Elements of Educational Technology

The ever-evolving definition of educational technology currently includes thirteen different elements that together comprise the scholarly definition applied to the field. Educational technology’s official definition discusses the relatively new idea of facilitating learning for learners rather than controlling learning.  As an element of the definition, facilitating is extremely important to the overall understanding of educational technology because it has implications for the learner, designer, and educator.  As defined by the AECT, “educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008).

Facilitating recognizes the learner’s role as a part of the educational process.  Rather than a mere recipient of knowledge, the learner becomes a constructor of that knowledge along with the traditional resources comprised of the teacher, textbooks, and other content (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008).  The facilitating approach creates a more authentic learning environment as it allows learners to explore their learning environment rather than simply react to a series of predetermined stimulus or content.  The learner is able to make choices and impact their own learning as much as the curriculum designer and teacher.  More importantly, the learner is able to make their learning relevant to their own lives and experiences.  “Authentic learning involves exploring the world around us, asking questions, identifying information resources, discovering connections, examining multiple perspectives, discussing ideas, and making informed decisions that have a real impact” (Callison & Lamb, 2004).  Furthermore, Herrinton and Oliver note that “authentic context is valued by students as an element of a multimedia learning environment” (2000).

The AECT element of facilitating is so intimately related to the definition of educational technology that it cannot be separated without rewriting the definition entirely. Indeed, the definition actually states that educational technology is the study and practice of facilitating learning, so this element is critical to an accurate understanding of educational technology itself.  The definition of educational technology and the element both suggest that it is not enough to teach facts and figures.  The instructor must provide the map for the learner’s exploration of the content and facilitate the learner’s journey toward knowledge in a holistic and authentic manner that reinforces the relevance of content to the learner.

My experience as an online facilitator reinforces the idea that facilitation is a stronger instructional strategy than merely “say and spray” lecturing.  My students can work at their own pace, engage as much or as little as they want with the content, and find personal relevance.  Januszewski and Molenda state the importance of facilitating rather than controlling learning (2008). I agree with this idea provided that the facilitation still creates a framework and boundaries. An educational environment with no controls whatsoever seems to be a dangerous enterprise as experience has taught me that students need a controlled environment in order to open themselves to the learning process. That being said, I agree with the AECT’s decision to add facilitating as a key element. My goal is to be a stronger facilitator and leave the lecture at the door.

Callison, D., & Lamb, A. (2004). Authentic learning. School Library Monthly, 34-39.

Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2000). An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments. Educational technology, research and development, 48(3), 23-48.

Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1-14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.

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