This is the script to my EdTechne experience on the history and application of educational technology. You can learn more about the project here and see the full list of referenced works here. Enjoy!

Start: Hello! My name is Rachel Davison Humphries, and I am your learning designer for this experience. This tutorial is going to walk you through some the history of and best practices of technology in education…

Share a selfie or quote.: We would love to hear about your experience as a technology-enabled educator or about your time in this learning engagement!

About this project: EdTechne was designed as part of my work as a Master’s student at Georgetown University’s program in Learning, Design, and Technology. I would like to thank my Studies in Educational Technology professor, Dr. Bryan Alexander for his support. You can connect with me on twitter @racheldhumph or email me at

About MLDT

About Bryan

Reference page

Leave a quote.

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Start EdTechne: EdTechne is a combination of the Greek word ek/ed for “out,” the root of educate, to lead out, and techne, the Greek word for art or skill. All of the works referenced in this experience can be found on the referenced works page.

“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.” Areopagitica (1644), John Milton

Much of the design for this experience comes from the second edition of Neil Selwyn excellent text, Education and Technology: Key Issues and Debates. I highly recommend it!

What would you like to learn about first?

Learn the history of educational technologies:

The history of educational technology parallels the history of technology…

Click for a timeline of EdTech on EduCause.

The history of information technology is broken up into four periods: Premechanical, Mechanical, Electromechanical, Electronic (Butler). We will use this framing to briefly discuss major innovations in educational technology.

Period 1: Pre-mechanical Period (3000 BCE to 1450 CE): During this period the spoken and written permeated the pedagogy. We had the development of writing and alphabets, writing utensils and storage, libraries, books, & numbering systems…

We have records describing the philosopher Plato drawing math figures in the sand. Interestingly, even in this period, there were concerns about pedagogy and lecturing…

Learn more about Plutarch’s concerns about lecturing…*.html

The first abacus first appeared in 2700 BCE (Selwyn 49)…

We have math homework on clay tablets in Šuruppak in ancient Mesopotamia around 2600…

Learn more about the Šuruppak tablets.

And just like the young people of today, Onfim was doodling on his tree bark history lessons (shown below) in 13th century Novgorod.

Learn more about Onfim.

Period 2: Mechanical Period (1450 and 1840): This period is sometimes called the First Information Explosion, as books proliferated, we had considerable advances in educational technology in everything from the telescopes to the slide rules. (Butler) Feel free to walk around this telescope. It is 3-D!

The first textbook “Orbus Pictus” was published in the mid-1600s (Selwyn 49)

Learn more about Orbus Pictus:

Even in the 1840s, new education technology was discussed in effusive language, the inventor of the chalkboard was said to “be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest of mankind” (Selwyn 49)

Period 3: ElectroMechanical Period (1840-1940) Once humankind discovered that “knowledge and information could now be converted into electrical impulses.” (Butler) the transfer of knowledge and information both in and outside the classroom rapidly changed.

In 1870, the Magic Lantern began to change what classrooms could do as an early primitive version of a slide projector. They took off. By the time WWI ended, there were 8,000+ lantern slide projectors in Chicago Public Schools. (The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom)

Radio programming dominated educational technology in the 1920s, with educational programs such as School of the Air.

1930=Overhead projectors, 1940=ballpoint pens, 1950=headphones. Each technology changed teaching practices. (The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom)

Period 4: Electronic Period (1940-Present) Videotapes (1951) Photocopiers (1959) and handheld calculators (1972) all changed the resources available to educators.

The Skinner Teaching Machine (1920s-1970s) and Scantron (1972) allowed for greater access to particular kinds of assessment that in turn led to a change in classroom management and lesson design.

“Education in the US went through major growth in the Pre-computer period, “The US Department of Education reports that high school enrollment was only 10% in 1900, but by 1992 had expanded to 95%.

The number of students in college was around 1 million [in 1900], but by 2012 had grown to a record 21.6 million. Teachers needed new methods of instruction and testing, and students were looking for new ways to communicate, study, and learn.” (The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom)

Throughout the 1980s the personal computing revolution swept the educational community as the learning capabilities were immediately evident.

