Taxonomies for Technology

Taxonomies for Technology

Richard Caladine (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch101

Abstract

Today there is a range of technologies available to those who design learning events, from the old and simple to the new and complex. Key attempts have been made to develop theoretical frameworks of learning technologies and have been reported in the literature of higher education, human resource development, and instructional design. These three fields are not discrete and some overlap occurs. For example, commentators in the field of instructional design state that their designs are provided for learning in many contexts including schools, higher education, organizations, and government (Gagné, Briggs, & Wager, 1992; Reigeluth, 1983). In many cases the theoretical frameworks are intended to guide the selection of learning technologies but often the conceptualizations have not kept pace with technological change.
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Introduction

For over 3000 years from Homer, Moses and Socrates onwards, the teacher in direct, personal contact with the learner, has been the primary means of communicating knowledge…until the fourteenth century, when the invention of the printing press allowed for the first time the large-scale dissemination of knowledge though books. (Bates, 1995)

Today there is a range of technologies available to those who design learning events, from the old and simple to the new and complex. Key attempts have been made to develop theoretical frameworks of learning technologies and have been reported in the literature of higher education, human resource development, and instructional design. These three fields are not discrete and some overlap occurs. For example, commentators in the field of instructional design state that their designs are provided for learning in many contexts including schools, higher education, organizations, and government (Gagné, Briggs, & Wager, 1992; Reigeluth, 1983). In many cases the theoretical frameworks are intended to guide the selection of learning technologies but often the conceptualizations have not kept pace with technological change.

There are many definitions of taxonomy and most of them refer to systems for the classification and organization of things. Carl Linnaeus developed the most well known taxonomy during the expansion of natural history knowledge in the 18th century. It is the scientific system for the classification of living things and has the basic structure of organism, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

It has been argued (Wikipedia, 2005) that the human mind uses organizational structures to naturally and systematically order information received and hence makes sense of the world. A taxonomy is clearly an organizational structure and it follows that as the Linnaean taxonomy assists those investigating the life sciences; a taxonomy of learning technologies can help users and investigators of learning technologies. Further it is suggested that taxonomies of learning technologies are appropriate tools to assist in the design of learning events that include technologies.

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Background

The Linnaean taxonomy has a deep hierarchical structure which reflects the number and diversity of living things. It is reasonable to expect that a taxonomy for learning technologies will be smaller due the smaller number of learning technologies. Just as new species are added to the Linnaean taxonomy as they are discovered, a taxonomy of learning technologies must be adaptable to cater for leaning technologies of the future. A taxonomy of learning technologies is therefore a framework that classifies or organizes learning technologies.

There have been a number attempts to classify or organize learning technologies and while their classification frameworks are logically sound they have not always been developed to assist in the design of learning events that use technology in the most effective and efficient manner. Also, there is a considerable range in the depth of approach or rigor. However, all of the approaches either divide technologies into categories, either by intention or as a result of categorization by other criteria.

Leshin, Pollock, and Reigeluth (1992) present a classification scheme for “media” that is based on attributes in which learning technologies are grouped into five “systems.”

  • •. Human-based system (teacher instructor, tutor, role-plays, group activities, field trips, etc.)

    • Print-based system (books, manuals, workbooks, job aids, handouts, ect.)

    • Visual-based system (books, job aids, charts, graphs, maps, figures, transparencies, slides, etc.)

    • Audiovisual-based system (video, film, slide-tape programs, live television, etc.)

    • Computer-based system (computer-based instruction, computer-based interactive video, hypertext, etc.)

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