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Instructional Technology: What is It?

written by: foreverfrench•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 7/31/2010

What is instructional technology? A term often used but misunderstood, instructional technology refers to how student learns. Learn about the five steps of instructional technology, its history and its issues.

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    Confusion Surrounding the Term

    Many educators have heard the term ‘instructional technology’ thrown about in discussions involving pedagogy or curriculum and instruction. It’s frequently bandied about, but often misunderstood completely, due to the somewhat ambiguous nature of the nomenclature. Technology must mean computers, overheads, etc used in the classroom, right? Yes, this is why this term is frequently conflated with the concept of technology used in the classroom. However, instructional technology goes beyond the actual technological gizmos and gadgets used in the classroom, and focuses on how to use them.

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    What is It Then?

    But what is instructional technology? In reality, instructional technology is a very broad, generalized term. It does indeed relate to the field of education, and more particularly, to the way students of all ages learn. The term encompasses the entire process of learning through and from technology, focusing on both the theory and the application or practice that follows the theory of learning.

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    The Five Parts

    There are five steps involved in instructional technology. The first is the design, or brainstorming, of the technological resources used in teaching the material to the student. The second involves the actual development of the process used to convey the information, or the design of the technological resource, such as a software program. The third focuses on putting these processes or resources into practice, and actually using them in a pedagogical setting. The fourth involves the management of the technological resource that has been created. The final step, and perhaps one of the most vital to the success or failure of any one technological resource, is the evaluation of the created product. Just as teachers evaluate students to determine the success or failure of the students’ acquisition of knowledge, as well as the teacher’s effectiveness in conveying knowledge, so too must the technological resource be evaluated to determine its success rate.

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    A Bit of History

    Despite its recent popularity as a subject of discussion, instructional technology as a concept has been around for quite some time. The process of teaching has been studied at least since the Renaissance, and the application of what the common modern man would consider technology, that is to say electronic devices, has been practiced for over one hundred years. For example, the military has used both audio and video forms of instruction, and they have been proven to deliver consistent, standardized results, and can easily be given to large quantities of learners.

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    Issues

    All of this is not to say that instructional technology is not without its faults. Some educators believe that they will eventually be completely replaced by instructional technology. While this is highly unlikely, instructional technology can be misused within the classroom by educators, as is the case in the classic school example of the teacher ‘throwing in a movie’ and not creating an interactive experience within the classroom surrounding the technology.