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Instructional Technologies

Page history last edited by Mamie Lai 9 years, 9 months ago Saved with comment

What is Instructional Technology?





Although there may be many definitions over the years, no single definition has been universally accepted. The term instructional technology will continuously mean different things to different people. Most definitions of instructional technology can be classified as one of two types.


One type of definition classifies instructional technology with a particular set of instructional media, referred to as audiovisual devices. The other type of definition describes instructional technology as a process, often identified as the systems approach process.


The best example of these two types of definitions can be found in a statement issued by the Commission on Instructional Technology (1970):


.... In its more familiar sense, it means the media born of the communications revolution, which can be used for instructional purposes alongside the teacher, textbook, and blackboard… The pieces that make up instructional technology include: television, films, overhead projectors, computers, and other items of “hardware” and “software”…


The second and less familiar definition of instructional technology goes beyond any particular medium or device. In this sense, instructional technology is more than the sum of its parts. It is a systematic way of designing, carrying out, and evaluating the total process of learning and teaching in terms of specific objectives, based on research in human learning and communication, and employing a combination of human and nonhuman resources to bring about more effective instruction.


Today, there are many professionals in the field that think of instructional technology as a systems approach process, or a “systematic way of designing, carrying out, and evaluating the total process of learning and teaching.”  However, it is important to realize that the people outside the field -- and some within -- still think of instructional technology as audiovisual devices. This is why the two definitions exist and there isn’t a universal definition.


Individualized instruction, the systems approach and audiovisual devices, have helped shape the field of instructional technology. It is also important to describe the history of each of these concepts. These concepts have developed independently of one another.


Individualized Instruction


Another concept associated with the field of instructional technology is the notion of individualized instruction. The Definition and Terminology Committee of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (1972) has indicated:


"The educational technology approach has been directed toward expanding the range of resources used for learning, emphasizing the individual learner and his unique needs and using a systematic approach to the development of learning resources."





Effective Strategies of Individualized Instruction

Examples of Individualized Instruction


The Systems Approach


What is the systems approach for designing instruction? Banathy (1968) describes it as:


"A self-correcting, logical process for the planning, development, and implementation of instruction. It provides a procedural framework within which the purpose of the system is first specified and then analyzed in order to find the best way to achieve it. On the basis of this analysis, the components that are most suitable to the successful performance of the system can be selected… Finally, continuous evaluation of the system… provides a basis for planned change in improving economy and performance (pp.15-16)."



Image Source:



Systems Approach to Instructional Design System



Audiovisual Devices



An audiovisual device means any piece of equipment, with associated materials, that controls through mechanical or electronic means, the presentation of visual or auditory communication for instruction. Overhead projectors, television monitors, and computers would be a few of the many examples of audiovisual devices. 












Historical Overview

(Click here for the source)




Qualities Associated with Instructional Technology


Pre-World War II


Early 1900’s: Edward Thorndike brought the use of empirical investigation in instructional techniques and learning theory to the attention of educators. These methods became of interest to the United States during World War II and are considered to be the basis of the modern systems approach to instruction (Reiser, 1987).


Analysis of the level of realism in audio-visual materials in the classroom led to Edgar Dale’s famous “Cone of Experience” which proposed that the effectiveness of these materials comes from their realism.


1909: The first episcope came into use.  An episcope is an projector that projects opaque objects such as pictures. 


1912: The modern individualized instruction approach was developed by Frederic Burk.  


1920’s: Burk’s staff developed Dalton and Winnetka Plans for individualized instruction, which increased the focus on learners being able to work at their own pace, and that basic skills must be mastered before learners can go on to new skills.


1920’s-1930’s: Great growth in accessibility and quality of film, radio broadcasting, and sound recording helped transition the movement from visual to audio-visual.


World War II


U.S. Government produced 457 instructional training films and purchased 55,000 film projectors.


Audio-visual devices were widely and effectively used for military and industrial training. This propelled the wider use of audio equipment for

foreign language instruction and simulators used in flight training. America’s victory at war was attributed to “their quick and complete mastery of film education” (Reiser, 1987).


1950’s- 1960’s


1950’s: Instructional television usage grew and computers began to be used in education and training, though instructional television use faded by the mid-1960’s (Reiser, 1987).


Late 1960’s – early 1970’s: Graduate programs in instructional design were initiated.


1950’s: The audiovisual instruction movement shifted focus from devices to the entire process (sender, receiver and medium) (Reiser, 1987).


1958: National Defense Act was passed. Afterwards, the government funded media research and curriculum development (especially in mathematics and science), as well as University-based research and development (Reiser, 1987).

Early 1960’s: Refinement in task analysis procedures and the emergence of criterion reference testing contributed to the development of the systems approach. Gagne developed the concept of superordinate and subordinate tasks (Reiser, 1987).
1960’s-1970’s: Instructional technology emphasized the application of scientific principles as well as the equipment for presenting instructional materials (Lumsdaine, 1964 p.372 cited in Reiser, 1987).

1967: Scriven coined the terms “formative evaluation” and “summative evaluation” (Reiser, 1987).


Mid 1950’s: Programmed instruction movement began.


Late 1950’s-1960’s: Skinner developed the system of Operant conditioning. His influence guided developments in programmed instruction. Piaget formulated models of cognition which led to the “possibility of developing a technology of instruction that can be based on an individual rate of cognitive rate development” (Saettler, 1990 p.72).
The publishing of Bloom’s “Taxonomy of Behavioral Objectives” in 1956 and Robert Mager’s “Preparing Objectives for Programmed Instruction” in 1962 boosted the popularity of behavioral objectives. (Reiser, 1987).


