"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)
In addition, every term in this definition can be analyzed as a separate concept of its own. These terms are: Study, Ethical Practice, Facilitating, Learning, Improving, Performance, Creating, Using, Managing, Appropriate, Technological, Processes, and Resources.
While each of the terms adds to the complexity of the definition and has its own significance, I will specifically reflect on and explore the term "Facilitating." As the definition has been evolving "as long as the field has" (AECT,p.1), reflecting the practices of the time, the term "facilitation" has been included into some while excluded from other versions through time.
1972 "Educational technology is a field involved in the facilitation of human learning through the systematic identification, development, organization and utilization of a full range of learning resources and through the management of these processes" (AECT, 1972, p. 36).
According to AECT, the changes in views on learning and instruction reflected in"cognitive and constructivist learning theories has engendered a rethinking of assumptions about the connection between instruction and learning." In contrast, the previous definitions in the field of educational technology "implied a more direct cause and effect relationship between instructional interventions and learning." Thus, according to AECT (p.4) one of the first definitions "referred to the design and use of messages which control the learning process" (p.4.) This shift demonstrates a new approach to the process of learning; while the earlier approach recognised learners as passive "recipients of knowledge", the new approach viewed learners as "constructors" of their own knowledge. With learners' "ownership and responsibility" came the role of technology as "facilitating" learning, rather than "controlling." (p.4)
As "controlling learning" can be associated with a "teacher-centered" learning environment, where teachers present and explain information, "facilitating" learning, rather, supports those learning processes which allow learners take responsibility for their own construction of knowledge (p.4). The role of the educational technology in the process of facilitating learning is not to replace the teacher while offering the same information; rather, its role is to create an "authentic environment" where learners can explore, search, locate, test, and apply information, become involved in the process, and, by doing so, receive answers for their questions. (p.4) Thus, the key point in explaining the term "facilitating" within the broader concept of Educational Technology is that it "...can help create environment in which learning more easily can occur..." (p.4)
Practically, "facilitating" in Educational Technology does not imply "uploading the existing textbooks" online while using same approaches to and methods of learning and instruction. Facilitating refers to creating an environment, by using existing resources and technologies (for example, communication tools, software, websites, podcasts, educational programs, among others) in order to help learners maintain their motivation and interest, feel involved in their own learning, take on responsibility, develop a sense of power, while locating and synthesizing meaningful information, necessary for the learners' personal and professional growth.
My personal experience in higher education (back in Russia) had nothing to do with either facilitating nor educational technology. Most of my classroom experience in college can be described as "teacher-centered", with a professor "on stage" reciting books by heart for 2 hours non-stop and the students writing it all down, every single word of the lecture. As we know, who does most of the talking in class (on the subject) learns the most. Therefore, the professor would know the lecture even better by the end of the class, while the students would learn how to write faster.
Applying this concept to my own classroom of ESL learners, one of the examples of “facilitating” learning with Educational Technology I see in using blogging in advanced Reading and Writing classes. Being given an opportunity to publish their own work, students may feel more motivated to become involved as they are in charge of the content and its validity. Similar to the idea of this very learning log, my students could be reflecting on their experience in the US for a specific audience (e.g., family and friends at home.) In addition, technologies allow to make it interactive – by reading and responding to comments, for instance, learners will practice their reading and writing skills, yet, again, in a meaningful way, communicating with the real audience, answering questions, providing clarifications, etc.
Another example of educational technology facilitating learning is creating personal digital stories. Having taught a few courses where students created their digital stories as final projects in “Cross-Cultural Communication” course for ESL learners, I can now say that I witnessed: 1) students working in a “real world” environment managing their own projects; 2) students improved their writing skills in a second language as they worked with the text of their stories – brainstorming ideas and writing and re-writing drafts; 3) students developed certain level of competence working with new technology (we used professional editing software “Final Cut Express”), and, most of all, 4) students being proud of their final project as they shared it with the world by uploading on YouTube. Finally, I appreciated receiving feedback from students saying that they were going to create more stories even after the course was over. Obviously, students felt empowered being able to create his/her own “story” and share it with the world, while learning the skills stated in course objectives. In my experience, not many students say at the end of the semester that they enjoyed writing the final “paragraph, essay, or paper” and would do it again after the course is over. While these skills are equally important, the feedback from the learners demonstrated their enjoyment on a technology facilitated course vs. “traditional” approach.
In conclusion, I have explored and reflected on the term “facilitating” learning from the broader definition of Educational Technology, as I view this component as a vital part of learning process; i.e., using technologies to create an authentic environment for learners to explore, analyze, and share meaningful content. The digital stories created by my former students were demonstrated as an example. I also found this assignment useful as I continue developing my teaching philosophy which, along with reflections to other elements will be published here.
Feedback and comments will be appreciated!
References: Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1 - 14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.
Images: Google Images