Educational technology, which is also known as e-learning, instructional technology and learning technology, is the use of technology in support of the learning process. It can refer to all kinds of analogue technologies, such as photographs, video, audio recordings and film, but it is generally used specifically in relation to digital computer technology.
Technology is widely used for student records, marketing, finance and procurement as part of the administration and management of education as well as in research. However, educational technology only relates to technology which affects the learning process by facilitating communication, delivering learning materials, or providing assessment and feedback, or in any other way. Some use the word technology to mean hardware but those working in the field of educational technology use it to refer to the systematic use of scientific means to solve problems.
Educational technology properly is used to refer to a particular approach to achieving educational ends, while the specific use of such technological processes for teaching and learning is called instructional technology. Instructional development and educational media are other terms which refer to particular parts of this field, but are used by some to refer to the field as a whole.
Educational technology is essentially a 20th century movement, where the major developments occurred during and immediately after World War II (1939 to 1945). At first, an emphasis was placed on audio-visual communications media and the focus gradually turned to the systematic development of teaching and learning procedures based in behavioral psychology. Cognitive psychology, psychometrics, perception psychology and management, and social psychology are also among the major contributing fields. Computer assisted learning programs were available in education as early as the 1980s.
One of the benefits of educational technology is that learning resources are available globally and without any time restrictions, while traditional courses classes are held at a particular time in a particular venue. Learners using educational technology can also access materials in order they find appropriate and return repeatedly to a particular item, the pace of the learning process is not determined by an instructor as it is with traditional classes. Technology also offers a variety of ways to deliver learning and the learning experience is unique for every learner.
Technology can help to make the process of learning more active than in traditional education. Learners are engaged in the process and learn through experience. Learners can use Computer Based Assessment to get instant feedback and for self-diagnosis, while it can also save time and effort for educators. However, educational technology also has certain limitations. The benefits of working with real objects can never be replaced by simulations. Technology offers learner-centered learning, which means learners are more responsible for their progress so they still need to work in the process.
Technology also cannot replace the human element. The instructor is now acting more as a guide to the learner instead of being the ultimate source of information and leader of the process, which means his or her role has changed but is not removed. The benefits to the pupils of interaction with instructors and fellow students, whether physical or virtual, remain.
Technologies used in education include preschool software, which are computer programs and systems helping preschoolers learn to read, write and conceptualize. Educational software includes computer programs that make it possible for children to learn spelling, math, geography and other subjects, with learning often being in the form of a game. There is software for both individual and collaborative learning.
Computer simulations are made possible by programs with sophisticated graphics and commands. They enable a child to practice real-world knowledge as well as decision-making skills. Children can also use e-mail to communicate with scientists, teachers, fellow students and friends around the world. Thanks to the Internet and online services, children can access vast amounts of information in databases and they can also use online boards to interact with other people.
There are new creative tools that allow children to design their original art and use their imagination in various ways. Live television connections through cable, computer or satellite make it possible for students in remote locations to take classes or visit museums and libraries. Electronic portfolios enable teachers to keep electronic records of a child's work, which can also be easily accessible for students.