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  • Writer's pictureInaia Correia

The Evolution of EdTech



Technology is no longer a novelty and is now present in any generation, age, and social class. Digital education, however, has gained many supporters over the years. Apparently, previous generations rejected digital education, believing that there would be no categorical effect on learning. The results of studies over the past decades prove that digital education is not only effective, but that it adapts to the needs and diversity of each individual. The aim of this study is to understand the adaptations of society and technology to digital education over the last 30 years. The Beginning of Online Learning We can say that, since the emergence of the Internet, online education has been present in people's lives, if we understand that education is learning, and the content brought by the Internet to people's homes is knowledge. Still in the early 90's, the word multimedia was added to everyday life, including the aspect of education. The ease of finding information and content on electronic equipment regarding specific subjects is what defined education as a digital resource. Accessibility and speed of access to content have made EdTech[1] the great educational advance of all time. Every invention, whether primitive or modern, triggers some degree of socio-economic change, and some of the educational technologies, such as language, alphabet, pen, paper, the printing machine, in fact, stand as milestones in the history of educational technology. It is, however, digital wired technologies (e.g., radio, television, telephone, etc.) that have aroused much attention and stand as a hallmark of the last century (Bozkurk, A 2020). If in 1994 online education was still little discussed, it was in fact present. “By 1994 the shift was more to digital content —multimedia CD-ROMs, and, as we shall see, some nascent online tools. So, 1994 provides a useful starting point for plotting the development of what many now consider to be the definition of educational technology — the use of Internet related technology in education” (Weller, 2020). Weller believed in 2007 that virtual learning platforms could lose their strength and disappear from the education market. The VLE (Virtual Learning Education) and LMS Learning Management System are examples of what Weller believed was coming to an end (Weller, 2007). The education platforms have also had their evolution, which must be considered since the 80's, with the creation of multimedia, such as the desktop, and the data storage resources (floppy disk, for example). While distance education certainly predates 1995, “nothing before has captured the imagination and interest of educators simultaneously around the globe more than the World Wide Web” (Owston 1997: 27). The beginning of the EdTech Back in 2009, when I first heard of the term EdTech and Instructional Technology, there were high hopes for the evolving instructional technologies, hopes that the field would be rapidly changing in the years to come. By the year 2020, we had a huge boom in the development and use of instructional technologies, with a great need to act fast and prevent K-12 education from being affected. Also, in 2020 there has been much discussion about how instructional technologies are expected to evolve. “This statement is sometimes used as a motivation (or veiled threat) for senior managers to adopt EdTech because if they fail now, it will be too late to catch up, or more drastically, they will face extinction” (Weller, 2020). EdTech’s past and its evolutionary process may have started before the internet sphere, if we check the path as all access to education by means of some technology different from the common one, which is books, classroom and studies with a teacher in a face-to-face way. In this case, Educational Technology may have emerged as early as the beginning of the 20th century, with the production of educational films, for example. "Educational Technology in a way could be traced back to the emergence of very early tools, for example, paintings on cave walls. But usually its history is made from educational films (1900) or Sidney Pressey's mechanical teaching machines in the 1920s” (Glavin, 2018). We do know however that in mid-1993/1994 the computer became popular and brought electronics into our homes, enabling access to digital content - multimedia CD-ROMs, and nascent online tools. With this, we can say that educational technology and digital content came into popularity in mid-1994. For Weller, 1994 offers a useful starting point for tracing the development of what many now consider to be the definition of educational technology - the use of Internet technology in education (Weller, 2020). One of the first online tools for digital content was the Bulletin Board System (BBS), which was a computer or application designed to allow the sharing and exchange of messages and files over a network. "The BBS operated in a world of dial-up modem connections. Each effectively acted as its own server, and each user would connect directly to the BBS" (Weller, 2020). The BBS was also a major event in Education. Berg (1995), shows that "exemplary science teachers have accumulated hundreds of great ideas for making