Elements of Educational Technology

Originally published on July 25, 2011 on nashru.wordpress.com for EDTECH 501 – Introduction to Educational Technology.

July 25, 2011 – “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, 2007).

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My present view of the word process in AECT’s current definition of Educational Technology is certainly more traditionally influenced than are the views of others in the field of Educational Technology. I favor a pre-modern (Wilson, 1997) systems approach to process and feel that this perspective is vital to the ongoing effort to define Educational Technology and its super-ordinate parent (Molenda, 1987), Instructional Development. I will define Instructional Development as the process of prescribing and using optimal procedures for creating new instruction in a given situation (Molenda, 1987). I feel that postmodernist views (Wilson, 1997) have merit in terms of desired outcome, but I disagree with many of their philosophies and means.

Based on what I’ve learned thus far about process in educational technology, I recognize that my views of process are more aligned with older, traditional Conditions-of-learning (CoL) models than with those influenced by postmodernist ideals. I think there is value in a hierarchical, differentiated, and convergent system (Skyttner, 2006) producing instructional materials for those who would fancy themselves students of that system. As a religious educator with my current organization, I am very much part of an educational institution that espouses traditional views on process, at least in comparison to the general views of postmodernists.

As I delineate my stand on this matter, I knowingly admit that my view on process is heavily influenced by the “ancient world view” (Wilson, 1997) in which one encompassing truth is sought from one divine source and not by the derision of what I would call relative truth from the local or personal interpretation of multiple perspectives. In addition to refuting this postmodernist influence on process in Instructional Development, I further refute the idea that all textual meanings are open to interpretation (Wilson, 1997). I do believe they are universally open to variance in application.


Creative Commons LicenseThis work by Russell U. Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

As a young man growing up in a rural setting, and today, as a grown man working in a hierarchical organization, I hold to the value of perspective derived from tradition and experience. As a young man I often had the opportunity to move irrigation pipe by hand. One generally-recognized mark of an experienced pipe-mover was the ability of the worker to lay a straight line of pipe in a field without furrows. My primary technique for laying the pipe straight in this setting was having a fixed goal on a distance fence line near the place where the irrigation line would end.

The second, and almost equally important technique I relied upon, was taking the time to look back up the newly placed line of pipe and reference my current position to my previous positions. Given that my furrow-less crops were often pastures filled with livestock, it was not uncommon for me to handle irrigation pipe which had been kicked and severely bent by the animals and which, consequently, because of their unique shapes, would test even the most attentive worker’s abilities to lay an overall straight line. In like manner do I view at this time the effort to define process in Educational Technology: if we discard where we have been, we risk losing hard-earned progress in the name of theoretical change, especially in discussions involving people with a vast array of backgrounds, objectives, and commissions.

I do not oppose all of the tenets of the definition of process as given in the first chapter of Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary. As with the postmodernist, I am also persuaded that learner-owned classroom experiences are superior to teacher-owned processes (Januszewski & Molenda, 2007), but I am convinced that such ownership ought to be vouchsafed within a systems CoL model or equivalent sort of boundary proscription. Granted, it would seem, if I understand CoL models correctly, that such individuality would undermine the very core of these sorts of processes, and no doubt some systems processes would have to adapt to give learners the flexibility to take ownership of their experience. The outer perimeter of a systems approach, however, provides critical guidance that I feel postmodernism ignores.

I also feel that postmodernism ignores the idea of a stable foundation. If the “multiperspectival reality” (Wilson, 1997) that postmodernists acclaim is to be pursued by learners, I would personally endorse such an endeavor only across multiple systems approaches. This would provide learners, in my view, with a broad perspective characterized not just by regular opportunities to interpret or discover truth from multiple perspectives, but also by the existence of critical foundations of commonly held values and traditional interpretations that serve as a safeguard against the inevitable “despair, cynicism, moral indifference, wimpishness, and a kind of myopic self-centeredness” that some have anticipated would abound in a postmodernist process (Wilson, 1997).

How would a foundation safeguard? Like the postmodernists, I agree that the outcome should be engagement, mastery, and transfer of skill and even theory (Januszewski & Molenda, 2007), but can relativism and its attendant isolation and divergent ends maintain any of these? Show me one empire built by one man and I’ll reconsider this view. Does the individual lose the power to act, reform, and innovate within a system? Again, show me an empire.

I wonder if my views, as they now stand, will contribute much to the overall discussion in Educational Technology, especially as that discussion relates to the ongoing effort to clarify the unsettled definition of Educational Technology. I do not wonder, but know that my views at this current time are heavily influenced by the organizational context in which I professionally delivery instructional material, which is religiously based and dependent upon a parent-systems interpretation of truth that is universally upheld inside. For our organization, this set up makes the definition and design of a systems process not only easier but also circumscribes the foundational questioning that currently seems to be touted as important by postmodernists but is utterly rejected by our group.

For my classmates and fellows in Educational Technology, can my traditional views of the process paradigm be of any value if they find themselves in non-hierarchical, non-differentiated, and “multifinal” (Wilson, 1997), or divergent learning situations? (Skyttner, 2006) Certainly there is much more I should learn and will learn about process in Educational Technology, and perhaps there is more I will say about it as well. I am only beginning to understand this particular part of the unresolved conflict (Januszewski & Molenda, 2007) over process that factors into the dynamic definition of the field of Educational Technology.


Januszewski, A. & Molenda, M. (eds.) (2007), Educational
Technology: A Definition with Commentary
, 2nd Ed., Routledge, New York, NY.

Molenda, M. (1987), An Agenda for Research on Instructional Development, AECT Annual Conference, Atlanta, March 1, 1987.

Skyttner, Lars (2006). General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspective, Practice. World Scientific Publishing Company.

Wilson, B. G. (1997). Reflections on Constructivism and Instructional Design, Preprint for (C. R. Dills and A. A. Romiszowski (Eds.), Instructional Development Paradigms Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational Technology Publications).

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