Educational technologies

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1 Definition

Educational technologies are technologies that are used in education. Not to be confounded with educational technology - the field.

2 Families of technologies

There exist several taxonomies that attempt to classify educational technologies and their uses.

2.1 Overview

Basque and Lundgren-Cayrol (2003) found and analyzed 24 different typologies of ICT usage in schools and proposed a "meta-typology" with three categories:

  1. Typologies centered on the teaching/learning act and that use classification criteria like the (1) computer's role in a pedagogical relation, (2) learner/computer control, (3) pedagogic strategy, (3) association of ICT to a specific stage in a instructional design.
  2. Typologies centered on the school and educational actors, i.e. (1) typologies that associate ICT with school activities and (2) those focus on ICT use by the actors
  3. Typologies centered on the learner, i.e. (1) typologies that categorize ICT usage according to learner preferences for cognitive strategies, (2) those who categorize ICT according to cognitive functions they support and (3) those that classify ICT according to their support for learning stages or cognitive processing stages.

2.2 The Media Cube

Repenning et al. (1998) define media with three dimensions: media richness, interactivity and accessibility.

The media cube - Copyright Alexander Repenning, Andri Ioannidou and James Ambach and reproduced here with permission by Alexander Repenning.

This picture argues that different kinds of media have different kinds of affordances for the design of learning environments. See also the media debate which is about the question whether media "can even be the message", i.e. whether a medium could incomporporate a instructional functionality that can not be had with an other medium.

2.3 Longstaffe, 1996

Longstaffe defines categories that in similar form also can be found with other authors. Within a pedagogical design these categories are not exclusive of course, although there is some clustering, e.g. Presentation in CBT is always associated with some form of interaction but not necessarily with extra information or communication. Modern Web-based CBT (e-learning) since the mid-90's adds these dimensions to some extent.

(1) Presentation
Presentation of contents (texts, pictures, diagrams, animations) on various technical supports.
(2) Information
The computer as a library
(3) Interaction.
Various kinds of interaction that include quizzing software, CBT, Simulations, microworlds etc.
(4) Communication.
Various CMC tools such as email, forums, audio/video conferences, virtual environments, etc.
(5) Professional software tools

E.g. word processors, CAD systems, simulation software, laboratory software, etc.

Since Longstaffe publishes his taxonomy, interaction and communication tools did evolve.

(6) cognitive tools
Cognitive tools are a combination of professional software tools, information, interaction and communication tools that support learning by doing something.
(7) Interactive things
  • Recent trends in ubiquitous computing, microworlds, social software etc.) also include "smart & networked" objects that can be manipulated. That trend has been identified as early as mid-90's by practitioners of educational technology (e.g. Meryn, 1998).

In addition, many applications that are used in education did become "social", e.g. allow individuals to profit from each other in one or another form. Typical examples are the yet vastly underused social software tools like collaborative citation indexes.

3 Bruce and Levin

Bruce and Levin (1997) [1] “describe a new way of classifying uses of educational technologies, based on a four-part division suggested years ago by John Dewey: inquiry, communication, construction, and expression. This taxonomy is compared to previous taxonomies of educational technologies, and is found to cover a wider range of uses, including many of the cutting-edge uses of educational technologies.”. The authors suggestion using the term of media to emphasize the mediative aspect of technologies. “"Media" suggests the mediational function of technologies, which link the student to other learners, teachers, other technologies, ideas, and the physical world. Moreover, as technologies become embedded in social practices, they tend to become invisible; we focus less on the fact that they may be consciously employed as a tool to do a task, and come to see the task itself as central, with the technology as substrate.” (Bruce and Levin, 1997)

The taxonomy:

A.   Media for Inquiry

  1. Theory building--technology as media for thinking, Model exploration and simulation toolkits Visualization software, Virtual reality environments, Data modeling--defining categories, relations, representations Procedural models, Mathematical models, Knowledge representation: semantic network, outline tools, etc. Knowledge integration
  2. Data access--connecting to the world of texts, video, data, Hypertext and hypermedia environments Library access and ordering, Digital libraries Databases, Music, voice, images, graphics, video, data tables, graphs, text
  3. Data collection--using technology to extend the senses, Remote scientific instruments  accessible via networks, Microcomputer-based laboratories, with sensors for temperature, motion, heart rate, etc. Survey makers for student-run surveys and interviews, Video and sound recording
  4. Data analysis, Exploratory data analysis Statistical analysis Environments for inquiry Image processing Spreadsheets, Programs to make tables and graphs Problem-solving programs

