interesting points to consider:

  1. All technological change is a trade-off.
  2. There is always winners and losers in technological change.
  3. Embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea.
  4. Technological change is ecological.
  5. Technology tends to become mythic.

The points Postman makes are valid. One area that I instantly thought of relates to his first point of technological change being a trade-off. In terms of educational technology I often wonder if convenience at times is traded for privacy? How many times have we heard of someone promoting a really great app they found or a super easy to use website that will help students learn without having taken any time to investigate or learn about the terms of service or privacy policies? What exactly is a teacher agreeing to give up about their students in order to use the app or website? How much of a trade-off are we willing to sacrifice?

While reviewing the learning theories of behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism it was interesting to think about my own classroom practices. At some point in my career my classroom practices have been influenced by all three. Starting off as a new teacher I remember classroom management being such a focus and the techniques that were used were very much rooted in behaviourism. As I gained experience and participated in professional development my understanding and beliefs of learning changed. I would say that my shift to embracing a constructivist theory came from a deeper understanding of how to teach math. Using manipulatives and providing students with opportunities to interact and explore changed my views on learning and in turn changed how I taught.

While these learning theories were not new to me, how they relate to educational technology is interesting to consider. What does that mean for how we use educational technology in our classrooms?

In the video, Katia explained that our beliefs about knowledge, learning, and strategies for practice must align. Without that alignment, does the technology make a difference? I think that all too often technology is viewed as if it is being used then it is making a difference. As we are learning, there is so much more to consider. I believe that purposeful use of educational technology will facilitate and enhance student learning.

10 thoughts on “Educational Technology, Knowledge, and Learning

  1. Janeen Clark July 13, 2021 / 11:08 am

    Laurie, that professor calculator!!! I had one of those — wow, memory lane, and also, I’m old 🙂 I too, was excited for film days. As you question whether these tools impacted your learning, I think back as well. I don’t remember what exactly I learned — I just remember, for example, watching multiple episodes of Degrassi Junior High, and wondering how Spike could possibly have a baby in school. But, I think it did for me what it did for you — made me excited! Math was more fun with a professor calculator, and I was excited to go to school knowing that today was film day. While tech tools today can have a lot more impact than simple engagement, if I can use something that will help engage my kids, I’m already further ahead.

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    • Laurie July 18, 2021 / 3:40 pm

      Thank you Janeen for also being old like me! Degrassi Junior High and Spike – more memories. I agree, engagement is the first step and often the most challenging. Once students are engaged, the possibilities are endless.

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  2. Laurie, first off your blog looks fantastic! I really love the colour scheme and how you incorporate pictures early on in your blog post. Although I can’t say I am familiar with any of the pictures you posted, it still brought me down memory lane and my experiences in elementary and high school, so thank-you for that!

    I really liked how you laid out The 5 Things We Need to Know About Technological Change by Postman, as I think his article was so thought-provoking and really make me ponder a lot of things that I maybe wouldn’t have necessarily done so before. The two that really stuck with me, were the first two:

    All technological change is a trade-off.
    There is always winners and losers in technological change.

    For some reason, even though the first one that all technological change is a trade-off seems to be so straightforward, I had never thought of it like that before. Even though I have been a product of many technological changes and replacements, I never put it into that mind frame before (not sure how I couldn’t have after reading it, that’s for sure). Thanks so much for sharing your post.

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    • Laurie July 18, 2021 / 3:38 pm

      You not being familiar with any of the pictures really ages me! Ha! I agree that that Postman’s points were obvious yet not something we stop to think about.

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  3. Rae Singleton July 13, 2021 / 3:58 pm

    Laurie, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post! The photographs at the start of the blog were captivating and really had me thinking back to my personal technology experiences in school. I connect with your memory of the excitement of a film projector being rolled into the classroom. For me it was a TV/VHS cart. It is interesting to think back on our learning then, as those “tv or projector” days usually meant an hour straight of watching the video. In my current teaching practice, I use videos almost every day but they are usually short video clips used for engagement, a hook or to reinforce learning. I also connected with your comment on how your teaching practice has evolved to a more constructivist approach. Math is certainly a subject that requires hands-on learning and the use of manipulatives. Your question about the use of technology in classrooms has me thinking about the way I use math technology (Mathletics, Math Games etc.) in my practice. I look forward to reading your blog again!

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    • Laurie July 18, 2021 / 3:35 pm

      Thanks Rae! My teaching career began with using VHS tapes. Booking out the TV to use in your classroom required a lot of forward planning as there were often only 1 or 2 in the entire school. How times have changed with the convenience of videos at our fingertips!

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  4. Katherine Collins July 13, 2021 / 6:04 pm

    Laurie, I also appreciate the organization of your blog and how you have a true digital record of the classes that you have taken previously. I hope to do this on my master’s journey as well. The pictures you provided are definitely a blast from the past and it jogs the memory of how far we have come in the technology we use in classroom’s today. I think that your definition of educational technology is spot on by saying that “technology that is used purposefully to facilitate and enhance learning”. It is so simple, yet so specific. Additionally, I too also share the belief that our privacy is often traded for convenience especially when it is so easy for our devices to remember every email and password ever created for any website. Katia mentions that “beliefs about knowledge, learning, and strategies for practice must align”. This cannot be more true now that we are integrating technology into the classroom at such a fast pace and must be done so authentically and meaningfully so that we are not just using technology when it in convenient. It needs to be used as a tool to facilitate and enhance learning. Thank-you for your though-provoking post. I look forward to reading more in the future!

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    • Laurie July 18, 2021 / 3:31 pm

      Thanks Katherine! I am really thinking a lot about that alignment as we move through the topics and how we use technology.

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  5. Mike Wolf July 14, 2021 / 10:24 am

    Excellent point about the trade offs, and I know some others have mentioned privacy concerns. I don’t think I’ve ever fully read terms of service for an app or a site. Another thing that strikes me is app controls. I have a drone to take photos and video footage at work, and I always wonder where the data is going when the app requests access to my location, my calendar, or my contacts. The frustrating thing is that many apps force these onto you. Yes, you can opt out, but then you can’t use the app at all and are excluded.

    Katherine, I you mentioning Katia’s point about knowledge, learning and strategies needing to align is something I’ve thought about a lot lately. At the beginning of pandemic shut-down, many were in survival mode and just trying their best to get some material online for students. It was in many ways more about quantity the quality. During remote learning this year, I found the focus was less on quantity of material and more on trying to sustain meaningful connections and relationships with students while engaging them in course material.

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    • Laurie July 18, 2021 / 3:29 pm

      After taking a few of Alec’s classes privacy policies is something that I have learned about and put much more consideration into. These concerns were really highlighted in the spring when teachers were scrambling to find tools to use to engage students and provide meaningful learning opportunities.

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