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Relevance of Educational Technology to Developing Countries

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التكنولوجيا في الدول النامية بحث يعغطي صورة واضحة عن وضع دول العالم الثالث

Like the technological innovations which enhance performance in all sectors of economic and social activities, educational technology has developed over the last thirty years and ultimately improved the quality and efficiency of education and learning, educational management and research. However, this technology is perceived in diverse ways by authors and users. According to Thomas and Kobayashi (1987), educational technology represents several things to different people. Thus, it is often mistaken for high technology products and their implication in the education sector. To the less informed ones, educational technology represents nothing other than the use of audiovisual equipment and/or micro computers for teaching purposes. Gagne and Reiser (1987) maintain that people usually understand educational technology as the use of communication media for educational purposes.

Whereas certain specialists have a very good understanding of the concept of educational technology, others are less informed about the concept, particularly in the developing countries where it is relegated to a mere notion of material products. With this confusion arising from interpretation, we wondered how educational technology could be basically explained to smooth away the situation and demonstrate the relevance of educational technology to a developing country.

This article seeks to clear up the inherent lack of understanding. In this regard, we have drawn on the points of view expressed by various authors in identifying the concepts of technology and educational technology. We have also tried to examined the possible distinction to be made between technology as a product and technology as a process. This brief conceptualization of technology enabled us to explain how educational technology can help in promoting education in developing countries. Finally, we have explained the extent to which it can help teachers to plan case studies to improve the learning process. However, before presenting the concept of educational technology, we digressed to focus on technology itself: we did so because, on the one hand, an analysis of all aspects of technology brings the problem of technology into focus straightaway; on the other hand, it constitutes the first origin of educational technology, as established by Gagne (1987) and Lapointe (1993). Consequently, a convincing conceptualization of educational technology should start with that of technology itself.

In other words, this article first attempts to explain educational technology by defining its concept and analyzing some aspects of the said technology that help in promoting education in the third-world countries. With this explanation, we wish to first iron out the lack of understanding of the concept of educational technology in developing countries and then demonstrate the theoretical and methodological contribution this technology makes towards the preparation of an instructional design aimed at improving learning and promoting its transfer.

THE CONCEPT OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY

As in the case of technology itself, there is no universal definition for educational technology because the concept has been defined in numerous and diverse ways in the literature. Non specialist educationists generally consider educational technology as the use of microcomputers and audiovisual equipment in particular. Rheaume (1993) observes that, to certain teachers, the term "educational technology" refers to materials or equipment. Some of them define the field in terms of audiovisual products and the media. Others lay emphasis on programmed learning and observable behaviour (Stolovitch and La Rocque, 1988).The confusion becomes more obvious in the case of non-teaching staff outside the domain of specialists. This is because when you ask to know what educational technology represents, you can be taken as far as possible with a long lecture on what can be achieved through technology. Stolovitch and La Rocque observed that non educationists manifest an almost complete ignorance about technology issues.

For their part, specialists consider educational technology as an intellectual process and practice that addresses the needs of learners and those of teachers to enable them to determine precisely the objectives of learning as well as the means of achieving them (stolovitch and La Rocque, 1988; Lapointe, 1993). Finally, Thomas and Kobayashi (1987) maintain that educational technology is a complex integrated process whereby problems connected with all aspects of learning are conceptualized, analyzed, established and resolved through interaction between people, techniques, ideas and resources within an organizational framework.

With these definitions, it is noticed that, far from representing the mere use of the media and other tools for instructional purposes, as purported by certain people, educational technology is rather a scientific process whereby human and material resources are used to enhance efficiency in teaching, training and learning. Let us now consider what is meant by technology as a product and technology as a process.

TECHNOLOGY AS A PRODUCT

Technology as a product is the end result of the systematic application of scientific knowledge in finding practical solutions to specific problems. As a product, educational technology can include teaching procedures, practices and materials. Consequently, the inputs from technological developments comprise, on the one hand, non-physical products (programmed learning, individualized learning, teaching skills, the use of computers in learning, computer-assisted education, comprehensive educational syllabi or curricula, multimedia, etc.);they also include, physical products such as microcomputers, mainframe computers, video cassette recorders, radio and television sets, video-tape recorders, tape recorders, overhead projectors, photographic slides, electronic acetates, etc..).

Some authors adds to this list of products, language, writing case, pencil, paper, books, newspapers and films. Finally, these tools facilitate education and learning and also enhance the performances resulting from the cost of education.

TECHNOLOGY AS A PROCESS

Viewed from the angle of process dynamics, educational technology is an approach geared towards finding and improving solutions so it should not be associated with products of such technology. It therefore includes functions connected with the management of organizations and human resources, research (the setting of theories, rational methods and practices related to the techniques of education and learning), logistics, the use and establishment of systems (Gagne, 1987; Winn, 1991; Lapointe 1993).