B.   Media for Communication

  1. Document preparation, Word processing Outlining Graphics, Spelling, grammar, usage, and style aids Symbolic expressions, Desktop publishing Presentation graphics
  2. Communication--with other students, teachers, experts in various fields, and people around the world: Electronic mail, Asynchronous computer conferencing, Synchronous computer conferencing (text, audio, video, etc.) Distributed information servers like the World-wide Web Student-created hypertext environments
  3. Collaborative Media: Collaborative data environments, Group decision support systems, Shared document preparation, Social spreadsheets
  4. Teaching Media: Tutoring systems, Instructional simulations, Drill and practice systems, Telementoring.

C.   Media for Construction

  1. Control systems--using technology to affect the physical world Robotics
  2. Control of equipment Computer-aided design
  3. Construction of graphs and charts

D.   Media for Expression

  1. Drawing and painting programs
  2. Music making and accompaniment
  3. Music composing and editing
  4. Interactive video and hypermedia
  5. Animation software
  6. Multimedia composition

We believe this to be an interesting taxonomy since it is based on what learners and teachers can do with a technology. However, the "construction" category may not be developed enough. More precisely, there is an overlap with "Media for inquiry", in particular the "theory building section" which can be a constructive activity using some kind of constructionist environment.

4 A flat typology of major educational sofware categories

This is very provisional

4.1 School and student administration

  • no entries so far here

4.2 Resource management, databases, libraries

4.3 Cognitive tools and social software

4.4 Communication and collaboration

4.5 Social computing

4.6 ICT as a subject

4.7 Microworlds, Simulation, Experimentation, Games

4.8 Professional Tools

E.g. Word processors, HTML editors, Mathematical and simulation software

4.9 Teaching tools and assessment

4.10 Assessment tools

4.11 Tutoring and exercising

4.12 Environments for project-oriented learning

(including problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning etc.)

4.13 Integrated systems

However be aware that they nor neutral, nor can they do everything !!

5 Hardware used in education

6 Evaluation and choice of technologies

See also:

In the 1990's and 2000' David Squires and collaborators published a number of texts on usability and learning of educational software, e.g. [2] [3] [4]

In An heuristic approach to the evaluation of educational multimedia software, Squires.[5] defined a set of evaluation heuristics.


4.1 Is the complexity of the multimedia environment appropriate?

A multimedia collage of text, graphics, video and sound may appear to be complex to the user. However, it may be the case that complex presentation is being used to present very limited educational material. In this sense the environment is only complex in a superficial sense. A deeper complexity is one that relates the structure of the multimedia environment to conceptual development.

4.2 Is the learner active?

The possibilities of multimedia presentation can lead to the development of environments in which the user is conceived as a passive recipient of a multimedia collage. Users are encouraged to become absorbed by the environment, rather than control it. The use of multimedia in this way clearly does not lead to a sense of involvement and ownership.

4.3 Is fantasy used in an appropriate way?

Many multimedia environments are fantastic in the sense that they mimic real life situations in an extreme fashion. Such environments are often labelled as examples of virtual reality. While the fantasy associated with these environments may be intrinsically motivating it may mitigate against the development of authenticity.

4.4 How appropriate is the content to the curriculum?

Curriculum issues may be explicit, implicit, or even absent, in the content of a package. Software in which curriculum issues are explicit is typified by packages that have been deliberately designed to be used with a defined curriculum. Implicit curriculum issues stem from cultural assumptions made by designers. An absence of curriculum issues arises when software not originally intended for use in education is "high jacked" for use in schools, e.g. word-processors.

4.5 How navigable is the software?

The software must be easy to use, and not create unnecessary usablity problems. Some idea of the structure of the environment should be provided, perhaps in the form of a map. The design should be consistent and icons should be meaningful. The interaction should be authentic, with the task matched to the interface design.

4.6 What form of learner feedback is provided?

Leaner feedback can be extrinsic, as in a tutorial package, or intrinsic, as in a simulation. Is the type of feedback appropriate for the intended learning outcomes and any assumed theory of learning?

