Theories and Practices

Three main theoretical schools or philosophical frameworks have been present in the educational technology literature. These are Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism. Each of these schools of thought are still present in today's literature but have evolved as the Psychology literature has evolved.

Behaviorism
This theoretical framework was developed in the early 20th century with the animal learning experiments of Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, B.F. Skinner and many others. Many psychologists used these theories to describe and experiment with human learning. While still very useful this philosophy of learning has lost favor with many educators.

Skinner's contributions
B.F. Skinner wrote extensively on improvements of teaching based on his functional analysis of Verbal Behavior and wrote "The Technology of Teaching", an attempt to dispel the myths underlying contemporary education as well as promote his system he called programmed instruction. Ogden Lindsley also developed the Celeration learning system similarly based on behavior analysis but quite different from Keller's and Skinner's models.

Cognitivism
Cognitive science has changed how educators view learning. Since the very early beginning of the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, learning theory has undergone a great deal of change. Much of the empirical framework of Behaviorism was retained even though a new paradigm had begun. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning.

After memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's Working memory model were established as a theoretical framework in Cognitive Psychology, new cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. It is important to note that Computer Science and Information Technology have had a major influence on Cognitive Science theory. The Cognitive concepts of working memory (formerly known as short term memory) and long term memory have been facilitated by research and technology from the field of Computer Science. Another major influence on the field of Cognitive Science is Noam Chomsky. Today researchers are concentrating on topics like Cognitive load and Information Processing Theory. In addition, psychology as applied to media is easily measured in studying behavior. The area of media psychology is both cognative and affective and is central to understanding educational technology.

Constructivism
Constructivism is a learning theory or educational philosophy that many educators began to consider in the 1990s. One of the primary tenets of this philosophy is that learners construct their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality or others with different perspectives.

Constructivist learning environments require students to utilize their prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. Under this framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, providing guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge. Constructivist educators must make sure that the prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts being taught. Jonassen (1997) suggests "well-structured" learning environments are useful for novice learners and that "ill-structured" environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators utilizing technology when teaching with a constructivist perspective should choose technologies that reinforce prior learning perhaps in a problem-solving environment.

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