Table of Contents

1. Voices of the founders: Early discourses in educational technology

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Early educational technology texts
1.3 Overview
1.4 Educational trends: late 20s and early 30s
1.5 Early audio visual scholarship
1.6 Technology and psychology: early audiovisual scholarship
1.7 New discursive terrain: A summary
1.8 Shifting discourses
1.9 Educational trends in the 40s
1.10 Military research and educational technology
1.11 Conclusion
1.12 The women's stories
1.13 Conclusion
Search this Handbook for:

1. Voices of the Founders: Early discourses in educational technology

Ann De Vaney
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Rebecca P. Butler
Eastern Tennessee State University

Discourses and their related disciplines and institutions are functions of power: They distribute the effects of power. They are power 's relays throughout the modern social system (Bove, 1992).

. . . and when we got over to England, they didn't even know what the hell we were. They called us the audiovision boys. They thought that we had to do with hearing aids, improving of hearing and so on (Schuller, 1978).

1.1 Introduction

Educational technology is such a young and amorphous field that confusion about its objects of study, its audience, and the parameters of its operations is almost as common today as it was for Charles Schuller during World War II. Yet at the onset, only a few educators with a common goal to improve education through technology generated national interest in their cause, devised curricula, started graduate programs, and produced a spate of diverse texts while establishing new terrain in the academy. While academic audiovisual and educational technology programs started in the 1950s and proliferated in the 60s, the intellectual groundwork for this area emerged in the late 20s and peaked in the 40s with the capstone event of programmatic and extensive war research. Since texts produced during this time, 1932 to 1947, and oral accounts of this period form a solid base for the establishment of an academic field, we will consider these documents in our examination of the early history of educational technology.

Often, educational scholars, in and outside of educational technology, yearn for and pursue a monolithic academic project that would, once and for all, provide a unified definition of their enterprise and offer an objective account of their operations. While this is a futile exercise for social scientists who study human beings and their activity, it was and is a legitimate goal for academics working under the aegis of logical positivism. The fact that past and present educational technology scholars have failed in this monolithic effort is to the credit of the field. Heterogeneous texts produced during the period under consideration and later provide a rich account of objects of study, theories engaged, methods employed, and audiences included. The written and oral texts considered here disclose a set of common goals but are diverse projects whose structures are contingent on historically accepted concepts and values. They reflect prevailing notions of learning theory and pedagogy, research methods, economic, military, and political values, and other elements of the social milieu in which they were produced. The iterations of names, concepts, assumptions, and theories in these texts not only promoted ideas but actually created truisms in the field for the time in which they were written. The value of these texts cannot be measured by sophisticated standards of current research, nor by highly evolved notions of learning theory, but by how they achieved their common goals when they were written. From whatever perspective these authors spoke, we might ask how well they made their objects of study intelligible to specific audiences at specific moments in time. The rhetoric with which they spoke and the discourses that spoke through them energized an audience of scholars, educators, and students to participate in a new field, educational technology. By any measure they were successful.

It is with respect for the success of the founders of the field of educational technology that we attempt, from our specific moment in time, within our own community to describe the discourses of their early documents. Within this project we value the mutability and diversity of educational technology.

Updated August 13, 2007
Copyright © 2001
The Association for Educational Communications and Technology

1800 North Stonelake Drive, Suite 2
Bloomington, IN 47404

877.677.AECT (toll-free)