I think of educational technology as this broad field that at its most fundamental, serves to facilitate learning.
AECT actually defines educational technology as the following:
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, 2008, p. 1)
When I was working in Coos Bay, one of several projects that I worked on was a cognitive training computer lab for basic math students. In theory, students would strengthen some of the areas of the brain that are important for learning mathematics. If we were successful, those students would go on to earn better grades in the second term of basic math than the previous year’s students.
I wish that I could provide some results of that endeavor, but the project lasted all of a couple of terms because of push back from other areas of the college, as well as our lack of selling points [that would have convinced our co-workers to buy into the program]. Had it been successful, however, it would have been a great way to facilitate learning with software – giving students practice with skills that are innately used in a basic math class.
Facilitation of learning is a relatively new trend in educational technology, but educational technology is also a relatively new field. Prior to 1972, the word “facilitate” didn’t exist in the definition of educational technology, though the 1970 definition is more flexible and alludes to it, stating that “it means the media born of the communications revolution which can be used for instructional purposes alongside of the teacher.” (Commission on Instructional Technology, 1970, p. 21). This definition hints that technology could be used to help or supplement the process of learning.
The expanded version of AECT’s definition of educational technology states that “facilitating includes the design of the environment, the organizing of resources, and the providing of tools” and further demonstrates the complexity of the field we work in. Even the 1977 definition agrees:
Educational technology is a complex, integrated process involving people, procedures, ideas, devices, and organization for analyzing problems and devising, implementing, evaluating and managing solutions to those problems involved in all aspects of human learning (AECT, 1977, p. 1).
While working as an online algebra teacher for Southwestern Oregon Community College, I lived the term “facilitation.” Online learning is about making learning accessible for your students. In the first couple of terms, I used a software package called MyMathLab. It was all-inclusive, with videos, extra practice, tests, homework-checking, and grade-recording – it was literally too good to be true. Upon realizing its flaws, I switched things up and stopped using it altogether.
I think there is a fine line between facilitation, enabling and controlling. Technology should be used sparingly, especially initially. I sometimes wonder if some of the difficulty I had as an online teacher had to do with me trying to hard to control the environment that I was working in. I was my first time to teach more than one student at a time and somehow, I thought if I told students how to turn their work in and what format I wanted it in, they would do that. Instead, I got responses from them saying another teacher did it this way or they would rather do it that way. I guess it is also a matter of knowing what to control because rather than sticking to my guns, I caved on letting them submit work in a variety of ways. At such a low level of mathematics, I don’t know if this was the best decision.
Ultimately, I stopped teaching online, in order to work on this program and grow as an educator.
People that know me know that this educational technology program is perfect for me. My family has known about my career goals and the different paths I have attempted to go down, sometimes with some success and sometimes meeting a brick wall. I guess I have been lucky in terms of the level of understanding that I have been met with – if I get the inevitable questions, I usually describe the job I’m interested in doing and how this program will help me get to that point, rather than trying to explain the program itself.
I am a facilitator. I am here to make sure you are able to register for classes. I am here to make sure you are able to access your online classes. I am here to provide you with more information, in an effort to better understand the stuff you are learning in your math classes. This term “facilitation” is fundamental to my career and after about four years of learning about this field and making sure that my work in education is at least loosely tied to my goals in this program, I think of myself as an educator and a facilitator. However, I also know enough to know that I need to learn much more.
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- Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1 – 14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.