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Week 3: What Counts as EdTech?

During class this week, Katia proposed what seemed to be, a fairly simple question. What counts as EdTech? Well surely the answer is as simple as technology that helps students learn. But is it that simple? The more I began to contemplate the question the more I wrestled with the idea of what an appropriate definition could be.

Read more: Week 3: What Counts as EdTech?

The deeper I thought on the issue, the more complex it became. And to be frank upfront, I’m still not sure I have an answer.

Through class discussions, we spoke about products not typically associated with Educational Technology, and where they fit into this discussion. If a refrigerator is used in a Commercial Cooking class, is it a piece of Educational Technology? Is a table saw in a construction shop a piece of Educational Technology? Is the pencil (which could certainly be argued to be a piece of technology) considered part of the Ed. Tech. world? Does the time period, environment, or culture affect your definition? Different teaching styles, cultures, and philosophies could certainly play a part in what technologies are used in a classroom, so is that also something we should consider when writing our definition? Or on the other hand, should we only consider things that are electronic, and purpose-driven, and designed in an effort to increase student engagement, as these are more common in today’s society when you bring up the term ‘technology?’

Looking online can net you thousands of varying results. One take I found interesting was from Udacity’s YouTube page. Udacity offers a wide breadth of online training, and their take on Educational Technology is in the short video below. I found their description of educational technology relating to any place where technology and education intersect quiet interesting, and some of their examples were pieces I hadn’t previously considered.

As Katia mentioned during class, looking at various historical and philosophical contexts can lend perspectives to this question. We discussed Aristotle’s Intellectual Virtues, as well as completing readings from the likes of Neil Postman and Audrey Watters. One of the simple overarching themes is that discussions on technology are certainly not new, and the answers to our questions seem to evolve as fast as the technology does. Aristotle recognized the use of technology in production (Techne) while the discussions of it’s pros and cons continue through the likes of Postman and Watters. Postman provided 5 ideas around technological change (which are paraphrased below,) many of which unconsciously shape my understanding and use of educational technology.

  1. For every advantage a new technology offers, there is a corresponding disadvantage.
  2. There are always winners and losers in technological change
  3. Embedded in every technology, there is a powerful (possibly hidden) idea
  4. Technological change is note additive; it is ecological
  5. Technologies have the potential to become mythic, which can be dangerous for society.

Knowing about these ideas now, I find them easy to pick out within the classroom. New technologies have the ability to greatly enhance, or greatly bog down a lesson. The Digital Divide is ever present, and has been exasperated by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Textbook (and other media) publishers have concerning amounts of control over what is included, or excluded, in education materials. New technologies can have a great ripple effect (positive or negative,) within your classroom. We can become over-dependent on technology, assuming it will always be there and always should be there. (Regina Public Schools faced this issue head on recently.)

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

The deeper we dive, the more I find myself coming back to try and make a concise, yet effective definition. Although the overall term technology is can be applied across generations, I feel a contemporary lens is necessary in order to be as practical as possible in today’s age when we are considering educational technology.

To me, educational technology is any piece of hardware or software that is specifically driven to increase student’s engagement in their learning. Like technology, I’m sure this definition will evolve over time, with new ideas, thoughts, or new technology.

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2 thoughts on “Week 3: What Counts as EdTech?

  1. What do you see as the solution to an over-reliance on technology? Is it about stripping out the use of an extraneous tech, or is it about going back to the basics? I know that there are times where I long for the days of just getting my smartboard, finding interesting templates and just having my class play like they were in kindergarten – not may grade 11s get to do that anymore. Sometimes, I found that it is a matter of adding it in to enrich. And other times, it is solely focused around learning how to use the tech to share a simple idea.

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