I wrote a recent blog post that I'm looking for feedback on. I'm wondering what you think is the real job of an Educational Technologist? Should an edtech specialist teach their teachers how to be better educators or better technologists? I'm in an edtech Master's program and really frustrated that a course about the Internet is more about coding html and CSS then about using the real power of the Internet. Looking for your views on dealing with edtech specialists in your school or district. Do they teach you how to write code, use creative tools on the Internet, or just help you fix computer problems?

If you want to read the full Classroom 2.0 blog post, click here.

Tags: edtech, web2.0

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nlowell,

While I appreciate what you had to offer, I think a number of the aspects you identified are part and parcel of what one could identify as a teacher. I spent a lot of time learning about the neurophysiology of the brain, learning styles theories, and Ed Psych while I was a classroom teacher . . . I would not ascribe these areas as merely the realm of EdTechs - but all teachers (and I am going out on a limb here thinking that many EdTechs are teachers . . . or am I).

I see your definition as an equation of teacher + IT = EdTech. Not sure I can buy that scenario. It is entirely possible for an EdTech to work with their school/district IT staff to arrive at the best solutions and plans - drawing on the expertise of the IT staff for the final decision on platform, legal issues, licenses, and coding. Knowing code isn't going to help the classroom teacher - most are not going to find the time, much less the desire, to learn to code pages. It would be superfluous for an EdTech to know a variety of code as they would find little need to educate the rest of the faculty in this area.

An EdTech needs to be able to see the big picture in terms of available tools and learning theory. They need to have a clear vision of education that takes it from the current status quo to something that doesn't yet exist. They need to be able to assess the adoption quotient of any given member of their staff in order to pair them up with appropriate hardware and software that the teacher themselves can see the benefit of - being a matchmaker if you will.

I feel to often leadership confuses IT with EdTech. Some of what you have identified is about the management/maintenance of available hardware and software - which is the realm of IT. Some is applicable to all teachers regardless of tech issues. The EdTech leader needs to be a visionary who sees the possibilities that tech can afford the classroom teacher in the process of "architecting" the learning environment. The EdTech is going to provide a new vision of learning and help teachers take the steps toward that end - being a visionary is the most crucial quality.
I wouldn't argue that these notions and ideas are the sole property of the Ed Tech, either. Forgive me if I gave that impression. I listed that not-comprehensive list of disparate knowledge base ideas to try to dispel the notion that an educational technologist's role is as limited as the discussion-starter post indicates.

You're absolutely right. It is possible for a school district to arrive at the best solutions even without the aid of any trained Ed Tech people in the equation. I would suggest that having somebody fully informed across a variety of levels -- micro and macro -- increases the probability of a "best solution" and expands the universe of "best solutions." That wasn't really the question.

We keep coming back to the generalized blanket statement, "It would be superfluous for an EdTech to know a variety of code as they would find little need to educate the rest of the faculty in this area." Using that logic it's superfluous for an EdTech to know anything. The idea of the EdTech is NOT to 'educate the rest of the faculty' but rather to teach EACH faculty the piece they need to know.

Personally, I happen to think that HTML and CSS are really valuable tools for certain classroom applications. I could see them used in middle school math classes. I could see them used in high school computer classes. I could see them applied very handily in a variety of contexts. No, not the only tools and maybe not the best tools, but still very good for teaching logic, layout, and process. It would depend on the context, but the point is that if I don't know these tools, how they work, and how they might be applied, then I can't recommend them in *any* context.

It's true that leadership confuses Information Technology with Educational Technology. It's happening in this thread, actually.

Finally, I agree with your statements about being a visionary. I would submit that having a firm grasp in both domains would yield better results than suggesting that limiting the knowledge base would, somehow, produce a better vision.

JMO. YMMV.
There seems to be a sort of generalized picture that occurs within the arena of technology in education. Network Admins/IT staff tend to see the "1's and 0's" side of things and how to connect teachers, learners, and classrooms with the infrastructure to use technology as a means to facilitate learning. Educational Technologists tend to see the ways in which technologies can facilitate learning and transform the learning environment. I would not argue against the idea that there can be a blending of the two along the edges in some situations - and am sure that happens often.

