Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design-Based Research and Educational Technology: Rethinking Technology and the Research Agenda

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design-Based Research and Educational Technology: Rethinking Technology and the Research Agenda

Article excerpt

"It is one thing to state the chief aim of education ... it is quite another thing to pursue this aim in a world which denies the principles on which it rests" (Jeffreys, 1955, p. 13).


New communication, media, and computing technologies have long tantalized educators, policy-makers, and educational technologists as to their prospects for enhancing educational outcomes (Saettler, 1990). Numerous tools ranging from Edison's film projector through Berners-Lee's World Wide Web were originally invented for purposes other than education, but they were quickly promoted by educational technologists and others as having enormous promise for enhancing the impact of teaching and learning. Devices now considered to be simple and omnipresent in educational settings were once considered revolutionary and capable of mending social inequity and changing the face of education. For example, in the 1970s, access to handheld calculators was considered to be crucial to raising test scores for underachieving math students, and accordingly math educators and educational technologists led efforts to get calculators into the hands of children learning mathematics. However, once the access gap was closed, the results were found to be much lower than promised (Loveless & Diperna, 2000).

Educational technologies are often viewed not only as solutions to real or perceived inadequacies of traditional instruction, but also as tools for reducing the inequities in educational opportunities around the world. Light (2001) described the rhetoric of social inclusion often associated with new technologies such as cable television. Cable was promoted as a technology to improve not only educational opportunities, but also general access to information. Inequitable access in terms of race and wealth prompted policy-makers and researchers to push for equitable distribution of cable access. Clearly, cable did not achieve educational equity nor increase access to reliable and valid information, but instead is primarily used as increased bandwidth for media outlets. Much of the excitement regarding student achievement that might have been derived from cable in the classroom and other new technologies has faded into disappointment. This trend is nowhere more prevalent than with respect to today's most heavily promoted technological solution to educational problems, the Internet.

The Internet is in danger of becoming yet another example of society's all-too-frequent, but usually failed, infatuation with the educational potential of new technologies. Past research has shown us time and time again that, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, educational technologies do not guarantee big leaps in educational achievement by any measures, nor have they eliminated the inequitable distribution of learning opportunities (Cuban, 1986). However, the Internet as an educational technology can serve a much more noble and principled purpose. A new approach to educational technology research, one grounded in the ends of technology, directed by values and principles, must be pursued.

We argue that traditional predictive research in educational technologies has had limited impact in informing actual use. In other words, educational technology research aimed at examining the influence of tools in the educational process has offered little systematic advice to the practitioner. We argue that recognizing technology as a process has implications for how educational technologists conduct research. Once recognized as a process, the aims/ends of technology come to the foreground. We argue that design-based research provides an innovative proposal for research on innovation and education.

Investment and use

Governments around the world have implemented policies and made substantial funds available to deploy Internet-enabled computers in schools. The cost and maintenance of computers and online technologies in schools far exceed investments in previous technologies. …

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