An educational technologist is one who engages actively in researching, analysing, designing, developing, implementing and evaluating processes and tools to support and enhance learning with the use of technologies (Seels & Richy, 1994). Educational technologists are also sometimes referred to as learning technologists.
Came across this wonderful post titled “On being a Learning Technologist” by Sarah Horrigan, and one that prompted me to put this post together. She starts by asking some key questions — What makes the difference? What makes a learning technologist stand out as being a really ‘good’ learning technologist?
Sarah highlights six key attributes that learning/educational technologists should have, and to which I can clearly relate to. I have added another attribute, “helping to build learning communities”, that I think is of absolute importance. Listed below are the key attributes:
- Being curious:
Educational technologists have an open mindset, are inquisitive and curious, genuinely wanting to learn and do new things. They not only have a sense of openness to unfamiliar experiences, but also find novelty and meaning in familiar experiences. Asking questions, finding answers and being always on the look out for greater opportunities is their strength. As Sarah puts it, “that spirit of curiosity permeates their working life.”
The important thing is not to stop questioning… Never lose a holy curiosity. Albert Einstein
- Being adventurous:
Good educational technologists “don’t restrict their work to the working arena”. They know that it takes a time to explore, and the importance of learning from failures and mistakes. For them, the large part of the adventure lies in the novelty of the experience, and they willingly plunge into new experiences (which is part of the fun!), while not knowing what the outcome will be. Donning their glasses of fun and excitement, they dig deeper while enjoying the learning process.
- Making connections:
The curiosity and openness make it easier for them to form significant relationships, bounce ideas off others and make connections. Hence, they tend to “make connections between people, things and beyond”. They always look beneath the surface and discover new worlds and possibilities. As they always expect and anticipate new ideas, they are able to easily recognise and connect these new ideas to the problems at hand.
- Being proactive:
To be effective in their work, they need to be proactive in creating opportunities to talk, listen, understand and open to new ideas from the teaching/learning community they work with. They are adept at “spotting trends and persevering with a new technology or approach rather than dismissing things.” This also means that they are good in identifying early adopters and innovators on their own campuses, and understand how technology was integrated – as a tool, as a process, or both – and how other essential elements in the teaching-learning system was balanced.
- Being passionate:
What matters most to educational technologists is that they enjoy what they are doing! It is this passion that drives their enthusiasm, helps them reenergize, inspire and challenge them to continuously improve.
- Being a learner (forever!):
As educational technologists, there is a need to bridge the “gap between learning and technology, academia and the technical, and be able to talk the language of context”. They are open to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Of key importance to educational technologists is the need to underpin what they preach with solid evidence, thus becoming a learner forever.
- Building learning communities: Finally, building relationships with fellow educators and other educational technologists around a new instructional tool is a key attribute for an effective educational technologist. It is a great way to build a support network, where they can collaborate, communicate and coordinate their work, both within the network and beyond. These communities will then be able to challenge patterns of classroom teaching and learning that have historically been resistant to change. When such communities are fostered, they will help in reaching beyond formal structures to create connections amongst people from different disciplinary boundaries that stimulate learning and foster development.
As Sarah puts it the best educational technologists “are not all about the technology; they are not all about the pedagogy either. They walk the line between the two and care about what they do and what they *could* do as well”. They embrace the drive to balance technology and pedagogy to create a whole new teaching-learning community and environment where technology adopted transforms the way students learn and teachers teach; so as to offer new, uncharted experiences and opportunities for teachers and students.
Sarah Horrigan (2012) On being a Learning Technologist
Seels, B. B., & Richey, R. C. (1994). Instructional technology: The definition and domains of the field. Washington, DC: AECT.