The first portable computer was released by IBM in 1981 and by 2009 97% of classrooms had one or more computer. (The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom)

Modern Micro-period: 1998-2018

Wikis (1998) and Open Educational Resources (OER) were big players in the “1990s [when] the cost of creating and distributing video dropped dramatically due to digital compression and high-speed Internet access. This reduction in the costs of recording and distributing video also led to the development of lecture capture systems.” (Bates)

This led to the rapid development of online resources: MIT OpenCourseware (2002), Youtube (2005), Khan Academy (2006), Apple iTunesU (2007)

A plethora of new technologies have come online in the past 15 years: Learning Management Systems (LMS), e-portfolios, MOOCs, E-portfolios, Professional Learning Environments, Learning Analytics, Digital Badges, Artificial Intelligence, and most recently, blockchain.

Read more about all these technologies here…

The Future!: What does the future hold for EdTech?

There is so much on the horizon! Biometrics! Augmented reality! Gaming! Automatic Assessment!

“Whatever the technology, it is important to keep in mind that, “technology has consistently been co-opted for educational purposes…the popularity of…technology does not automatically make it a contender…Education is a complex, highly interdependent system…” (Weller 48)

“The next phase of edtech should be framed as more of as a conversation about the specific needs of [the community] and the responsibilities of technology adoption.” (Weller 48)

Learn about different education technologies:

Technology is designed to solve problems. Before anyone begins considering a technology, the first question to answer is “What is the problem I am trying to solve?”

Let’s jump into the technology itself! To start, we can think about two major types of technology solutions: delivery technology and learning technology. Delivery technology primarily supports the practice of teaching. Learning technology primarily supporting learning.

Learning Technology: The number of educational technologies seems to be multiplying daily, here are some major groups for you to explore. Click through for an overview of the technology and its best practices…


The first educational programs began broadcasting on radio in the early 20th century…

The University of Wisconsin established the first educational radio station in 1917, and three years later broadcast licenses were established for public educational programs. (Selwyn 53)

Similar to modern online communities, the School of the Air offered self-directed supplemental education from the 1930s to the 1970s. At its height, it is estimated that 10% of children in the US used the programs. (Selwyn 54)

In parallels to modern education technology issues, radio never reached its full potential due to lack of equipment, training, reception, and teacher interest. (Selwyn 55)

“Educational radio continues to be used in the present day (especially in developing countries and remote rural regions)” (Selwyn 55)

Now while broadcast radio is no longer the dominant audio medium, the endurance of “the idea of radio, … is a major reason why podcasting has such potential value in teaching and learning.” (Gardner Campbell)

In 2019 “one-third of the population reported having listened to a podcast in the last month, representing 90 million monthly listeners. The spoken-word audio sector also saw increases with audiobooks, as the portion of the U.S. population that has ever listened to an audiobook surpasses one-half for the first time.” (Edison Research)

It is important to remember “the droning voice of a professor reading from yellowed lecture notes will not be so affecting, but a voice that creates a theater of the mind’s time-honored heritage can connect with the listener on a profound level. The theater of the mind can be both compelling and transformative, often far more than anything witnessed visually…” (Gardner Campbell)

“A gifted teacher could be said to create just such a theater of the mind, as well as the conditions whereby students may be enticed to create such a theater for themselves. At its best, podcasting can serve as training in rich interiority and in shared reflection.” (Gardner Campbell)


As video distribution has evolved, so has its frequency of use in the classroom…

Starting in the second half of the 19th century ‘magic lantern’ slide projectors and stereograph viewers soon gave way to static filmstrips which gave students a view on the world when accompanied with narrative text read aloud. (Selwyn 50)

Motion pictures were introduced aggressively in the early 1900s, drawing on the popularity of both newsreels and the scientific management movement that influenced pedagogy to be more “efficient.” (Selwyn 50)

Thomas Edison was the first in a long line of technology entrepreneurs to see their own inventions as the solution to educations’ ills…

