1.1 History and Influences on the Field

According to Seels and Richey (1994), the educational technology field emerged, and continues to develop, through interactions of influences, including foundational research and theory and the features and capabilities of current technologies. This means the field of educational technology is “a child not only of theoretical knowledge, but also of practical knowledge” (p. 68).

Theory from fields as diverse as psychology, engineering, communications, computer science, business, and education has contributed foundational knowledge, while emerging new technologies prompt researchers to explore new possibilities for creating learning environments, and to further build and refine theory.

Reiser (2001) provided an extensive summary of the history of the field, tracing its roots back to the early 1900s. The first catalogue of instructional film was produced in the US in 1910, and a “visual instruction” movement, with professional organizations and journals dedicated to the topic, arose.  This became known as “audiovisual instruction” as technology (e.g., film with sound) advanced. Film and other media were used extensively for military training during World War II (Seels & Richey, 1994; Reiser, 2001), and scholars such as Edgar Dale contributed to theoretical discussions about how media might contribute to learning.  Educational television was the focus of attention in the 1950s and 1960s, until the computer emerged as the next technology with potential to change education.

To see how technology tools and their use in education has evolved since the advent of computers, see the following three videos:

Very Short Video


8-Minute Video


Detailed Video (14 minutes)


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Foundations of Educational Technology Copyright © 2017 by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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