Emerging Technologies in Distance Education – Defined

George Veletsianos, the editor of the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education” is also the author of its first chapter “A definition of emerging technologies for education”. He explains that he discovered there was a need for a definition, since one didn’t seem to exist elsewhere.

The definition he proposes applies to technologies used in formal learning situations. He mentions that technological advancement has created huge societal change (implying informal learning) but that such advancements have had a much more limited impact in formal education/teaching situations.

Here are some highlights from this chapter

Emerging technologies for education:

  • May or may not be new technologies but are not yet in the “must have” category
  • Are in an evolutionary state (there is no consensus about how to use them in the learning context)
  • Go through “hype cycles”
  • Are not yet fully understood and not yet fully researched
  • Are potentially disruptive

Veletsianos also talks about the importance of considering the context when defining a technology as “emerging” because the same technology might be emerging in one educational situation and well-established in another.

And Veletsianos touches on his own Greek roots to show that the very word “technology” comes from the Greek work “techne” meaning  “craft” or “art” –an aspect of technology that I love to see highlighted and preserved. However you choose to define art or craft, I would suggest that there is a human aspect to those terms that also applies to technology. Yet somehow conversations about technology often overlook this, focusing on the times when technology might have a dehumanizing effect.  Fortunately the definition for this book is about the excitement of growth, potential  and positive change — in distance education, through technology.

Finally, Veletsianos expresses his hope that the definition here will lay a foundation for future research and practice. He describes how the definition was developed through Web 2.0 input and I think the process and product serve as an example of how this type of building can take place.

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