by Alyssa Chen
For a long time, people have always talked about putting education and technology together. Whenever some new technology appears, the more fearless innovators would try their best to incorporate them with the classroom walls. And why not? With advancing technology in education offering a myriad of advantages, it may seems strange to many principals and corporations how resistant many teachers are towards it. Doesn’t the idea of teachers using technology help to accelerate learning sounds appealing?
Not necessarily so. There have been an increasing number of articles denouncing how mobile technology worsens the education landscape recently. However, I like to offer my view what may have caused this downtrend.
It is a common story among schools and private organisations I gather during my talks from them. From what I observe, I surmised that cognitive bias towards technology integration in education tend to occur – in both teachers AND students. When the top management expects immediate cultural shift towards digital learning, it is almost the beginning of the end…. before it even starts.
What is Cognitive Bias?
Cognitive bias was defined by Wilke A. and Mata R. in the “The Encyclopedia of Human Behaviour” as
Systematic error in judgment and decision-making common to all human beings which can be due to cognitive limitations, motivational factors, and/or adaptations to natural environments.
In this definition, I would not prefer to call it as a ‘systemic error’ but rather as ‘resistance’ that may cause rejection. In short, I believe that there are factors that may cause teachers to reject technology from the start. Currently, there are at least 20 types of cognitive bias that have been recognised. However, for the sake of simplicity, we will refer it to under one umbrella instead.
Cognitive bias usually occur when we consider the initial resistance of one due to past experiences or hearsay stories that may affect judgement. When this is coupled with environmental factors or poor management during a transition of one cultural shift to another, the schools would find it difficult to move beyond what they have been doing before.
How Does this affect Education Technology?
As mentioned earlier, the extremely rapid pace of the ever-replacing technology trends will make anyone uncomfortable. Have you ever notice what happens when a school wants to make a shift towards mobile education integration? Frozen faces. Tight smiles. Eye rolls. Thoughts such as “How about students that pass out from my hands before technology? Didn’t they do just fine? Why must we change the way we teach? Didn’t XXX school tried it the other time and it failed terribly? We are just going down the same path.” appear. The first obstacle has been set.
Then, when directives for a school to incorporate mobile education are passed down, implementation is usually expected within a short time frame. Limited mass workshops and seminars are usually conducted on fixed dates and teachers are told lesson incorporation are included in the KPIs. When such workshops are conducted, many of these teachers usually feel inadequately supported.
This lack of preparedness can be extremely disconcerting- they feel they have to be good at something to use something…and it usually cannot be achieved within a workshop or two. Many times, leaders believe in setting KPIs with these workshops to ensure that teachers apply what they learn. Unfortunately, this cause more pressure than before. This is where the second obstacle appears.
By then, teachers would feel they have been thrown into the deep end of the pool. This increases resistance to changes and cognitive bias commences. What makes it worse is that there may be earlier initiatives that may not be implemented successfully through with both time and manpower as well as overhead costs wasted. By then, teachers will have enough horror stories to fill a vault and may happily tell them to any new teachers who come along.
When there is a lack of training , guidance and buy in from teachers – they will be confused of what to do first.
Non-tech savvy teachers tend to make rookie mistakes such as focusing on tools first rather than learning objectives as they are not familiar with the technology. In short, they will tend to focus on how the app is used instead of how it can meet the learning outcomes of the lesson. When there is poor support and infrastructure, technology becomes very overwhelming as teachers waste more time on the handling technology rather than content. This ultimately leads to a constant source of frustration.
By then, cognitive bias has already been cemented. The more negative the experiences, the more teachers are less willing to do more. When frustration reaches a peak, the teachers lapse into inertia. Many teachers would have given up on utilising technology within lessons by then.
Students are Watching
When teachers are not properly equipped with the know-how, what happens?
As our students watch the teachers struggle with technology, it results in more time wastage. Lesser time is spent on lesson content but more time is wasted on setting up of technology. What do students do in the meantime? Surf the net! Be distracted while waiting! Even if technology is not involved, students would be talking to each other anyway!
When technology is not seamlessly integrated within lessons, it is easy to see an increasing disconnect between technology and education. Most students are already proficient in social media for pleasure viewing and which they can access to anytime they want with ease. Watching their teachers struggle with technology doesn’t bring on the same sense of pleasure. In fact, it can be rather disconcerting for them instead
Lastly, since most students also associate online activities with pleasure, many naturally lack the discipline studying using online activities. In cases where technology is infused intermittently by the now frustrated teachers, many students now see it as an obligatory means of studying when necessary rather than in a naturalised way.
So what happens when we put them together?
Thoughts? Comments? Share them with me!