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Theories and Practices of Educational Technology

Theories and Practices of Educational Technology

29 February, 2016

Three major theoretical schools or philosophical frameworks have been present in the educational technology literature.

  1. Behaviorism
    This theoretical framework was established in the early 20th century with the animal learning experiments of Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, B.F. Skinner and many others. Many psychologists used these theories to describe and research with human learning. While still very beneficial, this philosophy of learning has lost favor with many educators.
  2. Skinner’s contributions
    F. Skinner wrote comprehensively on improvements of teaching based on his functional analysis of Verbal Behavior and wrote “The Technology of Teaching”, an attempt to dispel the myths underlying modern education as well as promote his system he called programmed instruction. Ogden Lindsley also developed the Celeration learning system similarly based on behavior analysis but quite different from Keller’s and Skinner’s models.
  3. Cognitivism
    Cognitive science has altered how educators view learning. Since the very early beginning of the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, learning theory has undergone a great deal of change. Much of the empirical framework of Behaviorism was retained even though a new paradigm had begun. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning.

After memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley’s Working memory model were established as a theoretical framework in Cognitive Psychology, new cognitive frameworks of learning started to emerge during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. It is important to note that Computer Science and Information Technology have had a major influence on Cognitive Science theory. The Cognitive concepts of working memory (formerly known as short term memory) and long term memory have been facilitated by research and technology from the field of Computer Science. Another main influence on the field of Cognitive Science is Noam Chomsky. Today researchers are focusing on topics like Cognitive load and Information Processing Theory. In addition, psychology as applied to media is easily measured in studying behavior. The area of media psychology is both cognitive and affective and is central to understanding educational technology.

  1. Constructivism
    Constructivism is a learning theory or educational philosophy that many educators began to consider in the 1990s. One of the principal tenets of this philosophy is that learners make their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality or others with different perspectives.

Constructivist learning environments ask students to utilize their prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. Under this framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, giving guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge. Constructivist educators must make sure that the prior learning experiences are suitable and related to the concepts being taught. Jonassen (1997) suggests “well-structured” learning environments are useful for novice learners and that “ill-structured” environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators using technology when teaching with a constructivist perspective should select technologies that strengthen prior learning perhaps in a problem-solving environment.