Resistance to Technology: Conscious or Unconscious?

lynnz80By Lynn Zimmerman
Editor, Teacher Education
10 November 2008

In July 2008 James Morrison initiated a discussion on Innovate-Ideagora which he called  “Addressing the problem of faculty resistance to using IT tools in active learning instructional strategies.” This lively discussion has touched on any number of issues related to education, teaching, and learning. The contradictions inherent in education always fascinate me, and this topic has brought up many of them, from assessment issues to institutional climate.

In his introduction to the discussion Jim wrote that “we should be using technology enhanced active learning strategies to improve student learning” and effect changes in the organizational culture “so that most professors [and teachers] will be receptive to adopting active learning methods and using IT tools to enhance the effectiveness of these methods in their classes.” I assert this “resistance” is also embedded in how teachers view education.

Although most of the discussion centered on higher education, as a teacher educator, I am always focused on what is happening in the K-12 classroom and what my students may confront as they go into their classrooms. The issue of teacher resistance to technology has immediacy for teachers in zimm02K-12. As I was thinking about these issues, I remembered something I had read when I was teaching an Introduction to Teaching course: many teachers consider that they have a fairly liberal teaching philosophy. However, in practice, their teaching styles tend to be more conservative than their philosophical stance. (If you would like to make this comparison yourself, you can look at your teaching style at Grasha-Reichmann Teaching Style Inventory.) Therefore, it is possible that not only are teachers actively resisting learning about technology and technological advances, but some are perhaps unconsciously resisting it. In trying to determine where the disconnect is, researchers may need to look more closely at what teachers are really doing as opposed to what they think they are doing in the classroom/educational space.

My undergraduate students recently observed teachers and classes in a new elementary school which has up-to-date technology. One student was dismayed to see that the teacher was using the Smart Board to produce worksheets! I know that teachers at this school had received in-service training for using the technology in their classrooms and I assume the training was focused on the effective use of these technologies. As the student described the teacher’s style, it appeared that she used an authoritarian model of teaching, which seems to be reflected in her view of how to use technology. Was she consciously resisting using the technology to its fullest or was she just unaware that she had not made a shift in her thinking about using technology?