A Pragmatic View of Instructional Technology
Lloyd P. Rieber
Technology can be defined as the application of one or more knowledge bases for a useful purpose. Technology is represented in every practical object and activity around us. For example, the technology of "mobility" is illustrated in the doors we open, the stairs we climb, the elevators we ride, the cars we drive, the roads we drive on, and the maps we follow. Technologists consider what is known (i.e., basic science) and needed (i.e., real-life problems), and then they make decisions for action. Technology implies action and reflectivity as well as risk taking and inventiveness. Since knowledge bases and needs constantly change, revision, and renewal are central to any technology. Consider how the design of many sidewalks, parking lots, and doors over the last decade have provided (at long last) at least minimal access for people with physical disabilities. Of course, change for the better is the intent, though not necessarily the result. Most early proponents of the automobile foresaw personal freedom and mobility, but few anticipated pollution and traffic.
Instructional technology can be defined as the creative application of what is known about learning and instruction ( Romiszowski 1981; Knirk and Gustafson 1986). The term technology is best viewed in this context as a process tool for solving instructional problems. In this sense, instructional technology is a very practical and pragmatic field that is driven by clear goals. Interestingly, people outside of the field often equate instructional technology with one of many instructional media such as video or computers, or with models of instructional design such as those based on the instructional systems development (ISD) approach. However, these are mere instances of instructional technology that do not cover its breadth of scope and purpose any more than "addition" or "subtraction" defines mathematics or engineering. By definition, instructional technology is an evolving and interactive process. It is constantly reshaped by advances in the understanding of human learning and instructional practice.
Learning theory is arguably the most important foundation of instructional technology (Gagné and Glaser 1987). Advances in learning theory have had considerable influence on instructional technology. The roots of modern