What is Educational Technology?
The field of educational technology, also called instructional technology, includes a wide variety of careers that focus on facilitating and developing learning and performance through the creation, implementation, management, and study of technological tools and resources.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET), which is housed within the Office of the Secretary of Education, leads the way in establishing a policy and a vision for educational technology in the United States and how it can be used for the purposes of teaching and learning in order to make learning possible in all ways and at all levels.
According to the OET website, professionals in the field of educational and instructional technology should aim toward the following:
- Promote equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology;
- Support personalized professional learning for state, district and school leaders and educators;
- Ensure all learners are connected to broadband internet in their classrooms and have access to high-quality, affordable digital learning resources at school and at home;
- Foster a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurs and innovators; and,
- Lead cutting-edge research to provide new types of evidence and to customize and improve learning.
What is an Educational Technology Degree?
An educational technology degree qualifies professionals for a wide variety of careers including in public or higher education, government agencies, and the corporate, private, and non-profit sectors. An educational technology degree is usually, but not always, obtained at the Masters or Doctorate level, requiring an undergraduate degree in Education or an Education-related field. Common admissions requirements include letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above.
A typical degree program might include some of following courses or similar courses:
- Introduction to Educational Technology: Introductory courses allow students to explore the field of educational technology, current trends and literature, and apply these concepts to their future careers.
- Using the Internet in Education: These courses provide an overview of issues and strategies often associated with using the internet for instruction and allow students to create a philosophy about using the internet appropriately to meet student learning goals.
- Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology: These courses focus on traditional as well as contemporary learning theories and how to apply these theories to educational technology.
- Research in Educational Technology: This course allows students to review and analyze current studies in educational technology and teaches students the foundations of a research study including research methods, design, implementation, and reporting.
- Interactive & Emerging Technologies: Students learn about cutting-edge digital tools that foster student learning. Some tools and resources might include games, online classrooms, or technological products designed for use in classrooms.
- Technology Curriculum and Planning: These courses teach the effective utilization of technological tools and resources in classrooms in order to foster student learning and digital competency in the modern world. These classes usually focus on either the elementary or the secondary level.
- Instructional Design: In these courses, students apply the principles and theories of instructional design to the practical development of instruction that incorporates and uses technological tools and resources.
- Leadership in Educational Technology: Leadership courses explore the principles that guide innovative and effective educational technology programs and initiatives.
- Student Practicum: Practicum courses provide students with a culminating experience in the field of Educational Technology through real-world study, observation, and application.
What are the Careers in Educational Technology?
Due to the ever-changing and ever-growing nature of technology and the digital world, careers in the field of educational technology are abundant and varied. A few career paths in this field include but are not limited to the following:
Instructional coordinators oversee curriculum in a variety of settings including public schools and higher education institutions. They work with teachers and administration to design and implement curriculum and evaluate its effectiveness in terms of student learning and performance data.
Instructional Coordinators must prioritize educational technology because they are often tasked with researching the newest trends, tools, and resources, transferring this information to teachers and administration through trainings, and facilitating and supporting teachers’ use of technology in classrooms long-term.
Instead of working in educational or medical settings, corporate trainers work for businesses to first assess the training needs of employees through a variety of means such as surveys, and then design training methods and materials whether via information manuals or online modules, deliver the training. corporate trainers then assess the training’ effectiveness.
Corporate trainers also assume administrative tasks such as budgets, scheduling, systems and equipment set up, and enrollment. Experience in educational technology is important because they must be able to utilize digital tools for instruction, assessment, and data and information gathering and organization.
Like corporate trainers, content developers work to provide quality development training, but instead of working for a business, content developers usually work in technical fields, such as the energy industry, and instead of assessing employees’ training needs, they focus on writing the content necessary for educational courses and trainings, especially for trade-related training or certifications. Content developers may find themselves using technology to create resources such as crane-operating handbooks or multi-media curriculum for OSHA courses.
Distance Education Specialist
Distance education specialists specialize in and coordinate distance education infrastructures, resources, services in order to produce and maintain online courses. For example, some of their responsibilities could include overseeing, monitoring, or designing online courses, curriculum, and communication portals.
Many distance education specialists work with technology, teachers, students, and other professionals in the field of education to provide curriculum for all students no matter where they are located. They usually collaborate with and monitor teachers and other distance education staff and may compile distance education data and reports.
Designer of Training Material
Like corporate trainers, designers of training material work for businesses to provide staff training opportunities. However, where corporate trainers may focus more on the training and instruction itself, designers of training material focus primarily on developing or obtaining the tools and materials necessary to conduct a successful training. Theymay find themselves creating or obtaining resources like participant guides or lecture notes, handbooks, visual aides, or computer tutorials.
