As such, educational technology refers to all valid and reliable applied education sciences, such as equipment, as well as processes and procedures that are derived from scientific research, and in a given context may refer to theoretical, algorithmic or heuristic processes: it does not necessarily imply physical technology.
Educational technology is the process of integrating technology into education in a positive manner that promotes a more diverse learning environment and a way for students to learn how to use technology as well as their common assignments Given this definition, educational technology is an inclusive term for both the material tools and the theoretical foundations for supporting learning and teaching.
Initially, "virtual learning" as narrowly defined in a semantic sense implied entering an environmental simulation within a virtual world, for example in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
However, many terms and concepts in educational technology have been defined nebulously; for example, Fiedler's review of the literature found a complete lack agreement of the components of a personal learning environment.
Early e-learning systems, based on computer-based learning/training often replicated autocratic teaching styles whereby the role of the e-learning system was assumed to be for transferring knowledge, as opposed to systems developed later based on computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL), which encouraged the shared development of knowledge.
Videoconferencing was an important forerunner to the educational technologies known today.
The use of media for instructional purposes is generally traced back to the first decade of the 20th century with the introduction of educational films (1900s) and Sidney Pressey's mechanical teaching machines (1920s).
The first all multiple choice, large-scale assessment was the Army Alpha, used to assess the intelligence and more specifically the aptitudes of World War I military recruits.
Richey defined educational technology as "the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources".