Twenty Years of Edtech

Weller, Martin (2018). Twenty Years of Edtech. Educause Review Online, 53(4) pp. 34–48.



An opinion often cited among educational technology (edtech) professionals is that theirs is a fast-changing field. This statement is sometimes used as a motivation (or veiled threat) to senior managers to embrace edtech because if they miss out now, it’ll be too late to catch up. However, amid this breathless attempt to keep abreast of new developments, the edtech field is remarkably poor at recording its own history or reflecting critically on its development. When Audrey Watters recently put out a request for recommended books on the history of educational technology, I couldn’t come up with any beyond the handful she already had listed. There are edtech books that often start with a historical chapter to set the current work in context, and there are edtech books that are now part of history, but there are very few edtech books dealing specifically with the field’s history. Maybe this reflects a lack of interest, as there has always been something of a year-zero mentality in the field. Edtech is also an area to which people come from other disciplines, so there is no shared set of concepts or history. This can be liberating but also infuriating. I’m sure I was not alone in emitting the occasional sigh when during the MOOC rush of 2012, so many “new” discoveries about online learning were reported—discoveries that were already tired concepts in the edtech field.

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