“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks…The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture.” (Selwyn 50)

Edison then invested a great deal of time and money in educational film ventures (Selwyn 50)…

The government quickly followed suit, with US state and federal agencies developed bureaus for overseeing the use of films in school (Selwyn 51)…

In striking parallels to the arguments for technology in education today, film was seen as a panacea that offered the “most valuable weapon for the attack on ignorance the world has ever known.” (Selwyn 51)

By the mid-century it was clear films were not having the significant impact the early innovators had predicted. This was, in part, due to cost, adoption rates, training, and usage. (Selwyn 53)

As with film, educational television was meant to be a “quick, efficient, inexpensive means of satisfying the nation’s instructional needs” in post-WWII America. (Selwyn 57)

To see a selection of educational films from the period

By 1966 4/5 of school children were spending a quarter to a third of their class day watching educational television lessons.

For a catalog of the Coronet Educational Films

By the 1980s, though, educational television had also peaked as an educational intervention…

During this period a distinction was made between instructional television (ITV), television programming designed for a school curriculum, with all other programs being ETV, educational television. (King 61)

Throughout the end of the 20th-century educational programming continued to grow.

In modern times film has moved to online video instead of broadcast, with broadcast moving further away from ITV, and even ETV.

This is a fascinating history of what happened to The Learning Channel (TLC) and thoughts on the future of educational TV…

Now YouTube dominates the educational video landscape. A study by Buzzetto-More in 2014 indicated that “incorporation of YouTube enhances instruction and increases student interest. Online students especially indicated a greater preference for the adoption of YouTube than their hybrid and in-person counterparts.”

“Participating students were found to be most likely to visit YouTube from a mobile device. The accessibility of YouTube content by students via mobile devices is significant in that it has implication to instructors whose students may have inconsistent computer access…” (Buzzetto-More 30)

“In short, YouTube has tremendous potential to augment a wide range of aspects of instruction, much of which has yet to be fully explored.” (Buzzetto-More 30)

Internet/Mobile/Open Resources

The biggest change to the educational landscape in the past 50 years has been the rise of the internet as a ubiquitous source of educational resources. In the past 20 years, mobile technology has continued to evolve the use of the internet and open resources in K12 environments.

The educational functions of the internet can be thought of in eight ways: “1) storehouse of information; 2) communication without boundaries; 3) online interactive learning; 4) electronic/online research; 5) innovation in the new world; 6) improve interest in learning; 7) global education; 8) information catalog. (Dogruer 607)

It is abundantly clear that the internet “enables students to find information as well as allowing them to think critically and creatively, to become collaborative and cooperative workers and to solve problems.” (Dogruer 607)

What is less clear is what kinds of support structures are needed to help support student learning as the case for internet use contributing to the development of school burn out is developing. (Suomen Akatemia)

In the coming decade, mobile learning is the leading edge of educational technology. Students have already begun to use mobile collaboration tools to support work “swarms,” help each other’s learning through text and image at all hours. (Alexander)

There are two significant barriers to mobile learning…

The potential for distraction is clear and “instructors are hesitant to adopt mobile technology as a formal part of their curricula because they view the devices as potentially distracting” (Seilhamer)

The second is “is a lack of knowledge about or comfort with integrating the technology into teaching. A recent study of instructors found that one of the strongest disincentives to classroom innovation is that instructors fear embarrassing themselves in front of students.” (Seilhamer)

“Students are increasingly using their mobile devices and apps for learning purposes. In 2012, 32 percent of students said they used mobile apps to complete an assignment at least once a week. In 2014, 66 percent said they used mobile apps for learning at least once a week, and that number increased slightly to 69 percent in 2016.” (Seilhamer)

The best practices for use in the classroom are to minimize the “disconnect between instructors and students through faculty training and pedagogical support…integrate learning concepts, such as universal design, into all training programs to help instructors design mobile-compatible online courses and assignments.” (Seilhamer)

And supporting a school-wide mobile strategy that centers “on the user experience, which starts with recognizing those mobile resources that have the most impact and value.” (Seilhamer)

The next evolution in online and mobile learning may be microlearning. “Informal microlearning occurs on multiple levels every day…Microlearning refers to any pedagogy that encourages learning in short segments, and it can be supported through many platforms.” (Trowbridge)

Learn more about Microlearning:


“If learning is to be active, it must involve experiencing the world in new ways… Active learning must also involve forming new affiliations.” (Gee, 766) Gaming is both a learning environment but also a pedagogical tool for educators.

