e-learning,  OU

Is ed tech an obsolete term?


Old School Bus by Kahunapulej http://flickr.com/photos/kahunapulej/324000439/

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Institute of Educational Technology where I work has recently been reviewed. I’m reasonably phlegmatic about the review, but one sentence in the review document rather raised my shackles, and it was:

"educational technology is now an almost obsolete term"

I didn’t know where the authors had got this view from. Admittedly, being a Professor of Educational Technology, and having a blog called The Ed Techie, I am not unbiased in this, and the thought of being ‘Professor of Obsolete Stuff’ was rather unsettling. My view was the  opposite, rather that it was a term that had gained more currency recently as an umbrella term to describe the general interest in taking web/internet technologies and applying them to education. I know ed tech is more than this, but if I meet someone who says they are into educational technology nowadays, I don’t usually think they mean print. John Naughton tells the joke the joke that the only piece of educational technology known to work for sure is the school bus.

I digress, my view was that if it’s good enough for Scott Leslie, D’Arcy Norman and Jennifer Jones to use it to describe themselves, then it’s current enough for me. But I thought I’d check I wasn’t totally off-beam so I set up a Twitter poll, using PollDaddy, with the question ‘Is educational technology an obsolete term?’. I’m glad to say that at the last viewing, the Nos have it.


  • D'Arcy Norman

    If you see “educational technology” as “building tools for the classroom” then, yeah. That ship has sailed.
    If you see “educational technology” as “finding appropriate uses for technology in the context of education” then it can never be obsolete…

  • Martin

    Hi D’Arcy – absolutely the latter – being in distance ed, I don’t usually think of the classroom anyway, but is this what seem people mean be ed tech? If so, may account for the comment in the report I suppose, but that only adds to my it’s now more relevant than ever argument I think.

  • Scott Leslie

    It would seem like any “educational technologist” worth his or her salt would, like you, be willing to question the term, maybe even constantly. Perhaps that is (or should be) part of the very definition. It is easy for terms, concepts and people to calcify. Certainly, if “educational technologist” is equated with “WebCT administrator” and this is all that is keeping us stuck on that pinnacle of learning or educating with technology, then let us do away with it, quickly.

  • Jen

    My gmail account is edtechjen, so I hope it doesn’t go away! There’s been a trend the last few years to make up new terms for things and to jump all over people using the old terms. I say we should just do our jobs and not argue about jargon. However, I rarely use Web 2.0, so I could see how ed tech could fade. I think this is a very interesting discussion and a great way to use a polling tool!

  • Martin

    @Scott – yes, I’m happy to question the term, and it’s probably healthy to do so regularly. What I didn’t like was the implication in the review doc that seemed to say that calling an institute after it was like being called the Institute of Phrenology or something. It seems like a valid term to me still, and actually quite a robust one (not that these things particularly matter)
    @Jen – you, me and Scott are tied into the term digitally now, we’ve got to keep it going. You’re right though, terms don’t matter that much, although they have interesting implications for organisations. As an academic institution you don’t want to be too keen to try and be happening, as you need to keep some appropriate distance from hype and fad. ‘The Institute of Mashups’ might be a fun place to work, but could look obsolete very quickly. Similarly you don’t want to appear old fashioned and disconnected ‘The Institute of Cravat Studies’ might not get you far either.

  • Scott Leslie

    I think we are agreeing – I don’t dislike the term, use it regularly, but am happy for it to change if it has been coopted by a set of instructional systems administrators. I was trying to recall the post that first brought this to mind, and luckily a sharp twitterite remembered it – Jim Groom explored a similar thread http://bavatuesdays.com/but-wheres-the-teaching-and-learning/
    And I’ll have you know we are holding the 5th annual general meeting tonight of the North American branch of the Institute for Cravat studies, right here in my basement. You’re all invited, it has been lonely these past few years, especially as we have been unable to fly-in our brethern from Croatia – http://academia-cravatica.hr/cravat/

  • Martin

    Scott, I think that may be the best comment I have ever had. Of course there would be a real Institute for Cravats! Why didn’t I google it?
    Now that I’ve seen it though, it does seem kinda cool. I mean this sentence is just genius: “this fashion ornament is a medium able to transmit many discreet messages to the world”

  • Martin Le Voi

    I think the original paper was considering the point that we are in a “ubiquitous technology” world. So you are a Professor of Ubiquity! I think a replacement unit/title should concentrate more on pedagogy, rather than technology “Professor of Advanced Pedagogy?”. Nowadays, everyone is a technologist (just like everyone’s a critic!)…

  • Martin

    Hi Martin, I got offered a post at University of Glamorgan once with the title ‘Professor of Modern Pedagogies’. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but sounded good I thought. I actually quite like the technology angle in the title, and although technology has become democratised as you say, I think the massive range of stuff available now means that it’s ability to influence/transform education is more relevant now than it ever was. Professor of Ubiquity does have a certain ring to it though…

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