Ed Tech is an Interdisciplinary Field

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So why is it possible to get an Ed Tech degree by taking ONLY Education courses? It shouldn’t be.

IT  (Information Technology), Education, Management, … are all APPLIED disciplines – if all you know is the one of these, you only have half the picture. Managers need to know how to manage SOMETHING, not hypothetical widgets. IT professionals need to know how to use their skills in some area AND they need to know about that area. Educators need to know how to teach SOMETHING. That is really quite different from just knowing how to teach.

But often, all one learns when taking a degree in one of these disciplines is that discipline. That’s not enough.

If you are an academic in the Academy, it’s even worse than that

Each discipline has a tendency to disrespect other disciplines, but there are a few fields where this seems to be pathological. An architect friend of mine used to complain to me that everyone seemed to think they knew as much about architecture as she did – after all, everyone lives in a house, no? But living in a house does not make one an architect.

The disrespect that ‘outside’ faculty have for Education is well known within Education, but the same people who complain about how their own discipline doesn’t get the respect it deserves do the exact same thing to Informatics by disrespecting the professionals in that field and by depreciating the body of knowledge that underlies the technology they use.

Using a computer application does not make one an Informatician. There are many faculty teaching in higher ed who really should learn something about education and instructional design – it would certainly make them better teachers and I’m sure their students would benefit. However, that same principle applies to the design of educational simulations, games, websites, and many other computer based educational applications. There are many (many!) Ed Techs who really should learn something about informatics. Knowing how to use dreamweaver or imovie (or, come to think of it, i-anything) does not even begin to cover it.

As I see it, Ed Tech IS a cross-disciplinary field, and a big part of the problem are the beliefs that Ed Techs only need Education courses, and that it can all be taught by people only trained in Education. As long as Ed Techs believe they can simply “hire it done” without actually understanding the tech they are using, they will not be able to get a handle on how to use interactive media for education. You need Ed and Tech (and I am also quite sure that most CS departments aren’t equipped to handle the tech part.) And as long as Ed Techs continue to design and develop computer-based applications with no real understanding of the medium, a great deal of the stuff out there will suck. It may be pretty, but it will still suck.

Just so you don’t think I am painting all Ed Techs with the same brush, I do know some Ed Techs who actually do know tech… but none of them learned it as part of their Ed Tech degree. Most of them have not stayed in the Academy either.

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