An Overview of Progress and Problems in Educational Technology

J. Michael Spector


Educational technologists have promised that great advances and improvements in learning and instruction would occur on account of new and emerging technologies. Some of these promises have been partially fulfilled, but many have not. The last decade of the previous century witnessed the consolidation of new approaches to learning and instruction under the banner of constructivism. This so−called new learning paradigm was really not all that new, but renewed emphasis on learners and learning effectiveness can clearly be counted as gains resulting from this constructivist consolidation within educational research. At the same time, technology was not standing still. Network technologies were increasing bandwidth, software engineering was embracing object orientation, and wireless technologies were extending accessibility. It is clear that we can now do things to improve education that were not possible twenty years ago. However, the potential gains in learning and instruction have yet to be realized on a significant global scale. Why not? Critical challenges confront instructional designers and critical problems remain with regard to learning in and about complex domains. Moreover, organizational issues required to translate advances in learning theory and educational technology into meaningful practice have yet to be addressed. The current situation in the field of educational technology is one of technification. New educational technologies are usable only by a scarce cadre of technocrats. Constructivist approaches to learning have been oversimplified to such a degree that learning effectiveness has lost meaning. As a consequence, education is generally managed in an ad hoc manner that marginalizes the potential gains offered by new learning technologies. This paper presents an overview of progress and problems in educational technology and argues that educational program management must be integrally linked with technology and theory in order for significant progress in learning and instruction to occur on a global scale.

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