Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology

V28(1) Winter / hiver, 2002

Guest Editorial:
"…something old, something new…"

Denis Hlynka
University of Manitoba

Denis Hlynka, Ph.D., is a Professor, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, at the University of Manitoba and a former editor of CJEC.

With this issue, a new name, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / La Revue Canadienne de l'Apprentissage et de la Technologie, replaces the old name, Canadian Journal for Educational Communication, as the publication of the Association for Media and Technology in Education in Canada. Any name change can signal a potential change in direction, in philosophy or in ownership. It is therefore useful at the very beginning to contemplate the meaning of the name change for CJLT, and the implications for AMTEC itself.

The original journal was a combination of journal and newsletter, titled, Media Message. In the early eighties, under the editorship of Richard Lewis, Media Message became the Canadian Journal of Educational Communication. Meanwhile, south of the border, the Americans were faced with similar issues. The US equivalent organization in turn chose to call itself by a variety of names beginning with DVI (Department of Visual Instruction), DAVI (Department of Audiovisual Instruction), and finally AECT (Association for Educational Communication and Technology.) Their journal became, in turn, Audiovisual Communication Review (AVCR), Educational Communications and Technology Journal (ECTR), and currently, Educational Technology: Research and Development (ETR&D). In other words, name changes in our field seem to be not unusual. Such is hardly a surprise when one considers how severely our content has been slipped out from under us. While we once focused on the educative value of the sound motion picture film, we now explore video. Where we once showed how Leroy lettering and Letraset could add a professional touch to overhead transparencies, we now do the same with PowerPoint. Where we once were amazed at the networking ability of audio teleconferencing, today we network online.

Of course, there will always be some individuals who want to hold on to an old name. Some will get emotionally involved. Some will "hate" the word, instruction, others will equally "hate" the word, education. Individuals will argue whether technology needs to be first, or alternatively should be de-emphasized. Yet in the end, a name is needed, if one is to move forward.

So let's take a look. Three points stand out. First, a new name needs to be considered in terms of the one it is replacing. Second, it is important that the name does not impinge on any other territory. Third, each keyword needs to be examined for its relevance and meaning. In our case, those keywords are learning, technology and Canadian. Finally, it is necessary to accept the change and move into the new era that the name implies. Let us briefly consider each of these.

First, then, let us note the implications of the two names: CJEC provided a focus on "educational communication", while CJLT does two things. It re-introduces the word, technology, that had curiously been only implicit, and, at the same time, a new emphasis is placed on learning. The change seems to be fair enough. The new title seems to zero in on the mission of AMTEC itself, which states and focuses on a joint commitment to technology and learning. That mission statement reads, in part: " facilitate and improve learning, in all sectors of education, through the appropriate application and integration of educational technology."A Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology appropriately and effectively incorporates those keywords, learning and technology, directly from the mission statement.

Second, one needs to note the relationship of our field to other fields, looking particularly for potential overlap. Three such alternatives are educational psychology, technology education and educational computing. Educational Psychology is clearly a different field, although we borrow extensively from that domain, particularly as we focus on learning. Technology education as a term is problematic, since that is the "official" name for what used to be called Vocational Education, and is certainly not our domain at all. The semantics of technology education vs. educational technology is not merely that of noun vs. adjective. Yet the two terms are too often confused and used synonymically. Finally, educational computing to describe our field is far too narrow and surely is merely a subset of educational technology. Yet once again, far too many individuals erroneously equate educational technology as the study of computers in education.

The new title hits these issues head-on. What is important is the use of the keywords. Journal is important since it stipulates an academic identity. This is not a newsletter, nor a magazine: it is a scholarly journal. Learning puts the emphasis on the learning side of the teaching-learning equation. This has two important implications: first it seems to be student centered, and second it seems to cut across all levels of learning whether school learning or adult; formal or informal. Technology is certainly a critical component of the field and it is important that we have chosen a term broader than the terms computing or media, both of which have been used for our field in the past.

The keyword Canadian is, in some ways the most important. We need to think whether this is merely a marker as to our location, or whether there is a unique Canadian discourse of educational technology. I tend to think that the latter is the case, although this may be a minority position. I believe that a Canadian educational technology is unique to our country, unique to our culture and outlook on the world. We do not ignore, nor do we parrot developments in other countries. We adapt and invent our own. The footprints of time left by our path are not the same, for example, as the footprints of a US based educational technology. Our histories are different. US `footprints' include the school museum movement at the beginning of the century in St. Louis Missouri, the US military training program of World War II, the rise of public television in the late sixties, and systematic instructional development of the seventies through to today. Canadian `footprints' are different. Critical milestones for us include the documentary and aesthetic tradition of John Grierson and the National Film Board, the formation of a government owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, an adult Radio Farm Forum program developed for farmers of the 1940s, and the philosophical inputs of Harold Innis, George Grant and Marshall McLuhan. In short, the Canadian discourse of instructional technology needs to be central in the debate of who we are and what we do. A Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology implies that discourse. A Canadian discourse of instructional technology is particularly relevant in a time of talk about disappearing borders, new perimeters, and a potential common North American currency.

It is not easy to come up with a new title to represent all the constituencies of AMTEC. The field itself has changed immensely from the early days of "visual education", "screen education" and "audiovisual education." What used to be covered under those rubrics is now largely obsolete. We have already dropped now-dead technologies, and have welcomed new computer-based and information based technologies as never before. We have entered the networked world of the Internet. We have moved into and out of silent film, filmstrips, programmed teaching machines, and educational radio. We are no longer sure what to do with instructional television, and the use of colour slides (the latter still very popular in art education!). Overhead projection is common, but simultaneously being replaced by PowerPoint. A typical classroom may not necessarily even include a blackboard! We have never quite embraced the audio CD, although it is ubiquitous as an entertainment tool, nor has learning through audio cassette become common, though its promise is startling. Instead, we move online with ease, and accept with relish what often turn out to be short-lived technologies: Remember Telidon? 8 track tapes? Beta-video format?

And in focusing on the hardware/software side, we give short attention to instructional design models grounded in a systematic define, develop, evaluate perspective and moving into models which try to be constructivist, narrative and postmodern. The aesthetics of the web page tends to take precedence over the aesthetics of pedagogy. Our trust in the computer as the ultimate tool is tempered by information-gathering devices which impinge on our freedom of speech, an unfortunate trend towards internet plagiarism, and a rush to online everything from personal autobiographies to course outlines. We relish an almost childish use of online pseudonyms such as "crazyperson" and "Bilbo". All is not automatically positive and wonderful in the new found land of contemporary technology.

Out of it all, these key words seem to reflect what we are about. Which are the key words? As has been argued learning might be one of them; another is technology. Yet even these are clearly ambiguous and slippery, and do not quite capture who and what we are. And, as has also been discussed, the significant keyword Canadian adds both focus and an additional layer of ambiguity.

Nevertheless, we need to get on with the tasks at hand. At the moment we are an Association for Media and Technology in Education in Canada , and we are about to put forth our research and theory in a newly-titled, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology. So let's get on with it!

ISSN: 1499-6685