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What is edtech?

High school teacher leading a blended learning class

By Cooper Nelson

At a glance

  • Educational hardware and software, as well as the methods for deploying them in the classroom, fall under the banner of education technology, or “edtech.”
  • According to EdWeek.org, 93% of U.S. teachers reported conducting at least some of their online teaching from home in 2020, and 58% of education professionals now have a more positive opinion of edtech.
  • The possibilities of remote learning and the opportunities for potentially better learning outcomes are some of edtech’s benefits.
  • University of Phoenix offers a range of online education degree programs that touch on types and applications of edtech.

Education technology, also known as “edtech,” refers to the educational hardware and software tools designed to improve teaching outcomes as well as the methods for implementing such tools in the classroom.

Many universities offer educational technology alongside theory, methods and pedagogy that aim to improve learning outcomes through technology. When an instructor entreats students to collaborate and discuss certain subject matter through a digital-learning chat platform, for example, that’s edtech at work.

According to EdWeek.org, 93% of U.S. teachers reported conducting at least some of their online teaching from home in 2020, and 58% of education professionals now have a more positive opinion of edtech. Certain methods, such as challenge-based gamification in e-learning, may improve student performance by as much as 89%.

While edtech is a broad subject, modern educators should be aware of this burgeoning field. Those who do will find opportunities to wield edtech in an effort to produce better educational outcomes.

Benefits of education technology 

Edtech has the potential to benefit students, teachers, the education community and society at large. How? For starters, education technology can facilitate better technological literacy via remote learning, which can help students thrive in a post-pandemic world where hybrid work and learning environments abound. 

But that’s just the beginning. Here are some more potential advantages.

Opens up remote-learning possibilities

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Economic Forum reported that over 1.2 billion children could not attend physical classrooms, resulting in the dramatic rise of remote learning via digital platforms.

While e-learning had existed before the pandemic, the model has now been tested en masse with the benefits of hybrid learning in a post-COVID world becoming more apparent. These benefits (like safety and cost efficiency) make remote learning a more viable option even when circumstances don’t require it. With adequate Wi-Fi, laptops and cloud access, students are now better able to learn wherever they are, unbound by physical and geological restrictions.

Allows educators to do more

Edtech tools allow teachers to explore blended learning approaches in an era when remote learning and working are becoming the norm. Edtech opens the door to expanded curriculum and an ability to engage in varied teaching practices and methods.

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What is blended learning? Definitions and models to use in the classroom

Sometimes, edtech’s value lies in ways that it can enhance what teachers already do. As noted on Edutopia.org, edtech can expand opportunities for:  

  • Differentiated instruction
  • Data-driven instruction
  • Higher-order feedback
  • Mastery-based instruction
  • Problem-based learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Small-group instruction
  • Relationship-building 

There are big-picture benefits, too, like the ability to meet students remotely and provide support for multiple learning styles.

Helps students with different learning styles to engage actively in their education

Edtech and e-learning allow educators to further personalize their teaching styles to match students’ learning styles.

For example, video- and audio-based modules cater to students who prefer to see and hear their lessons. Some platforms even use artificial intelligence to create personalized teaching approaches that empower students to pursue in-depth study of a given subject. This approach can save the student time and inspire an appreciation for education in general by matching lessons with an individual’s interest and aptitude.

Simpler edtech solutions might cater to kinesthetic learners, allowing them to turn their phones into virtual reality headsets. Simulated field trips across the world, for instance, can immerse the learner in subject matter that feels strikingly similar to “the real thing.” Additionally, augmented reality can provide a sort of overlay to the real world, which could be just as useful in education as in job training.

Just as edtech tools and theory are becoming more ubiquitous in schools and universities, e-learning modules and practices are quickly becoming cornerstones of workplace training and upskilling. This is just one reason future leaders can benefit from understanding different learning styles in the same way many educators do.

May leads to better learning outcomes

The argument can be made that edtech leads to better learning outcomes, and there are studies that corroborate this position in certain circumstances. For example, a McKinsey report took an expansive look at the state of edtech, how student outcomes fared in different circumstances and countries, and edtech’s future place in education.

While there are many ways educational technology can potentially produce better outcomes, there are still many things left to understand concerning the efficacy of these methods. The same McKinsey report cited above also mentions several findings that speak to these nuances. For example, the type of device learners and teachers use matters, and some are associated with worse student outcomes.

How to keep up with edtech 

Edtech can help lead to better learning outcomes under the right circumstances, and those circumstances should include educators who are familiar with the nuances of current edtech solutions and methodologies.

One way to get familiar with edtech tools is through higher education. Education degrees at the postsecondary and graduate levels offer in-depth knowledge on teaching methods, educational theories and, yes, edtech.

Certificates and other upskilling opportunities offer another pathway to learning more. The Post-Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology (CERT/D-ET), for example, equips education leaders with the know-how to strategically manage and lead processes related to the integration of technology in various learning environments.

Another great way to keep up with edtech is to read educational blogs or subscribe to an e-newsletter or RSS feed. Additionally, you can find edtech news and influencer accounts to follow on social media. Edtech podcasts may also help you keep up with the latest in e-learning technologies and pedagogies.

Appropriately, the way you decide to engage in continued learning on the subject of edtech depends entirely on your learning style — and fortunately, there are plenty of tools, many of them digital, that can help you to stay abreast on edtech.