However, for the classroom teacher the most personally valued commodity is time. There is never enough of it. I am not going to launch into a soapbox tirade about the overworked aspect of teaching as that should be obvious to even the most casual observer. The connection here is that learning HTML or CSS, while with unarguable benefit, isn't necessary for a teacher to implement technological change in their classroom. The few earlier adopters are going to learn HTML, CSS, or even Java on their own because it is in their interest area and they will make it fit into the limited time they have. They may very well find wonderful applications for these languages in their curriculum development. Most teachers, however, are not early adopters and can't fathom taking the time to learn a mark-up language much less see the value in learning it. For this majority someone with a basic understanding of 1's and 0's, an expertise in hands-on usage, and a vision for the transforming power of educational technology is needed.

I appreciate the picture of where you see things like HTML and CSS might fit. I won't argue that there are direct applications for these tools in those curricular venues, and maybe many more, but the issue is providing teachers with the most comfortable avenues into the Educational Technology world. Since most teachers are not early adopters, or even part of the second wave, the Educational Technologist's most effective approach is creating a vision for teachers using tools that don't require a level of expertise in the underlying infrastructure. While it is nice for a school/district's IT staff to have "big picture" vision of educational technology it is essential that the Educational Technologist have it. To be able to understand the learning environment of the teacher they are working with, understand the complexities of the neurophysiology of the brain, learning styles theories, and Ed Psych are all necessary in the toolbox of the Educational Technologist.

The Educational Technologist needs to be able to see the application of, Twitter for instance, within the context of a curricular opportunity and be able to guide the teacher through; learning about Twitter, developing a level of personal comfort with it, seeing the possibilities, and building on that as they use it to architect learning opportunities in the classroom. Too often I have heard stories about a constant battle between the classroom teacher and the IT staff. The teacher is frustrated because they see an opportunity to use an available resource and their school/district network blocks it or filters it so heavily that it can't do what they had envisioned. The Educational Technologist needs to be able to articulate the vision to the IT staff so they can see the need to find a way to securely and safely allow the implementation of Twitter with in the learning context. (Twitter is just one of many possible options - feel free to replace it with the tool of your choice)

I don't disagree that understanding the underlying languages or the 1's and 0's doesn't have some benefit, all learning as some benefit to the learner - but it isn't necessary. The Educational Technologist can, and often does, have a wonderful vision of how technology can change the learning environment - not just re-gentrify it, but really change it into something living, fluid, dynamic - without a breadth of knowledge of the underlying code. My comment about this level of knowledge being superfluous was predicated on the reality that within a school environment if an EdTech comes across a teacher desiring to learn HTML or CSS they have found an earlier adopter, and as I mentioned earlier, someone who will probably go out and learn that for themselves. It is, of course, is a plus if they (Educational Technologist) can provide some direction, but that teacher is probably already on their way. So, an EdTech is more effective if they have the ability to build, facilitate, and nurture a larger vision of how technology can be used to reinvent schooling, as opposed to being able to teach a small minority of teachers to code or use mark-up languages.

And of course, this is all JMO. : )
Yes, there is some truth to that. I think, however, that it is changing as the concept of an Educational Technologist, Technology Integrator, or Educational Technology Liaison develops.

I earned my MA in Ed Tech in Pepperdine's OMAET program. The program is about a 70/30 split online/F2F so you are steeped in the Ed Tech environment. I learned HTML - but not through direct instruction in the program but because I wanted to use it (needed to use it) with in the context of the learning. I also began to dabble in CSS and Javascript because I wanted to play with their functionality - but I didn't need to. I came out with some of that basic knowledge - but the program was focused on leadership, building vision, facilitating change. Little time was spent on teaching coding or languages, that occurred, primarily, outside of the course work and between the cadre members.

I think that, more and more, those who are entering the Ed Tech arena are not wooed by the sales pitch - it comes more often from actually using something and seeing the potential through the personal experience.
@indigo ABSOLUTELY- and that is a huge part of the reform that has to happen.
I agree with a greta deal of your comments above. I am in the very early stages of a Masters program in e-Learning at UTS (Sydney, Australia). I guess I am in a similar position to Cory where I want to be what we call an e-integrator. I am interested in the server/network/email side of things but don't want to be the one responsible for them.

I have a passion for education and don't want my time to be fixing stuff, my aim is to be in a role where I am educating teachers on how to best integrate tech into their lessons. I understand that there will always be times where it is most convenient for me to trouble shoot a problem, I do that now within the KLA I teach in. Most of the time it is as simple as showing another teacher which port to plug the overhead projector into...

