EdTech vs. TechEd

Jan 20, 2021

I attend a lot of conferences, meetings, and workshops aimed at educational technology professionals as part of my job. Something I see too often is a conflation of these two concepts: educational technology and technology education. I think it's vital to make the distinction. Remembering that these are two separate things helps clarify our goals and objectives.

Educational Technology is smartboards, document cameras, Google Classroom, Chromebooks, etc. It's all of the devices and resources we use as tools in teaching. Pencils are an educational technology. Books are an educational technology. Although, in practice, we normally mean digital technology when we use this term.

Technology education is the practice of teaching kids about technologies. In practice, once again, mostly digital technologies. So, this would encompass stuff like teaching kids to program in Python. We might use an educational technology to do that (like Code.org or Codio.com) but teaching programming is technology education. The tool is not the practice.

When we mistake the tool for the practice, things get muddled. Creating software or a vector drawing or a laser cut object can be done with a lot of different tools. When we conflate edTech with techEd, sometimes we forget that it's important to teach in a tool-agnostic manner. Let kids learn and use the tools that work best for them. As lifelong learners, we should be excited about that prospect.

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