Friday, November 23, 2007

"Now, Please": Expectations of Teacher Technology Adoption

I was just reading something that made me think of this.

The comment was to effect that students and teachers both were given hardware at the same time...and it took a couple of years to really get teachers moving beyond just word processing, to truly move to adopt the technology. The comment wasn't in a negative tone.

The comment got me questioning whether our expectations of teacher technology adoption especially in the context of web 2.0 (or other emerging technologies) sometimes maybe too focused on immediacy? That is, do we expect instant technology adoption? Can that do more harm than good? Is it necessarily bad or unnatural for technology adoption to take time?

In education, we typically plan an inservice, deliver the inservice, and then expect teachers to adopt the technology on a pretty short time frame.

From my experiences working on projects as a network engineer in corporate online banking, products were methodically implemented in sequential stages:

1. the development environment/testing
2. the testing environment/testing
3. the customer acceptable testing environment/testing
4. the beta environment/testing

All of the stages were designed to fix problems and enhance services. It was expected that there would be problems to resolve and features to enhance. Each stage was usually a carefully orchestrated series of steps many different specialities coming together to make the product work and offer the customer a valued service. Production, as it was called, wasn't instantaneous.

This is in stark contrast to us in education where when a new technology is delivered we want it operational and used the next day. The only time something was really rushed in the "corporate side", save meeting a deadline, was when it was broken and impacting users...then it was really was a situation to drop everything and fix the problem.

Getting our heads around a new tool takes time. The replacement cell phone I just got had a learning curve. Twitter that I'm using now takes a bit of time to shake out. Even the relative simplicity of web 2.0 tools takes some time to investigate and feel comfortable using.

Anytime, something new is used, operationally (technically) it has to be figured out before adoption occurs. And sometimes, we discover features that may be absent that don't make a certain tool useful now. So we go back to the drawing board putting the tool on the shelf.

For me, technology adoption doesn't happen in a linear fashion. I may download and check out a new tool or view it online very briefly. During my brief visit I begin learning about it and thinking of its usefulness as a learning tool. But I may not revisit that tool for quite some time. The 2nd visit may be as quick as the first or I might dive into it. I may go back to it a 3rd or 4th time. Or it may take seeing it modeled from an awesome social network like Classroom 2.0 that spurs on my adoption. It depends. But I usually need to have some thinking and tinkering time before I adopt technology.

Here's a general flow of technology adoption as I see it and experience it:

1. Introduction to Tool
2. Tool Orientation (buttons, features, mouse/keyboard inputs)
3. Getting the Tool to work and produce results - 1st time
4. Getting the Tool to work again - 2nd and subsequent times
5. Thinking about how to use the tool in the classroom
6. Having an idea of how to use the tool in the classroom
7. Trying to get the tool to achieve instructional/learning goal
8. Readjusting expectations of the tool
9. Try the tool out in the classroom

So I return to my original question, "Do we expect too much immediacy when it comes to technology adoption?"

1 comment:

Tom Hoffman said...

This is exacerbated by the pace of change just at the time ed-tech was starting to scale up dramatically, in the late 90's. If you bought 166mhz Pentium I's you needed to get your use out of them quick. Unfortunately, a lot of computers were purchased for schools around that point.

Also, it is the nature of schools that things not used, whatever kind of widgets they are, get lost, stolen, covered in dust, hidden, etc. Part of the genius of the INaccess program is that by putting the computers permanently in the desks of English classrooms, you don't have that problem (as much).