Educational technology is a field of study within education. The term Educational technology is often associated with instructional technology or learning technology, but educational technology is a broader term, or field of study encompassing the other two. Consider the differences between "Instructional" and "Educational." While Instructional technologies are used within the processes of learning, and instruction, Educational technologies may include other systems (e.g. registration or library systems).
The words educational and technology in the term educational technology have the general meaning. Educational technology is not restricted to the education of children, nor to the use of high technology. The particular case of the meaningful use of high-technology to enhance learning in K-12 classrooms and higher education is known as technology integration. The term is distinct from technology education: educational technology is about using technology to educate, whereas technology education is learning about technology. Several universities have recently opened tracks for graduate programs in the field of Educational Technology.
One of the earliest fields of study within educational technology was instructional systems design (ISD). This was developed by the United States military during World War II, in order to train large numbers of people more effectively. In a common ISD model, the ADDIE Model, the steps involved are: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. ..
Theories and practices
Three main theoretical schools or philosphical frameworks have been present in the educational technology literature. These are Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism. Each of these schools of thought are still present in todays literature but have evolved as the Psychology literature has evolved.
This theoretical framework was developed in the early 20th century with the animal learning experiments of Edward Thorndike. Many Psychologists like B. F. Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov used these theories to describe and experiment with human learning. While still very useful this philosophy of learning has lost favor with many educators. But Behavior learning theory (e.g Classical Conditioning and Operant conditioning) is still very useful to explain lower level unconscious implicit memory and learning.
Cognitive science has change how educators have viewed learning. Since the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, learning theory has undergone a great deal of change. Much of the empirical framework of Behaviorism was retained even though a new paradigm was begun. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning. So for example how the natural physiological processes of encoding information into short term memory and long term memory become important to educators.
Once memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's Working memory model were established as a theoretical framework in Cognitive Psychology, new cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Today researchers are concentrating on topics like Cognitive load and Information Processing Theory. These theories of learning are very useful as they guide the design of instructional technologies.
Constructivism (learning theory) while not a theory, is an educational philosophy that many educators began to consider in the 1990s. One the primary tenets of this philosophy is that learners construct their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality or others with different perspectives.
Constructivist learning environments require students to utilize their prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. Under this framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, providing guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge. Educators, from the constructivist’s perspective, must make sure that the prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts needed to be taught.
Jonassen (1997) suggests "well-structured" learning environments are useful for novice learners and that "ill-structured" environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators utilizing technology when teaching with the Constructivist perspective should choose technologies that reinforce prior learning perhaps in a problem-solving environment.
Instructional Technique and Technologies
Problem Based Learning and Inquiry-based learning are active learning instructional techniques used to teach learners. Technology can be incorporated into project, problem, inquiry based learning as they all have a similar educational philosophy. All three are student centered, typically involving real world scenarios in which students are actively engaged in critical thinking activities. Both the process students engage in and end products of all the learning theories can be implemented with a number of technological tools.
Learners should be guided during the instructional process, but after initial instruction has taken place these more active techniques may be used. Quite often an instructor will introduce material through a lecture and then offer a think quest or web quest as reinforcement. These teaching strategies would be beneficial because they provide students with a structured presentation of the problem or project. During the first phase students begin the inquiry process, they can brainstorm using web mapping software or an interactive whiteboard to record their initial thoughts and create a plan of action. Both of these products promote student interaction and input into the developmental process.
Engaged Learning in Technology
The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology  places the theories and practices of educational technology into six categories: cognition and learning, analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. In today’s society technology is an ever increasing factor in many aspects of life. From our homes to businesses it continues to drive society. In education, technology is a compelling force that needs to be coupled with the curriculum to create an engaged learning atmosphere that allows learners to become skilled technicians with an endless passion for learning. With the use of technology students will become engaged learners who are responsible for their own learning. They engage in the learning process by problem solving, reflecting, synthesizing, evaluating, and continuously applying their new skills.
According to NCREL, learning should be authentic and set up to be challenging, multidisciplinary, and real world based. Assessment is an ongoing process connecting the curriculum and instruction. This assessment is achieved through observations, interviews, examining artifacts, and presentation both by students and teachers. Teachers are facilitators who guide the students in the process of their learning. They need to construct meaningful, interactive, lessons that engage the students in the curriculum.
Teachers need to be fully aware of the technology that engages students on a daily basis, and use that technology as a stepping stone to build upon in the classroom.
The use of this technology begins early. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 31 percent of children age three and under are already using computers. Sixteen percent use them several times a week, 21 percent can point and click with a mouse by themselves, and 11 percent can turn on the computer without assistance. What's more, a third of children -- many as young as 11 years old -- use blogs and social networking sites at least two or three times a week. Yet two-thirds of parents don't even know what a blog is, according to a report by NCH Children's Charities and Tesco Telecoms.
The information found in these studies, confirms the importance of technology in the classroom.
Technology is a powerful tool that can be used in the engaged learning process. This process creates a classroom that is an environment for a continuous learning community.