Education Technology

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

The first section of my new textbook Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology by Robert A. Reiser and John V. Dempsey is titled “Defining the Field”. Instantly I was transported back to a small town in Northern New Jersey and little league baseball, grey-haired men pushing a green machine that drops the lime to make the foul lines of the baseball field. They were in fact defining the field of play of a baseball diamond. A very important bit of business, to know the boundaries of the field and of course, the rules of the game.
I find myself at somewhat of a disadvantage. I am taking graduate level classes towards my Masters in Education Technology-Leadership. I just finished my Bachelors in Education Studies in February of 2014. In class I find myself surrounded by classmates with years, sometimes decades of teaching experience, but I have yet to step into a classroom before any students. The course is titled Learning and Technology and the first discussion prompts are as follows,

“The first three chapters of your book define the IDT (Instructional Design and Technology) field and provide a history of how it has evolved over time. In your blog for this week, reflect on the following:

1. How do the definitions in the first chapter compare to your own definition of instructional or educational technology? What experiences or other influences have shaped your definition? How has your definition changed from examining the definitions in the first chapter of this book?”

One thing I have discovered these past four years while I have been in college classes. Every subject, every profession, every disciple of study has its’ very own language, terms, terminology and a corresponding set of acronyms. Someday I hope I am clever enough to write something about teaching or business and find a catchy acronym that just makes the academic world grab hold and write research papers about my perfect acronym.
The first part of this question made me think of Shakespeare. (My mind just puts random things together.) Education is such a broad term, but what it is that educators actually do can be very specific and complex. Classroom educators do so many things but my classroom experience was when every room still had a chalkboard and if you got in trouble you could plan on beating erasers after school. Technology meant that someone was going to wheel a cart into our classroom with an overhead projector, a slide projector or a movie projector. The movie projector always brought a smile because we were going to see a movie, but the overhead projector just meant that Mr. Greenleaf was going to write on clear plastic with an erasable marker rather than on the chalkboard. The slide projector just inspired groans. (Almost as much fun as watching Uncle Larry’s slides of his vacation to Branson, Missouri!)
How technology has impacted the classroom has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. Technology is all around us, but just how technology and education come together in the classroom is a fascinating subject. Done well, it is a miracle to see and students are inspired and learn by leaps and bounds. Done poorly, and the same groans can be heard as if the slide projector was just wheeled in on a cart. Technology alone is the carpenter’s tools hanging on the pegboard, but the same tools in the hands of a skilled carpenter is a magic wand from which miracles of wood are created. The field of instructional design and technology can be that magic wand in the classroom. I find that this definition of the field as Instructional Design and Technology is as perfect as I can imagine.

2. Next, think of a lesson or unit of instruction that you have developed. Or if you haven’t ever taught or developed instruction, think of one that you have received. How does that lesson adhere or fail to adhere to the six characteristics of instructional design? How would you redesign it to better adhere to the six characteristics.

I have yet to actually stand before my first classroom. I have been the instructor in a class before, but that was in the era of chalk and projectors so I am not sure if we even considered the ‘six characteristics of instructional design’ back then. More recently I have been working my way through my Bachelor’s program and now my Master’s in an online classroom. When I think about most of my classes; yes, they were very student cantered; yes they were goal oriented. Every class has a very clear rubric of expectations. Each class has meaningful performance goals and sufficient methods to measure and grade. The discussion boards lead to a great function of self-correcting, if one took the time to read and participate. The only aspect of my online experience that might not always meet the six characteristics of instructional design it the team effort part. I did not always work with a team.

3. In the 3rd chapter, Reiser distinguishes instructional media from instructional design, excluding teachers, chalkboards, and textbooks from the definition of instructional media. Why? Would you consider teachers, chalkboards, and textbooks instructional media? Is the purpose of instructional design to incorporate media into instruction?”

‘Excluding teachers, chalkboards and textbooks’ seems a bit drastic to me. The classroom educator, in my opinion, is the facilitator of the learning process in the classroom regardless of the media used to inspire the learning. I would personally consider all three instructional media, but I can see why this text chooses to exclude them to focus on the historical evolution of media and the design process. The classroom has always had teachers, textbooks and a chalkboard, but new technologies and better understanding of learning open the door for more targeted media tools for delivery and design. The trend towards student centered learning and one to one device ratios allows the modern classroom more freedoms than were possible in the past. Educator preparation and class prep take on a whole new meaning when one instructor has to design instruction for a classroom full of individuals rather than one lesson plan for a classroom. Only the miracles of modern technology could make it possible. Instructional design and technology just may put an avatar in the classroom, the lesson in a heads up display on the glasses on your nose and the textbook on an mp3 file. Who needs a teacher, a chalkboard or a textbook now?

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Albert Einstein