science teaching more interesting and effective" (Berg, 1995). The discovery of other sources for accessing teaching content was a milestone in the history of the education system. "These teachers are packed human beings who search for treasures of teaching ideas and bring them back to the nest of teaching. This teaching knowledge or pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) includes: the most useful ways of representing these ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations-in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject matter that make it understandable to others.... [it] also includes an understanding of what makes learning specific concepts easy to difficulty" (Berg 1995). Very soon we will have the introduction of the Web in education, or to be more specific, the introduction of WBE - Web Based Education. Web Based Education starts to be relevant in education in mid 1995, still when the Internet creates its popularity in the homes and residences of the population. "By 1995, the web browser was becoming fairly common, with Netscape dominating. With Facebook pages and WordPress sites created at the click of a button now, it is hard to remember the effort, but also the magic of creating your first web page using hand-coded HTML" (Weller 2020). There are two phases that distinguish the emergence of Web Based Education, as we will see below: In the late 1990s when WBE was emerging, there were few adopters, and WBE was in the first stage of the product life cycle. This was an experimental phase, where emphasis was on“defining” the product and making it technically “feasible” (Aggarwal, 2003). In the second phase, WBE is becoming more demand driven. As competition is growing,universities are streamlining operations, consolidating offerings, and creating strategic partnerships. Efficiency is becoming key” (Aggarwal, 2003). Although it took many people many years to afford a computer at home and have access to educational content, most universities were already prepared and developing new resources to promote the efficiency that WBE needed. WBE is available anytime, anywhere, to anyone, regardless of time and distance. Many researchers have called this asynchronous learning. Typically, two dimensions are used to describe Web-based learning: time and place (Aggarwal, 2003). Very soon CMC - Computer-mediated Communication - would be within everyone's reach. Computer-mediated communication (CMC), and the means by which people use computers and networks to communicate with each other, makes it convenient to communicate across great distances and different time zones, eliminating the time and geographical constraints of face-to-face communication, i.e. virtual chat. The use of CMC in education allowed students to optimize their research time and travel, as well as facilitating the exchange of ideas and discussions for use in the classroom. "In addition to being easier to use, these systems also had sophisticated back-end administrative systems that allowed automatic allocation of students to groups, multiple roles with a range of different permissions, offline synchronization, threading to structure conversations, and a high degree of personalization for users. This highlights the shift to a more educational focus in CMC deployment and tools developed with education more specifically as a target market" (Weller 2020). With the emergence of Wikis in 1998, the sharing of knowledge and education became even more democratized. "The wiki - a web page that could be edited could be jointly edited by anyone - was a significant change in the way users related to the Internet. The web democratized publishing, and the wiki made the process a collaborative, shared enterprise. In 1998, wikis were just beginning to grow in education (Weller 2020). The introduction of CoWeb[2] - a content collaboration tool via the internet - was fundamental to decrease research time and establish a close relationship between researchers, students, and teachers within an educational environment. The benefits were as follows: Educators and students can share results before the final product, i.e., had the opportunity to see one another's work and even comment upon it; Students rely on collaborative writing; Discussion groups based on a starting topic or a document; Students get to publish their projects in Case form; Groups get to exchange information and share projects between classes, etc. “The CoWeb could be used as a place to post general information for others, relevant to the class or not” (Weller 2020). Learning becomes fast, agile, efficient, inclusive, and cross-promoted. In 1999 we arrived at the era of eLearning[3]. 