1960’s: Several systems of individualized instruction developed: Personalized System of Instruction, Audio Tutorial Approach, Individually Prescribed Instruction (IPI), Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs (PLAN), Individually Guided Education (IGE) (Reisner, 1987) and Learning for Mastery (Davis & Sorrell, 1995).


Late 1960’s: Programmed instruction was coming to an end (Reiser, 1987).




Early 1970’s: The Department of Audiovisual Instructional changed its name to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) and The National Society for Programmed Instruction changed its name to the National Society for Performance and Instruction. AECT played a critical role in defining the field of educational technology (Instructional Technology Global Resources, n.d.a).

The number of graduate programs continued to grow. Hiring opportunities for people trained in instructional programs also increased. Literature on systems approach expanded “as a large number of new books were written (Sachs & Braden, 1984) and the Journal of Instructional Development was established” (Reiser, 1987).


Late 1970’s: Apple II computers were introduced into schools (Petrina, 2003) but  “by the end of the decade these devices were still a very small part of the educational picture” (Reiser, 1987).

Burgeoning interest in Instructional Design (ID), the chief aim of which was to improve employee performance and to increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness (Rothwell & Kazanas, 2003).


Early 1970’s: Systems approach concepts began to draw increased attention.


Three systems of ID flourished and faded: Individually Prescribed Instruction (IPI), Programs for Learning in Accordance with Needs (PLAN), and Individually Guided Education (IGE).


Late 1970’s: Increased interest in individualization through computer-assisted instruction (CAI). The University of Illinois PLATO system was an

influential source of CAI (Reiser, 1987, U.S. Department of Education, 2001).




Use of microcomputers in schools grew tremendously.


1983: Center for Social Organization of Schools reported that computers were used for instruction over 40% of elementary schools and over 75% of secondary schools (Reiser, 1987).


1980: Systems approach popularity had grown quickly. Andrew and Goodson reported on 40 different models.   (Reiser, 1987) 

Reiser (2002) noted these developments:

  • Growing interest in the application of cognitive psychology principles in the instructional design process to make it more effective.
  • Increasing use of computers required developing new models of ID to accommodate computers’ interactive capabilities.
  • Performance technology movement emphasized front-end analysis, on-the-job performance, business results, and non-instructional solutions to performance problems.

Computers began to be used “as tools to automate some instructional design tasks” (Merrill & Li, 1989).

Reiser (1987) reported that “Due to its interactive capabilities, the computer can be programmed to adapt instruction to the needs of the individual learners.”




Plotnick (1996) described how (1) almost every student (12:1) in formal education settings had computer access; (2) networking was one of the fastest growing applications of educational technology; (3) school access to television resources was almost universal; (4) educational technology in homes and community settings increased dramatically; and (5) delivery systems for educational technology applications grew geometrically.
The ratio of computers in public schools reduced to 6:1 (Reiser, 2002). Although most schools had Internet access, student access was limited and few were able to use it for schoolwork (Anderson & Ronnkvist (1999).


1997-98: Enrollments in distance courses in higher education nearly doubled from 1994-95 (Reiser, 2002). Distance learning was offered by 78% of public four-year higher education institutions (Reiser, 2002), possibly due to being viewed as a low-cost means of providing instruction to students who might not otherwise have had access (Hawkridge, 1999).


1995: Survey of teachers reported that computers were rarely used for instruction, but were used in elementary schools for drill and practice and in secondary schools for computer-related skills such as word processing (Reiser, 2002).

Educational technology became one of the six top issues in schools (Roberts, 1996), the National Educational Association emphasized the importance of preparing new teachers to use technology, and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement awarded five grants for Regional Technology Centers to provide technical assistance to schools.

1995: The National Education Goals stated that only half of all teachers described any professional development opportunities addressing classroom technology applications; educational technology was perceived as a major vehicle in the educational system reform movement.


1999: Advances in computer technology, especially multimedia, enabled constructivist educators to design more learner-centered educational experiences (Reiser, 2002).

(Treat, et al., 2003).



Gagne, R (1987).  Instructional technology: foundations.  UK: Psychology Press.



Instructional Technology: Looking Backward, Thinking Forward. (2008). . Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdwEIi22Dv8&feature=youtube_gdata_player


O'Neal, A., Fairweather, P., & Huh Y. (2003). Instructional systems design.  Retrieved April 26, 2011 from



Treat, A., Wang, Y. Chadha, R., & Dixon, M. (2006).  Major developments in instructional technology during the 20th

          century.  Retrieved April 26, 2010 from   





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Comments (6)

Jessica Luzanilla said

at 11:26 pm on Apr 26, 2011

Hello Maria,

The first draft is ready for review.

msmart said

at 6:44 am on Apr 27, 2011

Wow! I looked yesterday and it was blank. Phew! You must have been up all night! I better get busy! Thanks Jessie!

msmart said

at 3:49 pm on Apr 27, 2011

msmart said

at 3:51 pm on Apr 27, 2011

Hi Jessica:
I took a look at your wiki today and made just a few minor changes. Most of the changes were by way of citing sources. At any rate, I indented the long quotes, referenced the Historical information (Treat authored your stuff), and changed it's to it is. Not much. Looked good to me. Thanks

Jessica Luzanilla said

at 12:42 am on Apr 28, 2011

Thanks, Maria. :)

Mamie Lai said

at 3:56 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Hi Maria,

I just completed my 2nd editor duties. You are now free to edit. I added only a short tidbit about the episcope in the historic overview section and the YouTube video. The wiki looks good. It was hard to find any additional information. Thanks.

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