With access to technology and to digital learning resources increasing exponentially over the past decade, the focus and ambitions of educational technology advocates have shifted and broadened in proportion.
First, it was about convincing school districts to invest in the right equipment. Then it became about finding ways of using existing skills (writing, visual, memory, organizational, communication, etc.) to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Now that both items have been addressed by many American school districts, the next step is to introduce the idea of a technology-centric classroom—one where teaching strategies are molded around strategically selected instructional apps.
The digital push makes sense when one looks at the educational system in the context of an increasingly tech-centric society. The digital movement makes it possible for educators to go beyond linear, text-based learning and to bring the material to a level where students can be more fully engaged. Instructional apps offer the advantages of individualized student attention, accessibility, easy adaptability to distance learning, and arguably, better reporting and analytics.
Examples of technology-based learning resources that have had success in the classroom include virtual manipulatives, simulation and modeling software, epistemic games, and even virtual field trips. But while these tools have demonstrated their ability to deliver results, many educators remain skeptical as to whether or not the tech-centric approach can improve basic learning by a significant degree. Critics claim that the shift in emphasis to digital learning has no discernible effects on standardized test scores and that the investment comes at the expense of other learning fundamentals such as math, reading, writing, and the humanities.
Rather than decry the value of expensive tech investments, education experts agree that the problem lies not in the learning resources themselves but in incompatibilities and inefficiencies in facilitation. The solution, therefore, lies in integrating the available technologies into the classroom in a way that addresses specific performance improvement needs.
Enter educational technology. The importance of “EdTech” as an academic discipline is underscored by instructional app critics’ primary argument: the lack of significant performance improvement despite the ready availability of quality learning resources. A dynamic field of study, EdTech focuses on helping practitioners master the facilitation of tech-based learning materials to increase student performance and streamline the educational environment.
Though the field was born out of innovations in academic classrooms, corporate training centers have taken to using new educational technologies in a variety of different environments. Other applications for these tools include distance learning, human resources and communications, health care, new media, and instructional design. Online Master of Educational Technology programs are available for education and industry professionals seeking training in EdTech, and is a great way to pursue advanced career options in this growing field.
With more school districts and industries banking their futures on technology, it is an opportune time to pursue a career in the use of EdTech tools.