In an era where partisanship is far too often the way we approach a given field, there is a temptation to divide our world into technophobes and technophiles and call it a day. The truth, however, is of course more nuanced than that.
Sworn enemies of the advancement of tech can be swayed by the right device or platform, and firm believers have unconscious biases making them hold certain resources at arms length. Those working in the wonderful world of education are no exception to this dichotomy.
From an objective standpoint, however, it must surely be accepted that the right technological advancements are a massive boon to education, introducing resources and techniques that would otherwise be unattainable.
As such, recognising and tackling the unconscious biases that might be holding back the acceptance of the right technology into the classroom becomes something very much worth exploring. Here are a few avenues for such an exploration, which can hopefully help give the right tech the best chance of getting into the classroom.
It is something of a cliche, but there’s no fear like the fear of the unknown. Lack of understanding, for individuals of any generation, gives rise to confusion, panic, anxiety, and mistrust. This is especially true in education where technological leaps are so divorced from the traditional technologies they are designed - depending on the technology - to replace or complement.
No matter how beautifully designed the user interface is on an electronic whiteboard, a teacher who has only ever used chalk and a blackboard is very probably going to struggle initially with its introduction to their classroom. Implementing and accepting these technologies requires thorough training to make it less alien, and less of a 'leap'. In the words of Charles Sturt University’s director of postgraduate studies in education Brendon Hyman:
“There are nearly 300,000 teachers across Australia. They need access to ICT improvements for classroom implementation and to keep up with continuous technological advances. This needs to be regular, scaffolded and sustainable.” (Hyndman, 2018).
For a school implementing new technology into the classroom, priority number one needs to be making sure that the teacher is intimately familiar with how it works before the students are brought into the equation. This demands buy-in from both the school and the teacher; training must be met with a high level of engagement and desire to learn in order to maximise the new tech’s chances of providing help rather than a hindrance.
The benefits of educating oneself thoroughly go beyond simply making sure there will be no embarrassing mishaps in front of the students. It also puts the teacher at ease with the new tools at his disposal, eroding any bias he might hold against the tech in the first place, and opening the door further for future classroom innovations.
Trial and error
There is, of course, something else that needs acknowledgment. Even with the very best of training and the finest of equipment, things can, and probably will, go wrong. Mistakes are par for the course with the introduction of any new resources into the classroom.
Furthermore, a variable that training cannot totally account for is student reaction. Exactly how your students will respond to the latest integration to their classroom may very well end up being somewhat different to what you might have expected.
The temptation, should mistakes occur and transmittance of new practices to the students prove tricky, will be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The much more valuable course of action is to try again, and this time tweak the approach.
The trial and error element of introducing new tech to students is well encapsulated in the presentation by Michael Hilkemeijer of several theories on how best to implement ICT (Information and Communications Technology) into the classroom. He discusses and compares the benefits of behaviourism, constructivism, social constructivism, situativity, brain-based ideas, and metacognitive knowledge (Hilkemeijer, 2019) as approaches to getting students on board with the new resources.
This spread of different theories highlights two things. Firstly, the wide scope of potential benefits of bringing ICT into the classroom through various techniques. Secondly, the flexibility needed in finding which method, or combination of methods, suits best.
The right combination of willingness to try out different methods and patience with any bumps along the road will go a long way towards giving the new tech its best chance in your classroom. Expecting overnight success is unrealistic, but taking a trial and error approach to the integration process maximises the chance of long run success becoming a reality.
Acknowledge the benefits
While the previous two ideas are somewhat more concrete than the third, in many ways the abstract process of reconciling oneself with the actual good that technology can bring is the most important step. If you do not start from a place of trying to see the good in something, how exactly can you hope to eliminate any bias you hold against it?
Recent research by Pi-Sui Hsu, from a sample of 160 teachers, indicated a majority of teachers were receptive to the notion of digital technologies being used constructively in schools. However, the minority that opposed the notion had a classroom where it was virtually impossible, regardless of what their school mandated, for such technological introduction to lead to any kind of beneficial change (Hsu, 2016).
Clearly, a receptive mind to technological innovation is pivotal to its chances of success. But how best to achieve this internal receptivity? One compelling answer lies in the Technology Acceptance Model created by Fred Davis. Davis essentially breaks down user attitudes into two areas: perceived usefulness, and perceived ease of use. These streams combine to create our behavioural intention towards technology, leading then to our actual behaviour (Davis, 1989).
The natural conclusion that follows from this delineation is to approach these two camps separately. Where does my objection fall? With the actual usefulness of the product, or how easy I believe it will be to use? And once that inner bias has been found – should I really feel this way?
Such isolation is likely to identify just one area of objection (which for many will be the second). Even if it does not, pinpointing the specifics of one’s objection to new tech makes addressing and overcoming that bias much easier than simply confronting a vague, general sense of unease that many hold towards an unfamiliar innovation.
It’s a process
The point that has been made above is that implementing new tech into our classrooms will not be an overnight process. Equally, nor will overcoming our anti-technology biases. The unique and new challenges posed by each new classroom innovation, combined with pre-existing reservations about such infiltrations, does not lend itself to instant acceptance and success.
But it is hard to argue with the potential benefits that technology can bring to the classroom; as such, working on both mastering the new tools – and mastering our impulse to reject them – is a worthwhile exercise. Working to fully understand the new resources, trying and failing different approaches to use them, and addressing the specific internal grudges we hold against them, will do a world of good in getting over that hill to a place where students and teachers alike are benefiting from the right resources.
Hyndman, B. (2018), Ten reasons teachers can struggle to use technology in the classroom, The Conversation
Hilkemeijer, M. (2019), How students learn with ICT, ICTE Solutions Australia
Hsu, P.S. (2016), Examining Current Beliefs, Practices and Barriers About Technology Integration: A Case Study, SpringerLink
DAVIS, F. D. (1989), Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology, MIS Quarterly
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