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How to Become an Instructional Technologist in 5 Steps

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Towards the end of the 1950s and the start of the ’60s, overhead projectors sneaked into classrooms. A new era was born – the interactive classroom era. Some 20 years later, the handheld calculator was born. Apple Macintosh computers were getting used more and more in classrooms. With these new technologies, there was a need for a novel profession to cater to the need for schooling in technical know-how in classroom technology. In this article, we will explore how to become an instructional technologist and how they bring technology into the classroom.

Computers are slowly replacing the traditional paper and pens in classrooms. Although there are many divided opinions about the use of technology in classrooms, research has shown that technology can cause meaningful improvements in learning. The most important factor now is understanding how to utilize technology in the best possible ways.

Instructional technologists, also known as educational technologists, work with school administration, teachers, and instructional coordinators to encourage the proper use of technology in schools. Instruction technology specialists are well versed in technology and are proficient in teaching. With the increase in diverse technologies in schools, educational technologists play a vital role in shaping students’ learning.

What Is Instructional Technology?

Instructional technology is a distinct technology field that involves the creation of learning resources. It deals with how educators can use technology for learning. This term covers the design, development, use, administration, and assessment of technology in education.

There are so many angles to this field – and everything from virtual reality classrooms to whiteboards and online courses is considered educational technology.

Even though the applications and advantages of instructional technology vary greatly, all instructional technology has one goal: to create immersive and efficient learning experiences. It is a fact that various educational technology applications have achieved this purpose.

Professionals agree that the education process has significantly benefited from instructional technology. Some of the benefits include better opportunities for collaboration, greater access to information, and an enhanced opportunity to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Instructional Technology vs. Information Technology

Although instructional technology and information technology are abbreviated as IT, they are not the same. Information technology is a broad technology category that tilts towards the business community. In contrast, instructional technology involves educational value, established disciplines, and intellectual techniques. However, it is essential to note that instructional technology is not the same as digital training.

Related Resource: Highest Paying Information Technology Careers

Uses of Instructional Technology

The U.S. Department of Education states that schools can increase student engagement, expand course offerings, and accelerate learning through instructional technology. Also, educational technology can catalyze effective teaching and education with the appropriate digital tools.

There are unlimited opportunities for the application of instructional technology. However, experts have pointed out three crucial areas where technology plays a significant role:

Online Learning

As each day passes, virtual classrooms are becoming more mainstream. They can be game-changers at every stage of education. A big challenge of regular classrooms is that teachers have to mirror their lesson plans to favor the average learner because each student learns differently. This teaching method does not attend to the unique needs of each student.

On the other hand, online courses provide balance and make learning easier. For instance, if students quickly understand the lesson, they could easily move to the next one. In contrast, students who don’t comprehend at the first attempt can listen as often as needed. Every student has the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Additionally, there is an almost endless sea of topics, and students can learn outside what their schools offer.

Collaborative Learning

Innovations in technology have made it easier to share information. Instructional technology leverages these platforms to create better collaborative learning opportunities. Students can now collaborate outside the classroom, which helps in eliminating the need for long classroom hours and making geographic locations a non-issue.

On top of that, instructional technology allows students to work with teachers outside the classroom. Teachers commonly hold digital office hours, where they are available via video chat and instant messaging to help students as the need arises.

Real-Time Feedback

There are now better opportunities to get feedback through educational technology. It is easier for teachers to use different digital tools to measure students’ progress in various lessons. An example of real-time feedback is where teachers conduct online surveys of how much the students understood the lesson.

Optionally, teachers can use digital education software to send instant feedback to students on projects and assignments. Many schools have also employed the use of virtual reality classrooms. Here, teachers can test-run lessons or anticipate challenges in a virtual setting. This enables them to sharpen their delivery skills without leaving a sour taste on real students.

What Does An Instructional Technologist Do?

Instructional technologists often find employment in secondary, middle, and elementary schools. Government agencies, colleges or universities, non-profits, and corporations hire instructional technologists.

Instructional technology specialists play a vital role in selecting the necessary educational technology for every type of classroom, including special education students. Instructional technology specialists often work with instructional coordinators, administrators, and educators in curriculum design by creating new technologies used in day-to-day classroom instructions. Additionally, instructional technology specialists use program outcomes and data to assist school administrators in correcting any deficiencies within the school’s technology programs. They also work with schools to train teachers and other staff to use software and hardware while learning.

A significant part of an instructional technologist’s job is to help students utilize technology and implement and service computer networks, applications, and hardware.

