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What is IT? Lecture by CS

Reflections on “Instructional Technology” presentation by Dr. Schlosser

Steve McCrea

EDD 8008

Dr. Schlosser points out that some people use the terms “educational technology” and “instructional technology” interchangeably. He suggests that “if we think about it,” we will se that IT is a subset of ET. “Instructional” suggests “how is the information presented and tested,” while educational is broader. The AECT 1994 definition used “education to refer broadly to activities and resources that support learning...[and] instructional to refer to activities structured by someone other than the learner and oriented toward specific ends.”

Dr. Schlosser asked us to contrast and reflect on the two definitions.

Three parts of the second definition got my attention:

Ethical: I hadn't thought about the unethical uses of technology (teaching poker in math class? How to use technology to teach students how to steal computer time or how to change their grades). How to use cameras for

Facilitating: “making things easier” (facile = easy), often on the side (as in “a guide on the side”) as a facilitator (instead of the performing “sage on the stage”).

Technological processes and resources: This extra adjective makes it clear that the processes and resources under study are specifically related to technology (not some other processes).

Communications, management science and psychology are sources of information for the field.

I found it interesting that instructional technology draws on so many theories. But then it is not surprising, since technology infuses so much of education and can be used in so many facets of education.

The next slide (involving Heinich) and the question that followed (about bricklayers or architects, technicians or technologists) made me take a step back. I hadn't realized that the field of IT had been so localized in the education departments of universities. It makes more sense to look at who will be around the IT professional – teachers or other technologists? I have found much resistance from educators when I talk about introducing computers, videocameras, audio books, ebooks, even audio CDs into classes (I've had directors of schools ask, “Is it possible for you to teach with just a whiteboard and a textbook? Have you forgotten how to teach?”). Heinich's focus makes more sense to me – although the ultimate aim is to get technology in classrooms, the place to nurture the growth of research is not in the field of education – I can see that our field's growth will come from seeing where other fields grow (such as computer science and psychology) rather than inside a department of curriculum.

When I think about what I “was” before I started studying for an ITDE focus, I certainly thought of myself as a teacher first (who happened to blend technology in classes). By raising the standards of what I expect from myself and my colleagues who work in IT, I'm helping to professionalize our field. The “long period of training” is usually associated with doctors, engineers and lawyers, and I think most people might balk at the idea that a teacher who uses cameras in the classroom needs “a long period of training,” but they can probably accept the fact that an instructional “technologist” requires several courses or more.

I see the importance of belonging to an association, so that other people can look at Instructional Technology in a new way. It might take several decades before the general public doesn't confuse “IT” with information technology. I recall that forty years ago almost anybody could call themselves a “yoga instructor,” and my mother (who trained in India) has spent much of that time since 1972 writing articles for journals and attending conferences. Now it is common for instructors to list their training and how long they have been working – and there are efforts to create a profession of yoga instructors. A search of the phrase “professionalisation of yoga” (using the British English spelling) revealed a facebook page for an Australian group that aims to build the reputation of yoga “therapists.” That field of endeavor has even started supporting legislation that will regulate the licensing of yoga instructors.

The move toward professionalization might have some unexpected consequences. According to a 2009 article in the New york Times, some yoga schools had formed a coalition that would share standards, and some state governments have been using that list to

The parallel situation might one day see someone required to have an IT degree to be qualified to lead a workshop about “how to use cameras in the classroom.” I don't think that is the intention of professionalization (to exclude talented amateurs from the field) but rather to raise standards of those who call themselves instructional technologists.

Bricklayers or architects?

Concerning the “profession” of instructional technology, there is an interesting gulf that I believe many of us by necessity must straddle. Many of us became interested in using technology in classrooms and we proceeded from “what works” and the “craft” angle, but we've seen misuse of the technology, too. I remember seeing a teacher use a digital camera to snap still photos of the students' work to post them on a webpage. Why not instead or in addition use a tripod and with a steady camera allow each student two minutes to summarize his work? Those short speeches could be the beginning of practice for the “elevator speech” that many life coaches ask clients to rehearse as practice for that rare moment when we are given a chance to make a short presentation about our work.

The distinction that was particularly poignant is “it's a craft if you are going on your gut feeling,” while professionals use information based on research. I hope that the “learning on the fly” and through experimentation (which I used to find out what worked in my classes) will be informed by research but also that the initiative and innovations of amateurs will inspire new research, too.

The particular challenge that I have discovered in my reading about ITDE is that some of the principles that I “discovered” in my classwork had been described a decade before I entered a classroom with a digital camera. I could have made fewer mistakes and could have helped my students more had I been trained in the spectrum of uses of cameras. Instead, I learned through haphazard experimenting and occasional observation of other teachers to find out what we might do with technology in the classroom. I suppose I liked the easy access to the field (like a bricklayer, I learned a lot by watching others), but I can see value in helping teachers take a more respectful look at cameras in the classroom – not as a threat but as a tool for instruction that is used in methods that are based on research.


AECT. (2004). Definition and Terminology Committee document #MM4.0

Sulzberger, A.Z. (July 10, 2009). “Yoga Faces Regulation,” New York Times.