A Look at the History of Educational Technology

I have come to find that educational technology has been around far longer than I originally perceived. Educational technology makes me think of computers laptops, tablets, video, audio, software and the Internet. To better understand educational technology, I first researched the individual definitions. The Oxford Dictionary (2017) defines education as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction” (para. 1), and the Merriam Webster Dictionary (2017) defines technology as “a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge” (para. 3). These two definitions create a broader perspective educational technology. Therefore, I had to look beyond my thoughts of computers laptops, tablets, etc.

I did locate many web-based sources that do attempt to outline the history of educational technology. However, most are blogs or videos that contain little or no peer-reviewed references, as well as gaps in the associated data. Thus, I conducted my independent search through the Royal Roads Library to take a glimpse at some of the origins of educational technology.

Educational technology can be be traced back to the the use of paintings on cave walls, paint brushes, abacuses, slate boards, pencils and pens (Bruckner, 2015). One of the earliest pedagogical technical processes was the “introduction of writing technology into the education system of Plato’s day” (Carey, 1991) within ancient Greece. There are a handful of historical highlights between the time of ancient Greece and the Twentieth century.

Educational technology became popularized during the era of the two World Wars (Spector, Merrill, Elen & Bishop, 2014). The end of World War I, brought forth the concept of teaching machines within the field of psychology (Ferster, 2014). During World War II, the use of audio and video formats were used to mass train millions of soldiers who were sent into battle (Spector et al., 2014). This brief reflection and outline is just the start. I believe that understanding our past does pave our way to the future. The past may help us avoid similar mistakes. However, it is a truly a marvel to learn and understand how we came to this time in the history of educational technology.


Ferster B. (2014). Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/lib/royalroads-ebooks/reader.action?docID=3318857

Bruckner, M. (2015). Educational technology. ResearchGate. https://doi.org/10.13140/2.1.2180.9449

Education. (2017). In Oxford Dictionary online. Retrieved from

Spector, J. M., Merrill, M. D., Elen, J., & Bishop, M. J. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. New York, NY: Springer New York. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5

Technology. (2017). In Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology


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