Educational technology refers to various forms of technology that can be used to improve or enhance the learning process for students. The exact nature of such technology, however, can change fairly often as new hardware and software become available for students and teachers. This sort of technology can be used both in and out of the classroom, and can be utilized by teachers or enhance the ability of students to learn materials on their own. This technology often includes computer software that allows students to communicate with each other online, smartboards used in the classroom, and educational video games.
One of the most important aspects of educational technology is that it is constantly changing and advancing as progress in technology in general is made. A number of educators commit a great deal of time and effort to finding ways to effectively use new technology in and out of the classroom. Entire schools and degrees are now offered to students through virtual classrooms over the Internet, providing new educational opportunities for students all over the world.
These online classes are one of the major ways in which educational technology has changed how many people view education. Using various utilities and software applications, online classes allow students to view video of lectures given in a classroom, which can even be a virtual classroom in which a teacher is standing in front of a digital image that can change to reflect the material being discussed. Students can also use the technology to communicate with each other online, using forums to create lasting records of class discussions and sharing resources to create group projects through telecommunications.
Educational technology can also include classroom hardware such as smartboards. These are effectively dry erase whiteboards that connect to a computer to act as both whiteboard and monitor. Teachers can type information or play videos on a computer — all displayed on the smartboard — and use special markers to draw and interact with the data from the computer. This educational technology allows teachers to create more unique and experiential learning opportunities for students.
There are also a number of software developers looking into video games as a form of educational technology. While educational games have been maligned by some gamers in the past, a few developers have found ways to make educational games fun and provide learning through entertainment. Such games often encourage players to develop stronger language skills by using words and spelling to create effects on the game world, demonstrating advancement and success through effective communication. These games often have a positive influence on young players, who learn to associate achievement with the use of critical thinking and problem solving skills.