What is truly meant by Educational Technology?

As Educators feverishly continue to move along with the transition to online learning and try to find normalcy amidst this time of uncertainty, a question popped into my head-that question was, do we as Nurses in Education and Professional Development really know what is meant by educational technology and online learning? I know I talk about the integration of EdTech often-that is essentially my main message however I realize that it is very easy to use terms that are not universally understood. This came up when my husband and I were talking about a marketing campaign and I reiterated my platform of EdTech integration and he asked me, "well, what is that anyway??"

EdTech has had several iterations over the past few decades. The one thing I can tell you first and foremost is that it is NOT solely the use of PowerPoint or other types presentation software. Many people feel that this falls under the EdTech bucket but it does not. At the very core, it is a presentation application that has some really awesome features, bells and whistles that can really ramp up your presentation, but in no way does it count as education technology. Some of the definitions for EdTech include:

  • Hardware or software that actually facilitate learning.

  • A systematic, iterative process for designing instruction or training used to improve performance

  • A variation of ways of dealing with learning processes

  • The theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning.

The list goes on and dates back to even the 1960s. I think people get very confused with the technology piece to it and feels that all these other applications and presentations can fall into the EdTech bucket. So, what in fact constitutes educational technology? Its not necessarily physical, tangible tools but more so approaches and concepts that integrate technology. This can include:

  • Mobile apps for education-according to Weinschreider, Sabourin and Smith (2019), learners now need to be able to access their education anytime, anywhere. As i have mentioned in previous blogs, articles and podcasts, the learners of today are used to the easy accessibility of information that they retrieve in their personal lives, and the same expectation is there for Nursing Education. Learners do not want to wait anymore for information and education, instead, it can be accessed from their mobile devices for easy, convenient and often timely completion of content.

  • Customized learning experiences

  • Cloud computing, which is comprised of things like DropBox, Gmail and SaaS (Software as a Service) products such as Mailchimp (the email marketing platform), Salesforce, DocuSign. These software distribution models allows third party internet providers to host applications and make them available to customers

  • Virtual and augmented reality experiences-these platforms allow for hands-on learning but there are also virtual clinical simulations, which involve patient avatars. These work exceptionally well for online learners. Many of these platforms are comprehensive and provide feedback and analytics directly to the learner.

  • Online escape rooms-these are great for encouraging teamwork and collaboration as they work as teams to figure out whats needed to solve a situation or unlock clues to solving the given problem.

  • Learning analytics platforms-now more than ever since our students have not only adopted high tech education, they are one with high tech education, data from their learning is becoming increasingly more important for driving decisions in education. These could be as simple as reports that are generated from our Learning Management Systems (LMS), to web based tools that can even integrate with LMS' to identify student progress in the course, which can allow for more personalized feedback, which is always better than the generalized approach. There are even tools (if your online learning platform does not already have this built in) that can allow you to see who is communicating with whom in your courses (ex. Threadz), their degree of engagement in the course, what's happening in discussion forums and other reliable metrics. This is especially helpful for those Nurse Educators that now have to transition online quickly, many of whom may not have any online teaching experience at all, and want to understand learner engagement in the online arena. There are even more analytics often built into the backend of LMS' that can tell you time on and off the online course, what sites the learner has clicked to while taking the course, as well as how long they spent on any one online module.

This list is definitely not all encompassing but serves to offer you a better perspective as to what is meant by educational technology and its increased integration into Nursing and Healthcare education. As Nurses in education-whether it be in academia or in professional development-it is imperative that we not only stay current and up-to-date with trends and emerging trends in educational technology, but we have to allow ourselves to be learners again so we can fully immerse ourselves in what we expect our learners to complete. This will also give us a greater appreciation for how our objectives and outcomes are being executed. EdTech is not necessarily something that is always physically tangible but can lead to very tangible, very real learner engagement results.


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Jobanputra, K. (2018 30 May). Top 6 Educational Technology Trends Right Now. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/educational-technology-trends-top-right-now

Kurt, S. (2017). Definitions of Educational Technology. Retrieved from https://educationaltechnology.net/definitions-educational-technology/

Maropost (n.d.). 5 Real World Examples of Cloud Computing. Retrieved from https://www.maropost.com/5-real-world-examples-of-cloud-computing/

The University of British Columbia (n.d.) Learning Analytics Examples. Retrieved from https://isit.arts.ubc.ca/learning-analytics-examples/

Weinschreider, J., Sabourin, K., & Smith, C. (2019). Preparing Nurse Leaders in Nursing Professional Development: Educational Technology Resources. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development. 35(5):281-285, September/October 2019.