The most significant distinction in gaming in education is the difference between Gamification and Game-based learning.

Game-based Learning: “game-based learning relates to the use of games to enhance the learning experience” (Isaacs)

According to Gee, in his excellent text, “What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy” “good video games reflect, in their design, good principles of learning.

“If children (or adults) are playing video games in such a way as to learn actively and critically then they are 1. Learning to experience (see and act on) the world in a new way 2. Gaining the potential to join and collaborate with a new affinity group…

3. Developing resources for future learning and problem solving in the semiotic domains to which the game is related 4. Learning how to think about semiotic domains as design spaces that engage and manipulate people in certain ways and, in turn, help create certain relationships in society among people and groups of people, some of which have important implications for social justice” (Gee, 883)

Well designed video games, in addition to being naturally enticing to the learner, “create what the psychologist Eric Erickson has called a psychosocial moratorium—that is, a learning space in which the learner can take risks where real-world consequences are lowered.” (Gee 1220) This has implications for deep learning experiences and should be at the forefront of educators minds when they use game-based learning in the classroom.

Learn more about Game-based Learning on EdSurge

Gamification: “Gamification is the idea of adding game elements to a nongame situation.” (Isaacs)

Gamification can sometimes be seen as an outgrowth of behaviorism, helping learners by guiding their behavior based on a reward system. The current research shows that “gamification provides positive effects, however, the effects are greatly dependent on the context in which the gamification is being implemented, as well as on the users using it.” (Hamari)

Virtual/Augmented Reality

The technology with the most potential to transform education in the near future is Augmented and Virtual Reality, and the newly emerging idea of “extended reality (XR) [comprising] the entire spectrum of reality, from the virtual to the physical, AR to augmented virtuality, and everything in between.” (Craig)

“One of the beacons of virtual reality use is placing students in situations they would never experience otherwise.” (Zimmerman)

“One shortcoming of virtual reality right now is the limited content available for classrooms…Encouraging students to be the masters of their own virtual experience allows them to explore VR’s limitless possibilities — and not doing so could be counterproductive” (Zimmerman)

The early research into the use of these technologies is promising: “The research demonstrated an 8.8 percent increase in recall, with more than 40 percent of the study’s participants seeing an increase of 10 percent or more while using VR.” (Craig)

For an excellent series on this topic, see EduCause’s Immersive Learning series.

Explore some virtual, augmented and extended reality environments in 360.

Social Science Experiences

The Party: a virtual experience of autism – 360 film:

RecoVR: Mosul, a collective reconstruction | The Economist:

Decisions: a 360° virtual reality drunk driving experience, presented by Johnnie Walker:

360° Travel inside the Great Pyramid of Giza – BBC:

Solitary Confinement in 360° Virtual Reality:

Science Experiences

Glow Worm Caves of New Zealand in 360° | National Geographic:

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover at Namib Dune (360 view):

What Happens Inside Your Body? – VR 360°:

Ocean: A 360-degree tour of the mysterious, magical corals of Palau | The Economist:

360° Kamchatka Volcano Eruption | National Geographic:

Learning Environments

The learning environment can significantly affect the learning outcomes of the students…

“Institutions may need to rethink their vision for learning and the spaces in which it occurs. Creating a vision for learning and learning spaces is a powerful leverage point; it informs almost all other decisions about learning space design… The vision helps organize all participants in the design and implementation of these spaces as well as the activities they support.” (Brown)

Most educators have limited options for how to arrange and design their learning space, but the Active Learning Classroom has become the standard design principle…

Learn more about Active Learning Environments

Here is an opportunity to explore some learning environments in 360-3D. What do you notice? What kinds of learning are these environments designed for?

