March 5, 2011

How does technology-related anxiety affect educational technology adoption?

It is hard for those of us who deal with educational technology to understand why some high-school and college instructors are so reluctant to use new technology or to even use well-proven technology to make their courses more effective or productive. In the age of YouTube, Blackboard, Wikipedia, Wimba, and Twitter, and with years of research showing how technology can be used to increase student mastery and retention, why are some profs still suck using the overhead projector and the copy machine?

There are certainly institutional and personal factors that encourage or allow this type of luddite behavior, but perhaps one of the main factors preventing the adoption of educational technology is the level of anxiety that instructors feel about using–and depending on–educational technology in the classroom. This anxiety has influences on the integration of technology into the curriculum ranging from decreased participation in training sessions to outright refusal to use the technology. Current and previous research supports the assumption that the level of-related anxiety that an instructor experiences directly affects their willingness to use technology in the classroom.

Understanding what factors influencing technology-related anxiety is important if we want to foster a culture where technology is viewed as a valuable tool that can increase the productivity of instruction and not another burden or source of frustration and embarrassment. From what I have observed and read, the following model seems to explain how an instructors anxiety levels are affected by various events and and how that anxiety affects their future actions.

Let me walk you through the model in this short video.

So for us technologists who support instructors we must:

  1. Provide “Worthwhile Training”. That means easing instructors into new technology with lots of hands-on experience. Don’t tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it, do with with them and then have them do it. Rinse and repeat.
  2. Provide ready access to effective help. Nothing can shake an instructors confidence more that turning for help and finding none available. Don’t promise technical support if it will not be there.
  3. Provide lots of clearly worded user documentation. This usually means creating documentation from scratch since most vendor and manufacture documentation is so heavily in tech jargon that is is not useful. And provide documentation in as many formats as possible: text, web, video, in-application, etc. This will help not only the instructors that use your documentation, but having it on-hand often makes instructors feel more confident just knowing that they have the documentation regardless of if they use it or not. Just because users are not turning to your documentation, doesn’t mean it’s not serving a valuable purpose.
  4. Make sure that the likely hood of a catastrophic failure is as low as is reasonably possible. This means having backup systems, spare equipment or contracts that assure advanced replacement.
  5. Be ready to turn requests for help into just in time training. When little problems happen, that is a great opportunity to provide new training or re-enforce previous training. Show them how to access FAQs, and other documentation that would have answered their question. If they can get the answer more quickly by calling you instead of looking at a web page for 2 minutes, they will call you. Turning the help call into some training will provide real help to those that need it, and discourage the instructors who are just too lazy to look up the information they need.

What are your ideas on how we can support to instructors to help them reduce their technology related anxiety and succeed with their technology-related endeavors?


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