Educational technology refers to the technology utilized in learning, recording, and sharing knowledge and improving academic performance. It combines expertise from other disciplines including, but not limited to, computer science, sociology, education, communication, and psychology. It has four main forms (for now) based on the area of focus – instructional technology, teaching technology, behavioral technology, and instructional design technology.
Unsurprisingly, these are often mixed up, so we’ll cover each one separately. For now, let’s pursue or joint interest in the types of educational technology:
1. Audio and video
Early forms of audio and video educational technology included VHS tapes and DVDs, which teachers used to make classes more fun, and visually appealing, yet still informative and related to the course. Luckily, the days of rolling the TV on a stand and inserting a disk or a cassette are behind us.
Teachers nowadays utilize on-demand video streaming, from the school’s web server or external sources. Teacher-student and teacher-teacher relations benefit from telecommuting (video conferencing) and screen-sharing equally and make remote working and learning, e.g., online classes possible.
Web cameras also play a pivotal role in preventing cheating, plagiarism, distraction, and misconduct in the classroom. Some educators also utilize webcasts, video games (“gamification”), radio shows, and podcasts, and present their lessons using a physical or digital whiteboard, which we’ll mention in detail below.
Moreover, advancements in audio technology solved the problem of students far from the blackboard, as well as differently-abled students with hearing difficulties. Teachers can wear lapel (Lavalier) wireless microphones, which cast audio to a set of speakers and/or to individual students’ hearing devices/headphones.
- On-demand video streaming for educational content.
- Video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams for online classes.
- Educational podcasts covering various subjects.
- Webcams to perform remote teaching and monitor student behavior.
- Educational radio shows that discuss academic topics.
Hardware is perhaps one of the best-known types of educational technology, and it includes desktop and laptop computers, and smart devices (smartphones, tablets, TVs, TV boxes) It represents the pivotal aspect of synchronized, synchronized, and collaborative e.g., group learning. We covered this when looking at the effects of technology in education.
Now, we’d like to remind you of the interactive whiteboard, a high-tech alternative to blackboards from the 1950s. Its touch screen allows for writing, typing, and drawing but also displaying visual content, mainly images, text, and videos. On top of that, research shows that students are more interested and engaged when smart devices and computers are used in the classroom.
- Desktop and laptop computers in schools.
- Smartphones and tablets for mobile learning and using educational apps.
- Use of interactive whiteboards for dynamic classroom presentations.
- Smart TVs for streaming educational content.
- Document cameras to display physical documents and objects.
The following platforms are good examples of types of software-based educational technology:
Learning management systems (LMS)
A management system for learning is software designed to control, trace, and provide training and education, both online and within an internal system. As such, it can have public and private parts with strict access requirements.
The system keeps tabs on student attendance, the time they spend on tasks, and how they progress over time, but also allows them to take quizzes, practice exams, read literature, discuss the curriculum, and submit work.
On the other hand, educators can make announcements, partake in discussions, post grades, manage student’s work, or update courses. Most of these systems allow educators to configure whether the curriculum and courses can be accessed out of order, thus allowing students to learn at their own pace. Others provide access to third parties, such as parents, while some even allow collaborations or volunteer contributions to content.
Training management systems (TMS)
Systems for training resource management are similar to the ones above but entirely focused on for-profit activities. This includes creating a course, predicting a budget, and figuring out logistics: scheduling content delivery, lecturers, venues, and necessary equipment. It also includes streamlining report generation, analytics, data sharing between teams or instructors, and much more.
While analyzing how technology is replacing jobs, we concluded computers are superb at assessment. This is due to advancements in algorithms, machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence. In this case, the computer can provide automation in conducting tests and summarizing results.
For example, students can answer a variety of types of questions and get immediate feedback. The test marks incorrect answers, letting the educator know which parts to revisit later. It can also determine which of the similar questions can help the student learn quickly. Finally, the computer-assisted assessment automatically prevents questions that belong to not yet covered courses from appearing, which is a common human error.
- Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Moodle and Canvas.
- Training Management Systems (TMS) for corporate and vocational training.
- Computer-assisted evaluation tools for performing automated testing.
- Educational software for subjects like math, language learning, and science.
- Digital tools for creating and sharing interactive educational content.
4. Online resources
We can utilize the majority of things we do for fun in education. Case in point, social media, forums, wiki pages, group-oriented websites, blogs, and other types of digital distribution platforms that facilitate the exchange of data or information can be crucial for education. This comes as no surprise – in 2018, 45% of American teens said they’re online nearly constantly.
Additionally, 51% of them, aged 13 to 17, said they use Facebook, while 35% of them used Snapchat and 32% YouTube. The numbers have undoubtedly grown considerably since then.
- Social media platforms for educational groups and discussions.
- Educational forums for Q&A and peer support.
- Wiki pages for collaborative knowledge sharing.
- Different blogs and websites offer informative articles.
- Online libraries and repositories for collecting research materials.
5. Virtual classroom
A Virtual Classroom, also known as a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) combines all educational technologies above. Its goal is to provide everything a brick-and-mortar classroom can, but cheaper, quicker, more effective, and more convenient.
The participants can chat and send data while using their cameras and microphones. The lecturer can see who raised a hand or clicked to volunteer during a video conference, create polls, and commence tests. They can also demonstrate things on an interactive whiteboard, and each class is recorded and stored for safekeeping.
That way, classes are always accessible for viewing to anyone, including parents and auditors. Advanced classrooms have a custom user interface that offers bonus services such as online student registration, support, counseling, and advising. Many even include access to student newspapers, governing bodies, and digital textbooks.
We only briefly touched on this when we discussed ways technology can be used in presentations. What we didn’t explain is that it isn’t a fictional technology. It already works, although primarily for business applications (think Amazon AR View that lets you place items and see if and how they fit) or mobile computing.
Because it can add or hide the real environment, the possibilities are endless. The first thing that comes to mind is virtual tours of the beautiful corners of the Earth. Or, perhaps, inspecting art pieces or historic artifacts in outstanding detail.
- Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) that integrate many educational technologies.
- Video conferencing tools with interactive features.
- Screen-sharing for demonstrating concepts and presentations.
- Student registration and support services within the virtual environment.
- Recording and archiving of online classes for future reference.
- Digital textbooks and resources for students.