The field of education technology, also known as “edtech”, has been around as long as technology has been used in schools. However, computers, the Internet, and mobile devices have given rise to a new revolution of edtech. Along with this revolution is a whole new vocabulary and a new audience using these technologies. It is not just formal educators at learning institutions, but also parents, tutors, virtual coaches, and more. Here is a glossary of these new terms.

This dictionary is intended for individuals with little or no background in education or technology.

One-to-one (1:1)

Most commonly refers to a program where a school provides one device (e.g. laptop, tablet, etc) per student. This is a new initiative and a lot of conflicting reports exist citing its advantages and disadvantages. Many K-12 schools are currently running 1:1 pilots to test this concept.

Adaptive Learning

An educational process where the teaching methods and materials adapt to each students’ pace and level. Technology is often the vehicle for delivering this process, since software can change exercises, questions, and content easily based on previous answers and actions by a student.

Assistive Technology

Any piece of technology, hardware or software, that helps a person with disabilities perform everyday tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. This can include everything from wheelchairs to screen readers to text telephones.

Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC)

Any communication method that helps individuals with speech and language impairments to communicate. AAC technologies are a sub-category of assistive technologies and include text-to-speech communicators and picture communicators.

Behavior Management

A psychological method where the actions of an individual are altered through various techniques, such as positive and negative reinforcement. The goal is to encourage a repetitive desired behavior.

Big Data

A collection of data sets so large that specialized technologies, techniques, and technicians are required to process, manage, and store them. An industry has arisen around the processing and analysis of large volumes of student data.

Blended Learning

A teaching practice that combines, or blends, classroom and online learning. The instruction of a lesson occurs with both teacher interaction and computing devices. Also known as Hybrid Learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

A teaching framework that classifies learning objectives from lower order to higher order thinking skills: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. Some criticize elements within this framework or its real-world applications.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Also known as Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), this is an initiative where students bring their own mobile devices into the classroom for class purposes, as opposed to using school-issued devices. This is often seen as an alternative to 1:1 programs due to lower maintenance costs, though students without devices cannot participate.

Classroom Management

A psychological method used by teachers to minimize classroom disruptions and maximize a learning environment. Though a number of tactics can be used, they generally fall into the use of positive or negative reinforcement.


A device or mobile app that allows students to answer a multiple-choice question. The teacher presents a question to the class, then students use their clickers to input their answer. Some use this as an alternative to paper quizzes.


A generic term used to represent the concept of distributed computing – where a set of networked computers allow for shared services. Also used synonymously with the Internet.

Cloud Computing

Another generic term that refers to the computer hardware and software that powers the cloud. This includes servers (a computer with specialized software on it), data storage, applications, and more.

Common Core Standards (CCS)

A US initiative to provide a national set of learning standards. Has not yet been adopted by all fifty states. This initiative has both supporters who favor a national standard and detractors who criticize its one-size-fits-all strategy.

Digital Classroom

A classroom that mostly or entirely relies on electronic devices and software instead of paper and pens. It is usually characterized by a central computing device, like a laptop or tablet, and a number of online software and apps.

Digital Native

An individual born during or after the common use of digital technologies, such as the Internet, mobile devices, apps, etc. It is assumed that such individuals have a strong grasp of digital technology because it was a regular part of their lives.

Education Technology

Any kind of technology that is used for educational purposes by an educator or educational institution. Most commonly used in reference to software utilized in primary, secondary, and higher education, though it can cover much more than that. Also known as “edtech.”


Anyone who formally teaches a learner. It is a broad term that can be used to encompass primary & secondary school teachers, higher education professors, adult instructors, homeschool parents, tutors, trainers, lecturers, mentors, etc.


An attitude where learning can happen on your own, without any formal structure. Often described as “do-it-yourself (DIY) education.” Interestingly, the originator of this term, Jim Groom, no longer calls himself an edupunk.


Used in the context of education, it means the attentiveness and interest of a student to the lesson at hand. If a student is highly engaged, it means the student is focused, and maybe even enthusiastic about the topic. The best learning occurs when there is high engagement.

