Educational Technology at a Crossroads: Examining the Development of the Academic Field in Canada

By Luppicini, Rocci | Educational Technology & Society, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Educational Technology at a Crossroads: Examining the Development of the Academic Field in Canada


Luppicini, Rocci, Educational Technology & Society


Introduction

James Finn once stated, "The educational future will belong to those who can grasp the significance of instructional technology" (Finn, 1964). Finn's visionary remark embodies the promise and potential of Educational Technology in the 21st century as it did over forty years ago. Early efforts to conceptualize Educational Technology and its development originated in the maturation of the audio-visual movement in education and instructional training programs beginning in the First World War (Reiser, 1987).

In the 1970s and 1980s, the evolving academic field of Educational Technology was recognized as complex and multi-faceted. Davies (1978) ascribed three levels of evolution in the field of Educational Technology corresponding to a tool level (Educational Technology I), systematic level (Educational Technology II), and a systemic level (Educational Technology III). By the end of the 1980s, Beckwith (1988) described the field at the systematic level (Educational Technology II) state of evolution (Beckwith, 1988). Beckwith (1988) envisioned the future evolution of the field where the creation of unified approach at the systemic level (Educational Technology III) would transform learning while operating within the confines of a systematic level (Educational Technology II).

In Beckwith's view, the field of Educational Technology appeared to be focused on the survival of the systematic level (Educational Technology II) at the expense of the realization of a unified approach at the systemic level of evolution (Educational Technology III). According to Pals and Plomp (1989), the tools approach is centered on physical media developed to assist in the teaching/learning process, the systematic focused on processes, used for developing, designing and evaluating instruction, and the systemic approach has a philosophical and holistic orientation for contextualizing, analyzing and solving problems through a consideration of as many facets and their interrelationship as possible. The holist commitment to the whole as being greater than the sum of the parts entails that individuals are part of the system in which they observe and, therefore, cannot achieve complete knowledge of the whole. The systemic approach is aligned with postmodernist perspectives and new paradigms in Educational Technology (Hynka, 1994, Luppicini, 2005; Yeaman, Hlynka, Anderson, Damarin, & Muffoletto, 1996).

Ongoing efforts to conceptualize the evolving field of Educational Technology have spurred debate and given rise to a growing body of literature focusing on the state of the field, key challenges, and possible future developments (Beckwith, 1988; Clark, 1978; Heinich, 1984; Hlynka & Nelson, 1985; Mitchell, 1989; Silber, 1970, 1978; Torkelson, 1987). Also, an entire issue of the Canadian Journal of Educational Communication (1989) was dedicated to debates covering the future of the field. This is partly due to the nature of applied fields like Educational Technology where multiple knowledge bases are employed (Luppicini, 2005). Luppicini (2005) noted that the development of new knowledge in this applied field causes shifts in thinking and introduces change in multiple knowledge bases, this, multiplying change and compounding difficulties in reaching any unified perspective. However, for the purpose of this study, the definition of Educational Technology follows Luppicini's (2005) conceptual study of the field:

 
   Educational Technology is a goal oriented problem-solving systems 
   approach utilizing tools, techniques, theories, and methods from 
   multiple knowledge domains, to: (1) design, develop, and evaluate, 
   human and mechanical resources efficiently and effectively in 
   order to facilitate and leverage all aspects of learning, and (2) 
   guide change agency and transformation of educational systems and 
   practices in order to contribute to influencing change in society. … 

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