Standard Classroom

Student-Centered Classrooms

Maker Space

Lecture Hall

Delivery Mechanisms*: When designing courses that are integrated with technology, it is crucial to think about how they will be delivered. Let’s explore some aspects of delivery…

A/Synchronous & Blended*



Blended Learning*

Learning Management Systems*

E-Learning Platforms*

Learn about philosophy and pedagogy of education technology: “A key benefit of technology-based education is seen to be its positioning of the individual at the center of the learning process.” (Selwyn 24) and “today, technology educators are expected to help students interpret technology in the context of society…” (Pannabecker 43)

For an excellent paper on this topic, I highly recommend “Online Learning Environments and Their Application to Emerging Theories of Educational Technology” by Valoria Hodges

The promise of technology is ever present, and it is essential that we are critical in both the use and application of any technology.

Defining Technology:

There are three distinct, interconnected aspects of what ‘technology’ is (Selwyn 9)

Artefacts & Devices: The technology itself and how it is designed and made (Selwyn 9)

Activities & Practices: What people do with technologies (including issues of human interaction, organizing, identity, techniques, and competencies) (Selwyn 9)

Context: Social arrangements and organizational forms that surround the use of technologies (including institutions, social structures, and cultures) (Selwyn 9)

Essential questions: These essential questions are an excellent place to start when choosing a technology (Selwyn 18)

What is the problem to which a technology claims to be a solution?

Whose problem is it?

What new problems will be created by solving the old one?

Which people and what institutions will be most harmed by this new technology?

Why do we actually need digital technology use in education?

Cognitive Load Theory>Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: “One of the primary considerations when constructing educational materials…is cognitive load theory. CLT suggests that memory has several components (Brame 2)…

Sensory memory is transient and has limited capacity and must be encoded into long-term memory…Since working memory has limits the learner must be selective about what information to pay attention to during learning… (Brame)

This leads to the idea that there are three components of a learning experience…The Intrinsic Load, how difficult the particular subject is for the learner…The Germane Load, how much cognitive activity is necessary for the learning outcome…The Extraneous Load, the cognitive effort that does not help toward the desired outcome…(Brame)

Poorly designed lessons overload the working memory and do not give space for the formation of long-term memory…The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning builds on this by building on the idea that there are two channels for acquiring information visual/pictorial & auditory/verbal…(Brame)

“Although each channel has limited capacity, the use of the two channels can facilitate the integration of new information…” This way “working memory’s capacity is maximized—but either channel can be overwhelmed by high cognitive load.” (Brame 3)

“Thus design strategies that manage the cognitive load for both channels in multimedia learning materials promise to enhance learning.” (Brame 3)

For more information on this topic, I highly recommend, Cynthia J. Brame’s impressive article, “Effective Educational Videos.”

Behaviorist Learning Theory & Technology

“The Behaviorist view of the individual learner that they are largely the passive recipient of learning experiences. In this sense…behaviorism is more accurately described as a teaching theory, rather than a learning theory.” (Selwyn 75)

“Behaviorism relies on observable changes in behavior as an indication of what is happening inside an individual’s mind.” (Selwyn 77)

In the mid-twentieth century, behaviorism became the dominant pedagogical paradigm and “began to advocate a system of teaching and learning that became known as ‘programmed instruction’”(Selwyn 75)…

Programmed Instruction involving a curriculum “that is programmed step by step in small units, focused on immediately observable and measurable learning products.” (Selwyn 75)

This theory led to the development of ‘teaching machines’ that divided the learning process up into small learning steps, each, frequent step, had positive reinforcement, “keeping students continuously and actively engaged with learning tasks, providing immediate feedback for every response.” (Selwyn 76)

“There has been a recent revival of programming learning approaches as a result of MOOCs since machine-based testing scales much more easily than human-based assessment” (Bates 7)

The drill-and-practice software still popular today is most commonly used in the same way as these early teaching machines, and behaviorist principles inform ‘adaptive learning’ and ‘tutorial’ software algorithms. (Selwyn 77)

Cognitivist Learning Theory & Technology

Cognitivist theory is an extension of cognitive science that understands learning to be in terms of the thought processes that lie behind the observable behaviors.