Flipped Classroom

A form of blended learning, this is the practice of students watching lecture material (usually in video form) at home, then practicing their learnings in an interactive environment in the classroom. Households without computers or an Internet connection cannot participate in this practice, however.


The practice of applying game mechanics into an activity. Examples of game mechanics are goals, badges, competition, immediate feedback, and leveling up.

Hybrid Learning

Synonymous with Blended Learning. See the Blended Learning definition above.

Individual Education Program (IEP)

A comprehensive and personalized plan that helps a child with disabilities achieve a specific set of education goals. Parents, teachers, and school specialists work together to construct and carry out this plan.

Instructional Technology

A subset of education technology, this practice focuses more on the use of technology for instructional purposes, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Information & Communications Technology (ICT)

A field related to Information Technology (IT). Used by some as synonymous with IT, and by others as more expansive than IT, since it includes communication technologies as well. In the US, IT is more commonly used within schools, while ICT is more common in the UK.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

A non-profit organization that serves educators interested in the use of technology in education. It is most known for its annual conference held in the US.


Any individual who is receiving an education. Can be taught by an educator or self-taught.

Learning Management System (LMS)

A piece of software that manages, analyzes, and runs educational courses and training programs. Also included are student registration, curriculum management, skill & competency management, and reporting features. Most modern LMS packages are web-based.

Learning Theory

Any conceptual framework rooted in psychological principles and used for administering education. There are multiple learning models out there, such as the behaviorist, cognitive constructivist, and social constructivist models. This field is constantly evolving as we understand more about how people learn.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

An online course that includes video lectures, reading materials, problem sets, and a student community. Supporters see MOOCs as a disruptive innovation and detractors question its actual educational efficacy.

Math Manipulatives

An object that can be moved around as an aid for understanding a mathematical concept. Sometimes handling a real-world object can help students learn an abstract concept like addition and multiplication.

Open Educational Resource (OER)

Any online educational material that is freely accessible and openly licensed for public consumption. Such materials can be online courses, lectures, homework assignments, exercises, quizzes, interactive simulations, games, etc.

Open Source Software

Any piece of software that is freely available and openly licensed. Other programmers can contribute to the original software or create their own versions of it. Most modern websites incorporate some kind of open source software, including edshelf!


The science and art of education and learning theory. Just as there are fields of study in other subjects, this is the study of teaching.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

An informal network of people that is professional in nature and meant to aid an educator in furthering his/her pedagogical craft. Since teaching in a classroom doesn’t lend itself to a lot of peer interaction, teachers create PLNs to meet other teachers for advice and support.

Project Based Learning (PBL)

A teaching method based on the idea of “learning by doing.” Students work on a hands-on real-world activity that demonstrates the concepts they are learning. PBL learning tends to have high student engagement.

Professional Development (PD)

A generic term for the growth of one’s career-oriented competencies. Teachers regularly attend workshops and conferences, expand their PLN, and undergo performance evaluations to further their craft.

Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR)

The four levels of this model represent how integrated technology is into a curriculum, from substituting non-technical tools with technical ones, augmenting existing tasks with technology, modifying existing tasks with technology, to redefining tasks using technology in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Student Assessment

An item that can be used to measure a student’s competency in a particular topic. Assessments can take many forms, such as tests, essays, projects, presentations, etc.

Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM)

An acronym that stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These fields are often grouped together because of a national movement to promote these subjects in the US. This includes initiatives to integrate their curriculums together and hopes that such an emphasis will lead to a stronger high-tech workforce.

Science Technology Engineering Art Math (STEAM)

An acronym that stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. This is a reaction to the STEM initiative and includes the arts as a priority as well. Though it is not yet as widely promoted as STEM, it is gaining in popularity.

Student Information System (SIS)

A piece of software that manages student data. This includes grades, attendance, background information, discpline records, health records, etc.

Student Response Systems

Synonymous with Clickers. Sometimes also called Classroom Response Systems or, more generically, Audience Response Systems. See the Clickers definition above.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)

A model for how pedagogy, technology, and content can interact and work together. Often drawn as a Venn diagram of three intersecting circles, Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra created this framework on top of Lee Shulman’s PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) model by adding technology into the mix.

Additional Terms

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