4.7 What is the level of learner control?

It has been acknowledged for some time that the extent to which learners can develop a sense of ownership in an educational software environment is determined by the level of control they have in their interaction with the software environment (Chandler, 1984; Wellington, 1985; Blease, 1985; McDougall and Squires, 1986; Goforth, 1994). This implies that the use of multimedia software which provides high levels of learner control will help students feel that they are instrumental in determining the pattern and process of the learning experience, i.e. in developing a sense of ownership.

4.8 Are learners motivated when they use the software?

As with feedback, motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. From a constructivist point of view the motivation should be intrinsic, with the task itself providing sufficient motivation. Extrinsic feedback needs to be viewed with care, as it can be misleading or irrelevant, e.g. when more attractive feedback is provided for incorrect rather than correct answers in a drill and practice exercise.

7 Links

(there are many others, we should include some more)

The very complete History of virtual learning environments. (recommended !)

  • TECHNOS Quarterly. TQ: TECHNOS Quarterly for Education and Technology is a forum for the discussion of ideas about the use of technology in education, with a focus on reform (1992 - 2002)

8 References

8.1 Cited with footnotes

  1. Bruce, B. C., & Levin, J. A. (1997). Educational Technology: Media for Inquiry, Communication, Construction, and Expression. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(1), 79–102. https://doi.org/10.2190/7HPQ-4F3X-8M8Y-TVCA
  2. Squires, D., & Preece, J. (1996). Usability and learning: evaluating the potential of educational software. Computers and Education, 27(1), 15-22.
  3. Squires, D., & Preece, J. (1999). Predicting quality in educational software. Interacting with computers, 11(5), 467-483.
  4. Squires, D. (1999, January). Educational software and learning: Subversive use and volatile design. In Systems Sciences, 1999. HICSS-32. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 7-pp). IEEE.
  5. Squires, D. (1999). An heuristic approach to the evaluation of educational multimedia software.

8.2 Other

  • Basque, Josianne & Sylvie Doré (1998) Le concept d'environnement d'apprentissage informatisé, Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'enseignement à distance, 13(1), ISSN 0830-0445, HTML
  • Basque, J, & K. Lundgren-Cayrol, K. (2003). Une typologie des usages des TIC en éducation. Document pédagogique du cours TEC 6200 "Technologie de l'information et développement cognitif", Montréal: Télé-université. PDF
  • Robert Bibeau (2004), Taxonomie des ressources numériques normalisées: vers un patrimoine éducatif, VIe Journées de l'Innovation Foix (France) HTML (see also his homepage)
  • Denis, Brigitte (2002), Quels usages des logiciels mettre en oeuvre en contexte éducatif ? Centre de Recherche sur l'Instrumentation, la Formation et l'Apprentissage (CRIFA) du Service de Technologie de l'Education de l'Université de Liège (STE-Ulg) PDF. (retrieved 18:36, 26 June 2006 (MEST)).
  • Locatis,Craig, Al-Nuaim,Hana (1999), Interactive technology and authoring tools: A historical review and analysis, Educational Technology Research and Development, 47, 3, 9/18/1999, Pages 63-75, DOI 10.1007/BF02299634 (Access restricted)
  • Repenning, A., Ioannidou, A. and Ambach, J. (1998). Learn to Communicate and Communicate to Learn. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 98 (7). HTML Hypertext - HTML
  • Spector, J. M. (2016). Foundations of educational technology : integrative approaches and interdisciplinary perspectives. Routledge.
    • Page 52 includes a table that matches technologies with various instructional activities
  • University of California at Berkeley, Field Guide to Design Experiments in Education, Chapter "Design Experiment Technologies" HTML in
  • Using Technology to Support Education Reform - September 1993, Chapter II: Educational Technologies, HTML
  • Longstaffe J.A., Using computer technology in support of teaching and learning. J. Audiov. Media Med., 1996, 19, 33-36
  • Marshall, J. Granville (2000), Understanding the Peril & Promise, Nouns & Verbs, of Educational Technologies, Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology. HTML - HTML Print
  • Zuckerman, O. (2006, in preparation). Historical Overview and Classification of Traditional and Digital Learning Objects, MIT Media Lab. PDF .