Educational Technology: A Definition & Visualisation

The definition posed by the AECT via Januszewski and Molenda (2008) touches on a number of ideas and themes, but what stands out to me the most is the fact that “educational technology” is perhaps a simple a label for a rather complex and dynamic set of principles. I have often used the definition presented by Spector (2012) that reads as

“educational technology involves the disciplined application of knowledge for the purpose of improving learning, instruction, and/or performance”

to try and better define the field for others that I know. Through the lens of the AECT, we find it as:

“educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources”

There is definitely a lot more detail and nuance in this definition where the importance of ethics,  appropriateness, and the fact that it is in fact a discipline or study, rather than a mere process. Thus to try and put it simply can be difficult, and that is clear from the agonising word-smithing and changes that are apparent in the development of this definition (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008).  To some degree it feels like the difference in my past work of being a technology-integrations specialist on the ground in the classroom and that of being an ICT director planning from a distance.

Nevertheless they both overlap in wanting to facilitate learning and improve performance in a dynamic, technology rich world. The task of visualising the field is not as simple as it might seem. How can one show the complex relationships? How can one indicate a multi-layered, multifaceted idea that is is recognisably simple yet internally complex?

To accomplish this task I relied on some guiding principles from instructional design where often complex dynamic processes are best shown as animations- they give the author the freedom to dramatically show such complexity.

While the original goal was more of a static or semi-interactive image as seen from several exemplars, I decided to create an animation that represents the definition/field of Educational Technology as a simple whole with internal structure, multiple perspectives, and relationships with space and colour to represent the major themes like creating, using, and managing, along with colours for ideas such as practicing, ethics, appropriateness, etc.. I also wanted to avoid using any specific technology metaphor as the particular technology itself isn’t so important, rather it is the idea and purpose of how any technology ought to be used to facilitate learning and/or improve performance.

It might sound a bit abstract, but you will have the opportunity to judge for yourself. I created this using a HTML5/CSS3/Javascript authoring tool called Hype. It’s a Mac only app, but it is a good reason to consider getting one if you don’t have one already!

You can view the animation on the web in its native environment by using the link below. It generally looks correct on modern desktop browsers (i.e. Safari, Opera/Mozilla, Chrome), but not on Internet Explorer (perhaps you will become a proper browser one day I.E.!). You’ll also probably need to let it load if on a slow internet connection.

Alternatively, you can view a video of the animation hosted on YouTube.

Online Animation (


YouTube Link



Januszewski, A., Molenda, M., (2008). Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary (2nd ed.). United States: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Spector, J. (2012). Foundations of educational technology: Integrative approaches and interdisciplinary perspectives. New York: Routledge.


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