Educational Technology and Learning Theory

Educational Technology and Learning Theory

Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch108
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Abstract

This overview briefly reviews the history of educational technology and surveys relevant learning theory. In order to understand fully computer-based learning in the United States, one needs to have a more general sense of the history of educational technology (Berg, 2003). Common learning theories that have been applied to computer environments also need close examination because they provide the rationale for specific approaches and learning strategies. In this review, one sees the important influence behavioral and constructivist theoretical models have had on educational- software design in America. Finally, cooperative learning and learning-styles theories are outlined because of their relevance to specific computer-based teaching methods.
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Introduction

This overview briefly reviews the history of educational technology and surveys relevant learning theory. In order to understand fully computer-based learning in the United States, one needs to have a more general sense of the history of educational technology (Berg, 2003). Common learning theories that have been applied to computer environments also need close examination because they provide the rationale for specific approaches and learning strategies. In this review, one sees the important influence behavioral and constructivist theoretical models have had on educational-software design in America. Finally, cooperative learning and learning-styles theories are outlined because of their relevance to specific computer-based teaching methods.

Many scholars trace the use of educational technology, broadly defined, to early symbolic systems. According to Paul Saettler (1990), one of the leading historians in the field, educational technology in a broad sense can be traced back to when tribal priests presented systematized knowledge and used early sign writing to pass on knowledge. He points out that the more advanced the culture, the more complex educational technology became. Saettler observes that there is wide disagreement concerning theories in the field of educational technology. However, learning theory is a key to the field because behavioral sciences applied to problems of learning and instruction are fundamental to evolving educational technology. One might trace the beginning of educational technology in America to the use of lantern slides for educational purposes in the American Lyceum and Chautauqua movements, early continuing or extended education programs. Particularly in the Chautauqua educational programs aimed at adults wanting to continue their education, the slides were an integral part of the way programs were presented to large audiences.

Later, what became known as the visual instruction movement promoted visual approaches to teaching to combat what they labeled “verbalism” in the classroom. One influential figure in this movement was Edgar Dale, who developed a schema he called the “cone of experience,” a notion emphasizing experiential learning over verbal symbols. The visual instruction movement was concerned primarily with the use of specific media, while educational technology is oriented more toward psychological principles and the total teaching-learning process.

In addition to the visual instruction movement, the Lancasterian method of instruction involving systematic instruction around memorization and drill was an early influence on educational technology, particularly behaviorist approaches. Behaviorism emphasized the behavior of the learner and reinforcement, and was first introduced by John B. Watson and then developed most extensively later by B. F. Skinner. Skinner saw curriculum as forming behavioral objectives, or arranging contingencies of reinforcement. In relationship to the progressive and constructivist learning theory, Thorndike was probably the first modern instructional technologist, replaced only later by John Dewey in his broad influence on American education. The Dewey-inspired progressive movement provided the philosophical grounding for what later became constructivism. So we can see that early on there were two main techniques for the use of media in the classroom: one concentrating on behavior, and another focusing on process and experience-based learning.

A pioneer in film technology and an intellectual interested in education, Thomas Edison was one of the first to produce films for classroom use. In addition to Edison, many colleges and universities were involved in educational film production as early as the 1910s with Yale University and the University of Minnesota being large players in this early film production. Demand for training films during World War I led to an increase in educational film production. However, by the late 1920s and early 1930s, educational film companies had financial troubles.

World War II was a turning point for educational film both in terms of number and technique. The use of educational films was part of the official policy of the war department, and consequently this led to the production of six times more educational films than had been created up to that point. After World War II, additional universities became involved in educational filmmaking including the University of Chicago, USC, Ohio State, University of Wisconsin, NYU, the University of Indiana, University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, University of Michigan, Boston University, and Syracuse University. The first academic research on instructional films was done in 1912. The research on educational use of instructional film is remarkably thin.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Instructional Television (ITV): Typically used to describe whole videotaped academic courses; often set in a studio or classroom using a traditional lecture format.

Self-Regulated Learning: Individual students rather than teachers set educational goals; involves active, goal-directed self-control of behavior and cognition.

Constructivism: Educational theory concentrated on assisting students in constructing meaning through experiential and self-directed means.

Behaviorism: Educational theory focused on changing observable student behavior using reinforcement in line with a stimulus-and-response framework.

Educational Television: Generally refers to television programs that have a broad cultural purpose such as Sesame Street in America.

Learning Style: Generally refers to learning dispositions that students adopt in educational environments; sometimes called learning approach or learning orientation.

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