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E-Learning and Educational Technology

e-learning diagram

Per Wikipedia, “E-learning theory describes the cognitive science principles of effective multimedia learning using electronic educational technology.” This is perhaps a dry topic, but it is very important for educators, students and digital publishers who are working in educational publishing.

In the beginning of the genre, computing technology was not created by teachers and even to this day with some exceptions, there has been little consultation between those who promote its use in schools and those who teach with it. Less than ideal outcomes have often been the result.

Decisions to purchase technology for education are very often political decisions, depending upon the institution and their past and current content providers. Most veteran staff now using these technologies did not grow up with them and the learning curve can be uncomfortable, although the newest generation of educators are embracing all technological advances. Systematic training programs for teachers to use educational computer technology has improved their confidence in its use, but in some fields there still is considerable dissatisfaction with training content and style of delivery.

The education industry had a difficult time adjusting to the type of communication necessary to prepare teachers to teach in this fundamentally new way. Insufficient technical support for online learning, lack of access to hardware, poor monitoring of teacher progress and a lack of support by online tutors were just some of the issues that the pioneers of E-learning faced.

Things are much better now. The latest generation of educational services provide customizable, accessible platforms for creating, compiling and disseminating multimedia-rich e-learning courses, and often do not require specialized in-house IT support.

This brings us to the topic of educational technology, also known as EdTech, which again according to Wikipedia is “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources”. A mouthful for sure, but educational technology is simply the use of physical hardware, software and educational theory to facilitate computer-based training, online learning and increasingly, mobile learning now that smart devices are everywhere.

Educational media and tools are now being used in interconnected ways to provide various different methods and forms of knowledge representation, such as video, audio, text, image, and data.

Numerous types of physical technology (hardware) are available in the educational setting, including smart handheld devices, digital cameras, video cameras, interactive whiteboard tools and electronic media. Combinations of these techniques and devices offer many different teaching modes including blogs, collaborative software, ePortfolios, and virtual classrooms. This array of styles and methods allow educators to reach a very wide audience and allows them to teach their students in the style that is best suited to the individual, even within a large group.