Objectives for Instructional Technologists

The Office of Educational Technology (OET) is responsible for creating policies and a roadmap for instructional technology in the country. According to the body, instructional technology specialists should achieve the following objectives:

  • Promote easy access to immersive technological learning experiences.
  • Aid customized professional learning for school, state, and district educators and leaders.
  • Work to provide broadband internet and affordable learning resources to all learners in classrooms, schools, and homes.
  • Enable a working ecosystem of innovators and entrepreneurs.
  • Carry out innovative research to improve the learning experience and create better educational technology models.

Steps To Become An Instructional Technologist

For a role as an instructional technologist, candidates typically need to possess at least a master’s degree in education technology or any related field. Many jobs also demand a certificate in industrial technology.

Depending on the scope of the job and the particular employer, candidates may also need to possess a teaching certificate. In some states that offer educational technology endorsements – New York, Georgia, and Texas – the instructional technology program must be approved or accredited by the state board of education.

Here we list the steps you need to become an educational technology specialist:

1. Decide On A Career Path To Follow

After going through the list of career paths available in instructional technology, you need to decide what direction you will pursue. The ideal career path fits your personality and feels comfortable doing.

2. Get Educated

After deciding on a career path in instructional technology, the next step is to get an education. Many people who become instructional technologists have a bachelor’s degree in Education, Education Technology, or any related field.

Prospective instructional technology specialists generally take courses in classroom learning support, leadership development, data research/interpretation, and curriculum assessment/development.

3. Undergo An Instructional Technology Internship

Instructional technology internships provide a valuable experience for prospective instructional technologists to learn in a professional setting. In many cases, interns have a personal supervisor who helps them learn the ropes in their chosen roles.

4. Get Licensed

You will need to take tests in your state for instructional technologists and get a teacher’s license or certificate if required by your state.

5. Earn A Master’s Degree

After earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and getting licensed, you need to acquire a master’s degree to put you in an excellent position for a career in instructional technology. You can earn a Master of Education in Instructional Technology, Master of Education in Educational Technology, or related degrees like instruction and curriculum.

A master’s degree in any of these fields is necessary if you hope to sharpen your knowledge and skills or specialize in a particular area. Additionally, a master’s degree can open up more employment opportunities, significantly improve your chances of advancement in your career path, and improve your salary.

6. Apply to Instructional Technologists Jobs

Armed with all the needed education and skills, you can begin your job search by applying for jobs in schools, government institutions, or private firms that require your skills.

If you are focused on teaching online, you can learn how to be an online instructor; otherwise, you could check out other tips to land a job in instructional technology.

Top Skills For Instructional Technologists

Like every other profession, there are specific skills that every instructional technologist must possess to be successful in their role. Some of the top educational technologist skills are:

Organization

Instructional technologists are usually required to take on a lot of responsibility, and as such, candidates must be organized.

Communication Skills

An instructional technologist should communicate clearly and concisely to other team members and school staff. Instructional technologists are usually required to instruct students and teachers on using new or updated learning tools.

Tech Savvy

There is no gainsaying that the instructional technology field requires individuals proficient with technology. They should also be fast learners as they need to stay up to date with the ever-evolving world of technology. Many schools prefer educational technologists who have a coding or programming background. Some school districts also search for candidates to write software relevant to classrooms. In cases like this, a coding certificate would come in handy.

Problem-Solving Skills

Instructional technologists need to possess problem-solving skills. This involves tackling challenges when they arise and seeking solutions to them. Part of the job of an instructional technologist involves technical support, which may come in the form of maintaining computer software and hardware and troubleshooting.

Research

Due to the unique nature of the role, and the endless possibilities and information available, the ideal candidate must have a knack for research. This skill will help instructional technologists keep up with trends and help them stay open to innovations in the field. Some instructional technologists and coordinators are involved in planning budgets for schools, assessing the needs of students, and providing the proper technology.

Career Outlook for an Instructional Technologist

Since the instructional technology field is vast and varied, each career’s job outlook is different. However, the salary in this profession is rewarding, and the job outlook, positive.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for professionals working in instructional coordinator careers is expected to grow by 10% from 2020 to 2030, which is as fast as the average for other jobs. The median pay for instructional coordinators was $32.20 hourly and $66,970 annually. The top 10% in the profession earned up to $105,650, while entry-level workers earned about $39,270.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorized the Distance Learning Coordinator occupation as a “New and Emerging Career.”

Related Resource: 14 Highest Paying Jobs in Education

Instructional Technologist Work Environment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2020, instructional coordinators had around 190,400 jobs, with the largest employers being elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private. Many instructional technologists work full-time and year-round with no summer breaks.

Careers for an Instructional Technologist

Instructional technology is a novel field that blends technology and humanities to improve global learning accessibilities and create new learning experiences for students with special needs. There are so many opportunities in the educational technology field, and we’ve listed some exciting career paths in the area.

