Educational Technology: What is it and what is it not?


Photo Credit: verareimann via Compfight cc

“…it was not until early in the 19th century that a new general-purpose media -format-the blackboard-came into widespread use.” Historical Foundations by Michael Molenda

Let’s just take a moment and think about this: the blackboard was once considered as a step forward in communication and technology for education. Education is in a continual spiral of change and growth. Change as we know, is not always regarded as something positive by some but as Molenda points out, change is inevitable. Not only is it inevitable but we see it on both large and small scales. Whether we choose to embrace change or not, it’s coming and it will come again. I might suggest we all jump on board!

This week in class we were challenged with creating our own definition of educational technology and how our own personal experiences helped to form that definition. I feel that the definition of educational technology is a fluid one in that it will continue to change as our society  and the culture of education changes.

I have spent time this week thinking about my own experiences with educational technology and the change from how I experienced it as an elementary school student to how I see it as a teacher today. In combing through my memories of my experiences I couldn’t help but remember the first time I experienced email! I remember being at school on a weekend with a friend, whose mom was the school librarian. There was one computer in the whole library, if I remember right and she mentioned needing to send something called an “email” to a friend who lived far away. I can’t quite remember where that friend lived but I do know it was nowhere near that small town that we lived in. Her daughter and I stood around the computer as she typed and then hit send. Those words were magically gone and someone was going to see them! I can still to this day, remember the feeling of amazement and bewilderment of how that thing called an email could so quickly get so far away. I don’t think I realized the impact that moment had on me until I began my journey as an educator.

I’ve always had an interest in education technology but I most certainly didn’t always like it or understand it. I can remember wanting to do blogging in my internship but after several tries I gave up because I didn’t understand and I didn’t have the time, so I thought, to get it figured out. Fast forward 7 years to my classroom today and you will see twitter, a classroom blog, Remind, Seesaw and ClassDojo in use pretty much on a daily basis. I use all of these tools because of the opportunities they provide my students and their families.

We spoke of hard and soft technologies in class this week. Hard being the things we can touch and use (iPads, computers, SmartBoards, etc.) and soft technologies being more about the ideas around how the hard technologies might be used. Being mindful of the how and why behind education technology, in my opinion, plays a huge role in trying to define what it actually is.

“Humans have succeeded as a species largely due to their ability to learn from their experiences and to pass along their wisdom to succeeding generations. Much learning and acculturation happens spontaneously, without planning or structure.” – Michael Molenda

As suggested by Neil Postman in his presentation of The Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, “culture always pays a price for technology.” What might the cost of that price be? Is spending some “money” on the betterment of how we use technology one of the best purchases we might ever make?

  • Perhaps that costs looks like students from Brazil connecting with the elderly in Chicago to help better their English speaking skills. The power of connection through educational technology can not be denied.  Without someone embracing the change and growth in education, this would have never happened.
  • Perhaps the cost is  a teacher excited about seeing their students Seesaw posts from home after being away from the classroom for a day.
  • Perhaps that cost can be defined by two classrooms having a conversation through twitter about how a set of speakers was made in a #makerspace


I would like to suggest that the definition of educational technology should include the word, possibilities. Educational technology as it is today provides schools, teachers and students the opportunity to open doors for communication beyond the walls of a classroom or school itself and share understanding and growth in a countless number of ways. Students today can begin to form their own knowledge of pretty much any topic with the few simple clicks of a key. What’s our role as teachers in that journey? I say our role is to set a purpose and know our why behind what we are asking of our students, to guide, to teach our students to ask questions, to teach students to be critical of what they read and see, provide feedback and offer opportunities.

In summary, what do I think educational technology is?

Educational technology is embracing change, having a growth mindset, creating possibilities, connecting and collaboration. It is not iPads, computers, SmartBoards, email, hashtags, Twitter, Wikis or Google. However, the tools help us embrace the possibilities that educational technology offers.




  1. I can only imagine the excitement in your classroom this fall, as your students begin to learn what’s in store for them! You’ve obviously done a lot of work to keep up with technology and to stay one step ahead of your students. Well done
    !! I’ve heard about SeeSaw… It sounds pretty fantastic. Do you think it would work well with high school students?

  2. “However, the tools help us embrace the possibilities that educational technology offers.” This is perfect! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts this week Nicole.

  3. Great post Nicole! You are absolutely right that the definition of educational technology should include the term ‘possibilities’. What we once thought impossible has been made possible with technology; and I continue to be impressed with the new gadgets, devices, and ideas that come out of technology. I never know what we will come up with next! I would therefore add to it the idea of imagination and creativity, as those too can begin the process of creating possibilities with educational technology. Thanks for the great post! It made me reflect even further on what I believe is educational technology!

    • I think using imagination and creativity absolutely lead to teaching practices that allow teachers to open doors for their students through educational technology. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Early in your post you mentioned that you use technology because of the opportunities it provides both students and their families. I really like that you included the families benefit. This is the communication piece and sharing of learning beyond the classroom. I think this is the piece I most want to add to my teaching, but am also most fearful of. I continue to worry about sharing too much with the public audience. Any suggestions as to a comfortable place to begin?

    • For me, getting comfortable meant trying something. Choose one thing, set your purpose and learn from there. When you feel comfortable, add the next one. It’s definitely not all going to happen in one day, week, month or year. That’s how I did it and am definitely still learning!

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