I have read this thread until here so far with a great deal of interest and hope that it continues as it is an issue that I am deeply interested in. There are many varied and valid opinions so far, in saying that I guess I am putting myself in the camp that sees that there is a need for and I believe that it will happen very soon that more and more K-12 settings will have a demarcation between the edtech/e-integrators and the IT dept. They will need to work together and have an understanding of the work that each does but there will still be a marked difference between the two.
I agree there must be a 'bleed-over',but am yet to see a great deal of it. I am just talking about the context in which I work. The system we have for the way that schools are run in Australia is very different to the States.

The equivalent of a school district does exist but that only captures about 50% of students. I work in an independent school, that does not have the district support, where the head of the IT department is excellent at leading up the department, but leaves a lot to be desired when providing 'assistance' to teaching staff. Now I understand that is only one instance, but I have worked in other schools where locally there is an IT member on site and the IT design team is 5 people working with about 50-60 schools...
G'day, Cory

In my experience the issue has been a semantic one. Initially hired as an Instructional Designer, my institute found that faculty were reluctant to accept that. When my contract was renewed, I was cast as an Education Technologist. I do encounter faculty who now find it easier to be dismissive towards me but they don't make the mistake twice. My skills are based in educational, developmental, cognitive and social psychology as well as Human Computer Interaction and usability.

This is not me blowing my own trumpet - I generally argue that a solid foundation is required in those areas since e-learning is not the same as face-to-face teaching. We have brokered a truce - I don't tell them how to teach and they respect that I have a better grounding in the science of e-learning than they imagine.

This means that I continually research technology, cascade anything I consider valuable and defend my selections with reference to the areas I listed above.

I hope your Master's is working out for you. The nature and content can vary widely from one institute to another. I am uncomfortable with the ones run by Computer Schools and Technology Faculties because they seem to place too much emphasis on the technology. My Masters course was run by the Technical Documentation department and it seems to have a more holistic view of the area; Instructional Design, echnical Documentation, Flash Development, Authorware Development, Human Computer Interaction, Pedagogy and Usibility.
" I don't tell them how to teach and they respect that I have a better grounding in the science of e-learning than they imagine."

I understand what you mean about telling staff how to teach. Its hard enough just to model new tools and Web applications in front of an audience of teachers who are set in their ways and not interested in learning about those things. Thats part of what has to change about the system though. Computer technology and the Internet isn't a trend in education, its a complete shift. Its a way of life for our students so has to become extremely important to teachers. They have to make classes relevant and one of the more signifigant ways to do that is connect using the social networking tools, mobile devices, and Web 2.0 applications that our kids are using.

Still back to my original points, in a class called the Internet for Educators, why am I not learning about how to use the Internet to educate? In a position called Educational Technologist, why am I not learning how to educate teachers?

This discussion has been fantastic with many aspects being debated, but I still fail to see why the people who are responsible for bringing 21st century educational tools to their schools would need to bring html and CSS to their schools. Sure they need to know about them, but not so much that you fail to learn the tools that are truly going to help students have more success in their classes.

I
About your class. I don't know that you had mentioned the title of the class previously. What is the class description for Internet for Educators?
Hi Cory,

I received my Masters from NYU in Educational Communication and Technology. Like James Dorkan's experience, this program too had a more holistic view of the area - focusing on cognitive science, pedagogically based instructional design, and finally technical skills for instruction delivery. Some of us branched into web development, some software programming, and some into video. Every class that taught technical skills had students learn them in the context of working on a project informed by instructional design theories and best practices.

The program had a very wide range of student goals - some were teachers who wanted to use technology within their classroom, some were instructional designers or aspiring instructional designers, some wanted to break into educational website/software development, some were film students who wanted to specialize in educational programs/documentaries, and some had aspirations towards technology leadership positions within schools and districts. So the curriculum was flexible. I too was frustrated with some of the base level classes.

Have you thought about pursuing more independent studies in line with your own goals. That's what I would up doing towards the end.
I think the most important thing that one can learn in higher education is how to think in meaningful ways.

I don't know enough about HTML coding. But I wonder if it's possible to draw parallels between the thinking required to do coding and the thinking required to do teaching. If so, perhaps a really good teacher would help her students learn to do both; effective coding and effective use of technology in the teaching and learning process.

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