Moreover, it is these different functions, together with the systematic analysis and design, that distinguish educational technology from the traditional approaches. In other words, educational technology is:

  • systematic, in the sense that it uses a rationalized and structured technique as opposed to the activities organised intuitively, haphazardly or without proper management (Stolovitch and La Rocque, 1988);
  • communicative, because any medium used is oriented towards the objectives of the educational design to guarantee the efficiency, economy and enhanced output of the selected model;
  • scientific, in so far as all the decisions on the design and choice of medium are also taken in terms of the objectives and instructional design and in accordance with the most proven results of the learning process;
  • systemic, because it allows for the constant analysis of the problem of learning in its entirety. Thus, in a systemic process, every solution to a problem comprises interrelated elements and is exclusively envisaged as part of the given problem.

The systemic approach is therefore one way of examining globally and not in isolation , a set of elements interacting in a given environment to promote learning (Stolovitch and Keeps, 1993; Garavaglia, 1993). With respect to methodology, Stolovitch and La Rocque (1988) consider the systemic approach as a process connected with the planning and operation of a system are identified and analyzed. The main concepts of this approach are:

  • the phenomenon of self-regulation or feedback;
  • the control unit which takes account of information and
  • the energy required to operate the system and facilitate its adaptation to the surrounding environment.

Consequently, any inappropriate interaction between the control unit and the feedback mechanism or any inconvenient readjustment deregulates and disintegrates the system (ibid). Moreover, educational technology requires three operational phases to establish a given system; analysis, design and evaluation (Gagne, 1987, Gagne and Glaser, 1988, Stolovitch and Keeps, 1993).

  • The analytic phase precedes the model design phase and comprises seven stages of which five cover the analysis itself (preliminary analysis, target clientele analysis, contextual analysis) while two cover summary operations;

a.      the preliminary analysis covers the phase during which the technologists determines the difference between the real needs of the target clientele in relation to the knowledge acquired and the knowledge to be acquired;

b.      in studying the target audience, the technologist tries to acquaint himself with the learner through his/her aptitudes and features that are most likely to interact with the other components of the model;

c.      in the contextual analysis phase, the technologist identifies not only the contextual and environmental conditions underscoring the educational situation; however, it also presents a better enlightenment through the data collected to examine the manner in which the model to be designed is harmonized correctly and naturally;

d.      the job analysis enables the technologist to make an in-depth study of the instructional information to be imparted to the learner;

e.      the concept analysis consists in examining the content so as to identify the underlying concepts;

f.       Stolovitch and Keeps (1993) propose the preparation of a summary programme, plan of action and results of all the analyses conducted previously;

g.      whether it is intended for a course or training session, before preparing the appraisal report, the technologist should systematically prepare in a graphic form, a list of all the principal activities to be accomplished, together with the duration, site and the agents involved.

  • During the design phase, the technologist specifies the objectives of learning, prepares criteria tests, determines the teaching method, strategy and framework; he also selects the media and system of presentation, prepares a draft design, determines the set-up and production plan of the prototype. The technologist therefore considers this phase as the occasion to propose an operational model that normally includes solutions to the issue examined.
  • This design phase precedes the design evaluation, set-up and monitoring phase during which the possible anomalies are detected and necessary corrections are made before the system is put into operation. It is because, to prevent potential failures, the technologist should check his prototype with the help of experts, learners and/or colleagues and make possible adjustments before the final product is adopted, distributed and set up – as stipulated by Stolovitch and La Rocque (1988) and by Stolovitch and Keeps (1993). To ensure the smooth execution of this phase, all the preceding phases have to be implemented.

To sum up, the myriad definitions given in the writings do not facilitate the understanding of the concept of educational technology. For one thing, while some authors base their definition on the application of scientific results and the empirical process whereby knowledge is acquired, others base their definitions on all the skills required in creating, designing, using and improving teaching methods. However, upon analysis, the writings show that educational technology is not only a physical object. It can be a product (physical or non-physical) as well as process. It also allows for the systematic application of theory to practical work in order to allow for the adoption and design of the most effective teaching methods possible according to the set objectives and the circumstances under which teaching should be conducted. Educational technology also entails the use of all available resources (human, non-human and the media) in attaining the set goals. Finally, it requires, as far as possible, that educational decisions be based on research results and first geared towards improving and facilitating learning.

This brief presentation of concepts concerning educational technology, which we have just made was intended to explain what this technology is (as summed up in the table below). It would now be interesting to consider what educational technology can represent for developing countries. However, the research into the relevance of such technology to developing countries inevitably poses the problem of its transfer

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