What Exactly is Education Technology?

Edtech has come a long way since the introduction of pencil and paper. But what is it?

Until the widespread adoption of remote learning last March, most people had little reason to pay attention to how technology has developed in the service of education. Even now, at peak awareness, most people retain a narrow definition of what qualifies as edtech. 

That’s understandable: it is not always clear what counts. But as we look closely, there are some themes we can identify across the spectrum of edtech. 

Most frequently, education technology refers to the use of hardware and software in schools and classrooms to improve efficiency. Devices, software applications, digital materials for every subject, and services implemented to support teaching and learning all fit this description. 

“[I]t remains important to acknowledge that some of the most impactful technology we have is completely free of screens and power cords.”

But instructional efficacy is not about bells and whistles, devices and broadband. Efficacy in edtech is achieved by incorporating what we know about how students learn with the resources available. The goal is to make learning more personal, powerful, and fun, beginning with meeting teachers and students where they are.

In fact, a frequently undervalued technology in education is instructional practice rooted firmly in the science of learning and motivation. For the purpose of this article, I will concentrate on the electronic and digital resources at our disposal, but it remains important to acknowledge that some of the most impactful technology we have is completely free of screens and power cords.

Nevertheless, the tools that require screens and power cords have become the stars of the show. And why not? They go hand-in-hand with the laptops and cell phones that have become irreplaceable parts of our daily lives.

In the next part of Zipprd’s series on the impact of education technology on learning, we will explore what great edtech tools have in common.

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