1995 was the year that the Learning Management System (LMS) began to be used in schools and universities with the initial intention of tracking student records, attendance and absences, test submission, grade tracking, and other functionality. "The American company Blackboard was the first to successfully use the LMS to provide academic professionals, businesses, and government institutions with education, mobility, communication, commerce software, and other related services" (Bouchrika, 2022). The tool was one of the most widely used worldwide, and by 2014, more than 17,000 schools and organizations in 100 countries were using Blackboard's software and services (Keegan, 2020). The debate generated by the emergence of eLearning has called into question the future of education in the 2000s. It was widely believed that the standard classroom model would be affected by the emergence of new educational technologies. Going back to the emergence of eLearning, we know that this expectation could lead to further studies based on distance learning. "One of the most palpable features of the growth phase of e-learning during the late 1990s was the feeling of intense expectation around how e-learning could improve education, juxtaposed with intense fear of how e-learning would undermine education! Some individuals felt both. There were many unknowns, and many questions. Much of what we know now about e-learning was a mystery at the time" (Goldberg, 2014). What we see today is still the opposite of what was expected. The standard classroom model is still very popular, and today there is also discussion about socialization beyond education. In addition, we know that educational technologies had a historic breakthrough in 2020 because of the pandemic, in unexpected ways as we will see in the last section of this article. From 2000 to 2020 At the beginning of the 21st century, the expectations of a new world were already haunting the new generations, and with this, new aspects in the world of educational technology were emerging. Education platforms count on numerous changes in a fast and functional way. Then in 2002 the LMS - Learning System Management - appeared. For 2002, the selection is the dominant and arguably most successful education technology, the Learning Management System (LMS), also known as the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) (Weller, 2020). Prior to the LMS, the educational content that once came in a single access platform came through a variety of tools, "such as: a bulletin board for communications, a content management system, and home-created web pages" (Weller 2020). As e-learning became a central means of disseminating educational content by universities, this variety of platforms became a problem. The LMS has enabled a single enterprise solution with associated training, technical support, and helpdesk capabilities to be implemented across an entire institution (Weller 2020). While there was an advantage to this new educational and enterprise platform model, what we saw in the beginning was something beyond the trivial in terms of accessibility to technology. "This became something of a Faustian pact, with institutions finding themselves locked into vendor contracts, and vendors like Blackboard trying to file restrictive patents" (Geist, 2006). According to Weller (2022, p. 65), one of the problems with enterprise systems like LMS is that they require significant investments in terms of finances, expertise, time, and resources. Thus, they take on a momentum of their own. The reservation many educators have with the LMS is not necessarily the actual technology, but rather the institutional "sediment" that builds up around it. Still at the beginning of the century we had the emergence of MOOCs[4], mass learning platforms, adopted by most major universities around the world, and it became hat emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. The first appearance of the term MOOC was in mid-2008 based on the 2008 course Connectivism & Connected Knowledge (CCK08) and its relationship to distance education scholarship, and the history of MOOC based on the 2011 course Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (CS 271) and its relationship to computer science and machine learning (Moe, 2015). The learning model is underpinned by an idea that network connectivity, and all the connections that humans and computers can make both to each other and to themselves, is essential to learning in the modern digital age (MOE, 2015). The eLearning has grown in popularity among large and medium-sized companies as an effective and affordable form of corporate learning. Today, almost all companies worldwide have adopted eLearning as a learning and training tool for their employees. “Instead of investing in expensive seminars and workshops, companies could host all their learning material on an internal intranet where it could be accessed by employees. Employees would have a training plan that would guide them in what they would have to learn through the platform” (Keegan, 2021). As companies engage in new e-learning formats, new learning tools become part of corporate education, allowing employees to leverage their knowledge, optimize training, and companies to ultimately get ahead in operations. Terms such as "mobile learning," "gamification[5]," and "social eLearning" have become part of the corporate environment and have already demonstrated how external technologies can be part of the evolution of eLearning. “The core idea in gamification lies behind the logic that the game elements’ motivational strength can be transferred in an educational context. The implementation of gamification in science education has been an intriguing area for many researchers as it is something familiar to students, and at the same time, it draws their interest” (Kalogiannakis, 2021). The high reach of education through internet tools has made the learning era reach also the social media. x 2010 was also the era of learning through social media. