What Is Instructional Technology?

“When someone says instructional technology, I think of a whole field,” Pastore says. “It’s a field that involves models, theories, processes, people working in it and a whole literature base around that.”

Through his work as a faculty member in UNC Wilmington’s instructional technology program, Pastore prepares tomorrow’s instructional technologists to enter what he says is a growing field, as evidenced by an uptick in enrollment in his program. His alumni may end up being called instructional technologists or take on another title. Still, nearly every organization — from big businesses to healthcare, the military, and K–12 and higher education — now needs someone in charge of explaining how to better train employees using tech tools.

In an effort to better explain what instructional technology is about, Pastore — who frequently posts videos about the field on his popular YouTube channel — delves into rocket science.

“The whole reason this field was started is that during World War II, the government realized our rocket scientists aren’t good at teaching rocket science. And they aren’t good at putting courses together on rocket science. And they don’t really have the time to put together courses on rocket science,” he says. “So, how can we get a middle person to do this?”

That middle person is an instructional technologist. Instructional technologists provide a bridge between experts and pupils, something that’s especially important in higher education, where many faculty members come into their positions with no background in education. They are experts in their fields, many of them doing cutting-edge research and almost all with valuable real-world experience, but translating that knowledge is not always easy.

Whether that means helping design courses, navigate a learning management system or review best practices for conducting lessons via collaboration software, instructional technologists are there to be a resource.

READ MORE: Learn five important skills to help faculty members improve their digital literacy.

How Does Instructional Technology Impact the Classroom?

When a faculty member meets with an instructional technologist, they will likely work through the ADDIE model of instructional design. The acronym represents five phases of putting a course together: analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation.

This work can include traditional course design and curriculum analysis, but from an instructional technology perspective, there also must be a focus on incorporating technology wherever it could be beneficial. Today’s HyFlex, hybrid and fully remote classrooms and instructional studios are loaded with hardware and software to give faculty members plenty of options. Instructional technologists can help narrow those options down and explain why one piece of technology may work better than another, or why one teaching method may be preferable to other options for a particular lesson.


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