An educational technologist combines his knowledge of technological tools with educational content to enhance learning for students. The technological tools usually involve computer hardware, software, and Web-based products. Becoming an educational technologist generally requires a graduate degree in education, instructional design, educational psychology, or a related field. Job opportunities for educational technologists are found in educational institutions, government agencies, instructional software companies and in other private entities.
Many educational technologists consider themselves educators. In a practical sense, the goal of the educational technologist is to help individuals advance their knowledge of a particular subject or skill, using technology as a tool. The educational technologist must have an understanding of how people learn and the technological challenges that sometimes interfere with the learning process. A software implementation that may seem logical to a software developer, for example, may not be the best feature from an educational standpoint. In this case, an educational technologist can work with the developer to create a more optimal learning tool.
The majority of educational technologists come from a background in education, psychology, or instructional design. Some may have a background in programming or a degree in a technology-related subject, although this is usually not a requirement. In most cases, the role of the educational technologist is to have an in-depth knowledge of how hardware and software products facilitate learning. An educational technologist who has an understanding of varied learning styles can help to develop instructional technology that accommodates the visual, auditory and kinesthetic needs of individual learners.
In many cases, educational technologists bring together the worlds of technology and content creation. An educational technologist might work with a software developer to ensure that the product is user-friendly. Working with the content writer might involve requests for shorter paragraphs and formatting that can be viewed more easily on a computer screen. The improvement recommendations are generally based on observing and understanding the challenges and needs of the end user.
Job opportunities for educational technologists have increased with the demand and use of technology as a learning tool. Schools and universities employ educational technologists to enhance curricula and create online learning programs. Government agencies need the help of these experts to create and deliver Web-based training programs to employees and the public. Companies that provide instructional software hire educational technologists to ensure that their products are user-friendly. Many large companies and organizations use the services of educational technologists to improve internal training processes and the delivery of information to employees.