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn made learning more accessible in the forms of blogs, Twitter threads, short videos and documentaries (Keegan, 2020). The term "authority" became associated with professionals who used their social networks for education and knowledge. “When people view you as an authority in your niche, they consider you to be a reliable and credible source of information. They know they can count on you to provide amazing content because you know what you're talking about. You've shown to them that you have expertise and experience that they'll find to be valuable” (Sklar, 2020). From the year 2010 onward, social media has been the stage for education. On YouTube, for example, one can find not only educational content for any information, but also entire courses and workshops. Education has become highly accessible and affordable. "With the spread of social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, learning has now become a widely available resource. Today, people are found scratching their heads while deciding what they should learn rather than worrying about how they should learn something" (Keegan 2020). “YouTube and other video sharing services flourished, and the realization that you could make your own video and share it easily with others was the next step in the democratization of broadcast that had begun with the web. It transpired that people really wanted to share video” ( Weller, 2021). 2020 and the Future of EdTech From 2020 up to the present, the traditional classroom-based setting has been facing a major blow when the COVID-19 crisis took place. As a result, parents and schools were compelled to consider eLearning just to continue students’ education while they are in quarantine. Students have been attending online classes where their teachers use teaching software to teach from home. Clearly, the pandemic has shown the versatility and advantages of eLearning (Keegan, 2020). We are in a new era of EdTech. This era, although hastened by the pandemic, has also been occasioned by the acceleration of new digital technologies. The cell phone is no longer a calling tool, in fact, it is rarely used to make phone calls, but to access content in full and continuous time. The pandemic, therefore, has accelerated the adaptation of the traditional school system to virtual teaching. "The COVID-19 epidemic was the first event in a long time that dealt a real blow to traditional classroom training and openly exposed the limitations of this form of learning. As lockdowns were implemented around the world to contain the spread of the virus, students of all ages found themselves trapped at home, with education having been completely disrupted" (Keegan 2021). The rapid adaptation also generated a lot of noise. It was noticed that even if the generation was ready for virtual classes, the results of the curricula would be better. “The COVID-19 outbreak was the first event in a long time that dealt a real blow to traditional classroom training and openly exposed the limitations of this form of learning” (Bouchrika 2022). In any case, Pandemic has led the world to understand the versatility and benefits of eLearning and has shown that this is indeed a path with no turning back. Today, we know that the future of education technology is very promising. The Metaverse[6], for example, will bring students the possibility of being inside a classroom and perform activities in a virtual way, but very close to what reality would be. “With the emergence of online schools and colleges, students have begun to experience a gap between immersive physical classrooms and virtual ones. The metaverse can bridge this gap by creating 3D virtual classrooms where students can virtually meet and interact with their classmates and teachers. Students from any geographical location can be a part of this metaverse-powered learning setup and do much beyond what a physical classroom allows” (Takyar, 2022). Besides the Metaverse, it is also possible that in the very near future EdTech will be the stage for AIs - artificial intelligences. Today, we are already surrounded by AI in all environments, from home (with applications like Alexa or Google), or mobile (IOS Siri). Conclusion EdTech is now accessible to all ages and stakeholders. The cost-effectiveness of studying at home allows not only the fluidity of globalization, but also the speed of access to information around the world. A four-year-old child, for example, will arrive at school with much more content than a child of the same age 20 years ago. Mobile applications, social media, and MOOCs are already part of everyday life and should be enhanced to further facilitate access to education. We have seen that EdTech evolved along with the development of other technologies such as computers, Internet and cell phones. EdTech has kept up with the generations and will continue to do so. The future, whether in the Metaverse, in cell phone applications, or even in social networks like Tik-Tok, learning will be possible and accessible. Companies have been ahead of the curve in adopting applications and technologies as a means of disseminating corporate knowledge. "The use of