Like instructional coordinators, educational consultants collaborate with professionals in the field of education to meet learning goals and needs and oversee the diverse creation and implementation of curriculum, but most educational consultants work with multiple clients instead of being employed by one school district. They may work for larger corporations who support curriculum development and provide digital resources for many school districts or other educational organizations.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are software that allows educational professionals in many fields to deliver and monitor training or educational courses. Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) are different from LMS because they are software used to author and manage learning content and curriculum.
LMS or LCMS Administrators are responsible for smooth operations of LMS and LCMS. They work with a variety of different technology infrastructures depending on the organization for which they work. They may also be responsible for managerial duties such as user support and quality assessment.
Medical Training Supervisor
Medical training supervisors coordinate professional development trainings and opportunities. They usually work for a medical institution and, on a regular basis, work with other supervisors and stakeholders to identify any training needs within their organization. They then manage and deliver the training to various groups such as new, existing, or underperforming employees. Medical training supervisors may even create the training material, but, when necessary, they might outsource other professionals to provide training content and delivery.
Technical writers, also known as technical communicators, make complex information more accessible to a wide variety of readers. They work in a variety of settings, whether as administrators, for businesses or publishing companies, or through freelance careers. Technical writers prepare written information for instruction manuals, career guides, journal articles, and other informational documents.
Technical writers must understand educational technology because their job includes using digital means to gather, research, and develop technical information. They then must disseminate information through various channels of communication, many of which are also online or digital.
Technology Director (K-12)
Sometimes called IT (Information Technology) Directors, technology directors are in charge of all technology within the organization for which they work. Usually they work in education settings to develop and sustain technology procedures, policies, and services according to that organization’s goals and needs.
Some of the many responsibilities of a technology director are evaluating existing systems and making recommendations for new or revised technology-use in order to meet learning goals; upgrading and installing hardware and software and assisting other employees with the effective use of specific technology; troubleshooting and maintaining computer and network systems and making repairs as needed; and keeping up-to-date and knowledgeable on available technology.
Project managers, or project coordinators, assume a variety of responsibilities depending on their employee and professional setting, but a project manager’s primary objective is to organize all the elements of a project and facilitate its implementation. They must organize an abundance of details in different manners at the same time; communicate precisely with numerous team members and groups simultaneously or consecutively. Project managers are also responsible for monitoring budgets, data, and other information accurately and effectively.
What is the Job Outlook for Educational Technology?
Since the field of educational technology is so broad, the job outlook varies for each specific career, but, for the most part, the job outlook in this field is positive. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for training and development specialists in business-related careers as well as employment for instructional coordinators in education-based careers, is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2026, which is faster than the average rate for all other careers. The employment growth rate is the same for technical writers.
The occupation of a 'Distance Learning Coordinator' was cited as a new and emerging career in a monthly labor review by the BLS.
Why Do We Need Instructional Technology Professionals?
From distance education specialists to medical training supervisors to technical writers, the field of instructional technology is vast and varied. This is because most modern industries depend on technology in some way, and due to the ever-changing nature of technology, those industries need focused professionals who are able to navigate educational organizations, businesses, and corporate institutions through the complicated digital world and to sort through all the readily-available but convoluted information and resources available online and make them accessible to their colleagues and staff.
Young people grow up in a digital world and must be prepared for a future in a technologically-dependent society, so the field of education needs technology professionals because technology allows teachers to be creative in their instruction and to develop innovative ways to make content accessible and engaging for students.
Technology can serve as an educator’s greatest asset because it can be individualized and therefore cater to different learning styles simultaneously, because it can help teachers automate monotonous tasks such as providing feedback and tracking progress, and because through it, teachers have access to millions of resources for anything from enrichment activities to online classroom chat boards to lesson plans and text sources.
The benefits of technology for students include giving students a sense of accountability and independence, increasing student retention, and providing students with the most up-to-date information and resources. Educators typically do not have much free time to browse the internet or to learn or troubleshoot new classroom technology, so educators need instructional technology professionals to maintain their tools, to train them on new products, resources, and methods, and to help them make the most out of the technology they have.
The corporate world and other business industries need instructional technology professionals because they are already fully immersed in the aforementioned digital and technologically-dependent society. Many organizations need technology professionals to maintain their digital networks, hardware, and other tools, as well as teach employees how to utilize the company’s technological tools according to the company’s missions and procedures. Companies also need technology professionals because, in order to stay relevant and competitive, they need their staff to remain knowledgeable and competent through ongoing professional development opportunities developed by instructional technology professionals.