“Cognitivist theories of learning seek to describe the mental processes that underpin the act of learning within the human mind.” (Selwyn 77)

Cognitive theory understands the complexity of the processes of learning and attempts to describe and model how the mind should work.

By imagining the mind as an information-processing system cognitivist theory informed technology design diagnoses the learners understanding of skills by comparing it to the ideal case. (Selwyn 79)

Many of the more advanced artificial intelligence and intelligent learning environments use these systems of knowledge. (Selwyn 79)

Constructivist Learning Theory & Technology

Constructivist theories “describe learning as taking place best when it is problem-based and built upon an individual’s previous experience. In this sense, it is rooted in processes of exploration, inquiry, interpretation, and meaning-making.”(Selwyn 80)

Constructivist theories, therefore, are looser and include more activities to help learners build their understanding.

“In this sense, technology is a key means of facilitating an individual’s exploration and construction of knowledge.” (Selwyn 81)

The constructionist principles are found in a range of digital technologies, including

1) “Providing representation of real world settings or case-based learning instead of predetermined sequences of instruction;” (Selwyn 82)

2) “emphasizing authentic tasking in meaningful contexts rather than abstract instruction out of context;” (Selwyn 82)

3) “Avoiding over-simplification and representing the complexity of the real world;” (Selwyn 82)

4) “providing multiple representations of reality to be explored and made sense of;” (Selwyn 82)

5) “emphasizing knowledge construction instead of knowledge reproduction;” (Selwyn 82)

6) “supporting collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation, rather than competition among learners for recognition;” (Selwyn 82)

7) Encouraging thoughtful reflection on experience;” (Selwyn 82)

8) The constructivist theory of education heavily overlaps good game environment design. (Selwyn 83)

Constructionist Learning Theory & Technology

Constructionist theory is an extension of Constructivist, through the works of Seymour Papert. It describes that the best learning taking place through the “exploratory building of objects that are themselves capable of doing something.” (Selwyn 83)

“By building an object and then manipulating it to do something, Papert reasoned, individuals are able to learn from the process of thinking about how to get something else to think.” (Selwyn 83)

“One of the implicit characteristics of the constructionist approach is the use of technology to support the emotional aspects of learning…” (Selwyn 83)

Constructionist learning is at the heart of building games like Minecraft and 3-D printing and fabrication. (Selwyn 84)

Socio-cultural Learning Theory & Technology

Socio-cultural learning theory came to prominence in the early late 1990s and “turned their attention to understanding the influence of the wider social and cultural environments that surround an individual’s learning and cognitive development.” (Selwyn 85)

“Socio-cultural accounts often describe learning that is highly social and often informal in nature.” (Selwyn 86)

“While some learning may take place as formalized training or instruction, the individual is often socialized on an informal basis by others into the process of finding, sharing and transferring knowledge.” (Selwyn 86)

The future of educational technology is socio-cultural, as more online learning environments rely on collaborative activities and “socially produced conventions relating to identity, etiquette, and trust.” (Selwyn 87)

Distributed Cognition

In Distributed Cognition “learners participate in a systematically designed learning environment that supports interaction amongst its participants” (Doak 5)

These environments recognize the distributed knowledge of the learners and have understand that it is “through interaction with other members and artifacts that progresses learning. Therefore communication among all participants is paramount in importance” (Doak 5)

Under Distributed Cognition theory, students are organized into small collaborative groups, say to build a robot, so that the cognitive load is distributed to the resources and the fellow learners.

“This learning theory supports the very skills needed by the 21st century.” (Doak 5)

Socially-Shared Cognition

“In this theory, cognition is also distributed…both learners are experiencing something together and…the learning which occurs is being divided and distributed between the participants in the learning community.” (Doak 6)

“These ideas of sharing are relevant to this theory because no two learners an ever experience a situation in the exact same way as another learner.” (Doak)

*To be added

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