eLearning in both academic and business fields manifests that the last decade has been integral to the development of eLearning today and has brought more interesting facets to it. eLearning has fully thrived as online information and eLearning opportunities have become readily available to the public" (Bouchrika 2022). The optimization of time and decrease of distances that eLearning provides will be evolved, but we don't yet know where and with what tools. We know that big investors (like Elon Musk) are increasingly investing in EdTech and futuristic technologies like AI. What we can predict is that EdTech and its learning tools are and will be the future of education in the United States and in the world. References Aggarwal, A. (2003). Web-based Education : Learning From Experience. IGI Global. Aras Bozkurt. (2020). Educational Technology Research Patterns in the Realm of the Digital Knowledge Age. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1). https://doi-org.waylandbu.idm.oclc.org/10.5334/jime.570 Berg, C. A. (1995). BBS Basics: Searching Bulletin Board Systems for Teaching Treasures. Science Teacher, 62(3), 42-47. Bouchrika, I. (2022, February 2). History of eLearning: Evolution from stenography to modern LMS platforms. History of eLearning: Evolution from Stenography to Modern LMS Platforms. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://research.com/education/history-of-elearning#:~:text=In%201999%2C%20Researcher%20and%20Educator,education%20(Keegan%2C%202020). Computer-Mediated Communication. Computer-Mediated Communication | DO-IT. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.washington.edu/doit/computer-mediated-communication. Glavin, C. (2018, September 26). The history of Educational Technology. The History of Educational Technology | K12 Academics. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://www.k12academics.com/educational-technology/history Goldberg, M. T. (2014). E-Learning and WebCT: Beginnings, Revelations, False Promises and Unfounded Fears. Interdisciplinary Humanities, 31(1), 8–22. Kalogiannakis, M., Papadakis, S., & Zourmpakis, A.-I. (2021). Gamification in Science Education. A Systematic Review of the Literature. Education Sciences, 11. Keegan, L. (2021, August 4). Complete history of eLearning from 1924 - 2022! ????: SK. SkillScouter. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://skillscouter.com/history-of-elearning/ Koh, E., & Lim, J. (2010). Wiki use in higher education. Handbook of Research on Social Interaction Technologies and Collaboration Software, 209–219. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch019 Moe, R. (2015). The brief & expansive history (and future) of the MOOC: Why two divergent models share the same name. Current issues in emerging eLearning, 2(1), 2. Owston, R. (1997, March 7). The World Wide Web: A technology to enhance teaching and learning? Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.yorku.ca/rowston/article.html Rosencrance, L. (2002, August 12). Dealer Daily: Toyota's Communication Pipeline. Computerworld. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.computerworld.com/article/2576666/dealer-daily--toyota-s-communication-pipeline.html Madalyn Sklar. (2020, May 13). 6 ways to build your authority on social media. Madalyn Sklar. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://madalynsklar.com/2020/05/build-your-authority-on-social-media/#:~:text=When%20people%20view%20you%20as,ll%20find%20to%20be%20valuable. Takyar, A. (2022, September 26). Metaverse in education. LeewayHertz. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.leewayhertz.com/metaverse-in-education/#:~:text=Virtual%203D%20classrooms&text=The%20metaverse%20can%20bridge%20this,what%20a%20physical%20classroom%20allows. Weller, M. (2007). The VLE/LMS is dead. The Ed Techie. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/11/the-vlelms-is-d.html Weller, M. (2020). 1994 – Bulletin Board Systems. In 25 years of Ed Tech (Vol. 1). essay, AU Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01 Footnotes [1] The term "EdTech" comes from the union of the words education and technology and refers to the use of technological processes and resources to improve education. [2] Coweb (aka Swiki) is a web-based group collaboration tool written in Squeak, an open-source programming language. It has been developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999 for educational use (Koh 2010). [3] The meaning of eLearning is training, learning, or education delivered online through a computer or any other digital device (Lawless, 2022). [4] MOOCs - aka Massive Open Online Courses - are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale (www.mooc.org). [5] Gamification in education means that educators apply game design elements to an educational setting. The goal is usually to make learning more engaging. Breaking the concept of a “game” down into constituent game design elements is tricky, considering how vast the differences are among, say, chess, The Sims, and tag. [6] The metaverse is a three-dimensional virtual world that integrates aspects of online gaming, social media, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create a space where users can interact virtually (Takyar, 2022).

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