1. Training Materials Designer

Designers who specialize in designing training materials work on the business end of instructional technology to develop effective technical training programs for small businesses, corporations and think tanks. Training materials designers usually have an educational background combined with a solid knowledge of user interface and different learning styles to build training programs for various platforms.

2. Educational Software Programmer

Educational software deals with everything from coding programs for middle school students, toddlers’ reading games and at-home learning software for classrooms. Academic software programmers use their solid programming/interface design knowledge and a deep understanding of curriculums and educational practice to build software programs for classroom use.

3. Media Specialist

Primarily found in database warehouses and libraries, a media specialist’s job goes beyond just schools to the larger community.

The position of a media specialist involves several aspects:

  • Providing instruction on literacy and education
  • Maintaining collections as the need arises
  • Making informed recommendations to collection patrons and students on the best media sources

4. Educational Technologist

Educational technologists use their knowledge of educational tools, technological processes, and methods to implement various learning tools in classrooms and educational facilities. They also train teachers to utilize tech tools to achieve the best results in a school setting. There are so many educational technology degrees out there. Wherever you look in the education arena, you’re sure to find educational technologists from testing labs to classrooms.

5. Course Designer

These roles are best suited for tech geeks passionate about visual design with a strong UI background. The job of a course designer involves creating topic-specific courses for all ages and on multiple platforms. Course designers are employed mainly by game development and educational software firms.

6. Instructional Coordinator

The role of an instructional coordinator is crucial to how schools utilize technology. Instructional coordinators supervise the planning and implementation of curriculums in universities and public schools. They also partner with the school’s administration and teachers to assess the effectiveness of curriculums using student performance data. Additionally, instructional coordinators have to research new resources, trends, and tools and train teachers in using these technologies in classroom settings.

7. Distance Education Specialist

As the name suggests, distance education specialists create tools, resources, and infrastructures for distance learning. These include designing and maintaining online courses, communication portals, and curriculums. Distance education specialists cooperate with students and teachers to improve virtual learning portals. They also compile reports using data from distance education programs.

8. Project Manager

Also known as project coordinators, a project manager’s job differs based on the work environment. Regardless of where a project manager works, the primary aim is to supervise every aspect of a project to ensure its actualization. Project managers often have to communicate with many team members and gather enormous amounts of data to keep projects running smoothly. As a result, they are primarily responsible for budgets, data, and personnel management.

9. Content Developer

Unlike most careers, content developers do not work in educational settings. Instead, they work in technical areas, like the energy industry. Their primary aim is to develop training and educational courses, such as trade-related certifications. For example, a content developer might work in a field where they have to create resources for crane operation.

10. Corporate Trainer

The job of a corporate trainer is similar to that of content developers. Corporate trainers do not work in educational settings; instead, they find employment with businesses. Their role involves evaluating employees’ training needs through surveys and other methods. After the assessment, they create training materials and techniques to meet these needs as online manuals.

After delivering the required training, corporate trainers use different methods to assess the effectiveness of such activity. They also take on administrative roles, which involve enrollment, scheduling, budgets, and setting up equipment.

11. Technology Director (K-12)

Technology directors, also known as information technology directors, usually work in schools and supervise all the organization’s technology policies, procedures, and services. Some of the duties of a technology director include assessing the technology policies on-ground and making recommendations based on the institution’s goals. They also work with their staff to install new software and hardware, maintain computer systems, and keep teachers updated with new techniques.

12. Educational Consultant

The educational consultant role shares some similarities with that of an instructional coordinator. The significant difference is that, unlike instructional coordinators employed by one school, educational consultants work with numerous clients simultaneously. Educational consultants can assist multiple school districts or other schools and corporations in the curriculum development field.

13. Technical Writer

Also called technical communicators, technical writers work to break down complex technical concepts to the public. Technical writers may work for publishing companies or businesses, either as administrators or freelancers.

A technical writer develops written content for career guides, journals, instructional manuals, and other technical documents. To be a technical writer, you must be tech-savvy, as the job requires that you do your research through various digital means. Additionally, a digital writer shares this information online and through digital information channels.

14. LCMS/LMS Administrator

Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) is software that helps administrators develop and operate learning curricula and content. On the other hand, educators use Learning Management Systems to train and monitor students. LCMS or LMS administrators ensure that both systems run smoothly. The technology infrastructure varies from one organization to another. On top of that, the job may also involve quality assessment and user support.

15. Medical Training Supervisor

This set of professionals differs from most others highlighted here, as they work in the medical field. The role includes identifying training needs, coordinating developmental training, managing training groups, and developing training materials.

Become An Instructional Technologist Today!

Careers in instructional technology are gratifying, mainly because it allows you to follow your tech passion and create more exciting work environments for learners. Browse online degrees with GetEducated, and start your new career path today!

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