Current Trends in Educational Technology Research

As I may or may not have mentioned elsewhere here, I am a doctoral student working, broadly speaking, on educational technology. It is thus just logical for me to gain experience teaching a course on educational technology. I was given this chance during the first quarter of 2019 when I worked as a teaching assistant for an educational technology course being taught by my advisor (more details here). The course is a project-based learning course where one of the goals is to be able to create courses on Open edX, a Learning Management System (LMS). Most of the students enrolled are interested in the video-making part of online course creation, which is given the focus on a different but related course. My advisor thought that it would be good to give the students a wider view of educational technology aside from the ones needed for the course. Hence, I was tasked to prepare a lecture to discuss what educational technology is all about.

What is educational technology?
The answer would depend slightly on who you would be asking. Most would agree that educational technology is the use of technology to facilitate the learning process. So, online courses such as massive open online courses (MOOCs)? Check. LMS? Check. Quiz apps? Check. Instructional robots? Check. And a lot more. But if you were to ask my teacher Dr. David Joyner in Educational Technology while I was still a master's student at Georgia Tech, educational technology is where education and technology meet, even if it does not relate directly to the learning process. Database for keeping admission records? Also, check. Registration software? Still check. Plagiarism checker? Yep, check. Instructor schedule management? Check, check, check! You get it.

Personally, I subscribe to what Dr. Joyner has taught us. I believe that students should be provided with the optimal environment to make their learning experiences worthwhile. Making students and teachers spend too much time on things that technology could have assisted is just a wasted opportunity for making better outcomes. I wanted to share this definition with our students because the more popular definition is limiting, but the direction I decided to take made it a little bit tricky to tuck this into my discussion. I wanted to consult this with my advisor, but things happened and I ended up not giving the students any definition at all (Oops... sorry!).

The direction I took
To introduce the students to educational technology, I wanted to talk about what is currently trending among professionals and researchers in the field. I decided to use a hype chart from an educational technology company that executes this analysis on a yearly basis. From there, I gathered example of works for each trending technology. This was the reason I had problems introducing the educational technology definition that I adhere to: I ended up not having enough examples not related to pedagogy! Below is the presentation I created for the lecture.

What did the students think?
While the general consensus was online education will have more importance in the future, the students were somehow surprised at its current extent. They were amused with the AI teaching assistant and were curious at how chatbots could be used as educational technology, so I had a chance to talk a little bit about Jill Watson even though she was not in the slides. They were excited and wary at the same time about the personalized communication tool: on one hand, they said they would appreciate if the instructors can send them messages helpful for their particular situation; on the other hand, they feel that their personal private information might be compromised at some point. They were a little skeptical about the virtual classroom though; their experiences with virtual technology make them believe that virtual reality itself still has huge room for improvement and trying to make online classrooms that use asynchronicity to its benefit become once again seemingly synchronous might just be too much and antithetical.

Note to self
I really regret I did not encourage the students to also have discussions on the forum. It would have been very nice to have their insights recorded and give more time for discussion and reflective thinking.

I am very happy with the way our discussion has turned out to be. I hope some of them will one day be interested in working on educational technology research.

Update, July 2020:
I created new slides for the academic year 2020. I think I will be doing this on a yearly basis now. This could be a productive way for me to regularly look at trends in educational technology. I hope the website I am using as the main reference does not go defunct.