As we move rapidly into the technology age, awareness is growing that many of the developing technologies may benefit teaching and learning – including mobile devices, internet and social media. Students being the younger generation, and thus predisposed to adopt newer technologies, are willing to give technology-aided learning an earnest chance. There is no doubt that technology makes learning more accessible and interesting for the newer generation of learners. Instructors, too, are showing an increased interest in adopting newer technologies to strengthen the impact of learning. However, despite this interest, there are several factors that determine the acceptance of newer technology by instructors. Understanding the factors can lead us to determine the influences and encourage more instructors to adopt technology-aided learning for impactful learning.
A study published by the Journal of Information Technology Education, states that there are two main factors, which are affecting the use of technology for learning by instructors – in class or beyond (jite.org/documents/Vol13/JITEv13ResearchP141-162MacCallum0455.pdf).
- The first factor is the perceived usefulness, which points to the degree to which a person believes that a particular technology will be beneficial. Information and right attitude can bring significant changes in the way that instructors believe that new technology can be utilized for learning. In addition to technical information on the various uses of the new technology, examples of practical utility must be shared to make the instructors believe in the usefulness. Though most instructors can be open about new technologies, the perceived notions of it being a ‘waste of time’ or ‘distracting’ for the learners can be the biggest barrier in the adoption of technology in learning. If the benefits of the said technology can be highlighted, and a way to overcome the perceived drawbacks shown, an instructor can be suitably encouraged to use technology effectively for learning – in a classroom, as well as in a blended learning scenario.
- The second factor is the perceived ease of use that ascertains how much an individual believes a particular technology is easy to use and utilize. Though most instructors are now increasingly technology-aware, a lot of them still perceive technology as threatening and overwhelming. Feelings of anxiety may be further increased if they perceive the skills of their students as being better than their own, when using technology. This feeling of inadequacy can result in insecurity about their own skills as an expert, making many instructors disinclined to use new technology for teaching purposes. An instructor should be thus given enough time to experience the new technology and get comfortable with it. Only then the instructor will gain self-efficacy with the new technology and thus be less anxious about using it for classroom or blended learning.
Once the instructors get past their inherent mind-blocks, there are various ways that they can utilize newer technology – the most common being the internet. Most instructors now have mobile devices, which help them be connected to the internet at all times. Once they are comfortable with the new technology, they can utilize it for many purposes to enhance the learning – as suggests another study dwelling into the technology usage by instructors.
- Social Networking: Most instructors use popular social networking sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn to connect with like-minded students as well as peers. Creating groups within these social networking platforms is also a popular practice for many instructors, who like to keep posting on topics related to the subject that they teach, as well as trends or findings. They encourage discussion within these groups to generate interest among the students and propel them to think more – beyond the strict confines of a curriculum. A considerable number of instructors also use Twitter, to share bite-sized learning nuggets or even post questions to discuss in class.
- Information Gathering: Search engine use consistently tops the list of most popular online activities for most adult users of the internet – and for the community of teachers as well. Most instructors utilize search engines to find pertinent information that can make the course content richer. While most instructors rely considerably on the internet research, they also exhibit some lack of faith in the accuracy of the information that deters them to completely rely on these sources. A mix of published journals and other sources that can be verified, re-enforced with internet research is a mix that is most popular with most instructors.
- Video and Other Media: The research states that instructors are heavy online video consumers as well as uploaders. In fact online video consumption and uploading in all of its forms has grown steadily among all adults internet users in the last few years. Within this group, instructors stand out in their online video consumption on video-sharing sites like YouTube and watching educational television shows or movies online. Many instructors also prefer downloading videos to their computer to share with peers as well as students. Lot of instructors also upload videos for others to consume, demonstrating a sharing behaviour that can help learning gain a lot of speed among all internet users.
- Content Creation: Instructors are also likely to engage in online content creation in various forms to share their expertise with others and create innovative elearning solutions. This includes creating their own website, having an online journal or blog, and remixing material they find online into their own creations. Instructors specializing in different subjects choose to create online content differently. Science teachers have the highest rate of remixing material they find online and creating their own webpage, while English teachers are the most likely to have their own blog.
While the growth in technology brings both excitement and opportunity to the classroom, it also raises challenges and concerns that need to be addressed. Some instructors, who are not as digitally-savvy as others, can experience anxiety and a feeling of loss of control. But with adequate training and support, the transition to technology can be made easier for instructors, and we can help them teach better.
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