Resistance is futile

I'm fascinated by the psychology of educational technology. I enjoy learning about the ways people behave with technology, how they perceive technology, and how they use technology in teaching and learning. I'm also intrigued by resistance to change. I have learnt from my research that there are - and always will be - people who are resistant or reticent, because new technologies have the potential to disrupt and challenge the social and professional roles into which they have habituated. Naturally, people don't relish being outside of their comfort zones. 

This reflects my own experience, from the time I introduced BBC computers into nurse training in hospitals in 1982. It took a great deal of effort to introduce the new computers into such a conservative learning culture. Colleagues resisted the presence of computers, because they were worried about the potential effects, and some also questioned their validity. I had to ensure that the computers were deployed appropriately and in a manner that would demonstrate their effectiveness. I had to carefully evaluate their use. This was difficult, because nothing similar had been previously attempted. Although it wasn't easy, over time, as the student nurses used the computers and began to demonstrate how their learning had improved, so the new technology became tolerated, and eventually accepted as just another learning tool. 

Such technologies are game changers. They are disruptive, fundamentally changing the way we do things. One contemporary example is the digital camera. Few places remain today where you can still buy an analogue camera. They are now very specialist. Digital technology has advanced photography into areas that were previously considered impossible. Another area that has been disrupted is music. The shift from vinyl records through compact disks to digital downloads has been relatively quick. There is now hardly any demand for analogue recordings (hey, remember the compact cassette tape?), unless you are interested in collecting memorabilia. Television has also been transformed by digital. We now enjoy access to more content than any of us could ever hope to view in our lifetimes. 

We have moved from atoms to bits. Our lives, our work, businesses, and entertainment have been disrupted by digital technology, many would argue for the better. 

The same can be said for the participative Web. Blogging has evolved into a very expressive and social form of writing, and clearly exploits the immediacy of interaction that was unknown before social media. Blogging is disruptive in that it changes the way we construct and present our ideas, and the way we interact with our readership. Take a look at the #blimage and #blideo challenges and you'll see that many teachers are willing to express themselves and their ideas in new ways, and to develop dialogue within their communities on the basis of a personal invitation.

Wikipedia is yet another example of disruptive innovation. Technically it is a collaborative online work space for creating and sharing content. Culturally Wikipedia has thoroughly disrupted the idea that you need to consult a printed encyclopaedia to get expert information. If you discover an error, you can instantly correct it yourself. You don't have to wait for the publishing house to decide to release an updated version. The read/write Web has changed our lives by disrupting our perceptions of what we can do with technology.

Should we, in the same way, seek to disrupt education? Increasingly, people think we should. Many are realising that the way teaching is conducted in many schools and universities is outdated. Much of mainstream education fails to align to the culture of our young people and its traditional methods no longer fully addresses the needs of society. If we want education to be effective, then some things need to change. And because of technology, change is inevitable. 

In tomorrow's post I'm featuring what I consider to be the ultimate disruptive innovation of our age. 

Photo by Steve Wheeler

Creative Commons License
Resistance is futile by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


John Laskaris said…

I would agree with the majority of people you mentioned in the end, Steve - it's definetely high time education got a disruptive innovation in the form of blended learning and eLearning. We already have all the proof we need to be able to say for sure that it's more effective than traditional learning. Frankly, I'm surprised the revolution has not happened yet.

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