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Am I an educational technologist?

One of my advisees recently defended her dissertation which involved conducting a systematic review of the literature in order to develop a model or operational understanding of the term “technology integration.”  Most of that work centered around the meaning of “integration.”  That is, since she was studying what it meant to DO something, the focus was necessarily on the verb “to integrate.”  At the outset, my advisee committed to a purposefully broad and reasonably thorough definition of “technology” and then went on to study what it means to integrate that noun.

I think that was the right decision for her purposes, but today I found myself thinking about how we define “technology” in the field of educational technology.  So, I looked up the definitions of “technology” on dictionary.com.  I don’t know how generally helpful this exercise was, but I learned quite a bit (and I’m all about learning!).  Here’s what I learned:

  • First, the word originates from the Greek word “technologia” which seems to mean the systematic treatment of an art or a craft.
  • Second, despite how I’m guessing most people think of the word, only one of the dozen or so definitions make mention of anything electronic and/or digital (“Electronic or digital products and systems considered as a group”). 
  • Third, synthesizing most of the definitions, “technology” seems to be an applied body of knowledge of how technical means interrelate with us and the world around us.

Thus, I can now confidently (and empirically?) dismiss the notion of technology as a tool (or even a set of tools).  The electronic or digital products and systems are important, but they are really just the technical means under study; what’s more important is studying/understanding/learning how those means interrelate to us and the world around us.  Further, I really like the idea of technology as a body of knowledge.  That being the case, a technologist would be one who studies that body of knowledge.  Finally, then, an educational technologist would be one who studies the body of knowledge of how technical means interrelate specifically with the institution of education (NOT just schooling; an important distinction).  So, when my 2.5 year old son asks me what I do, I can tell him that I’m an educational technologist.  I like that 🙂


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