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“Development Through Educational Technology: Implications for Teacher Personality and Peer Collaboration” Ike, Chris (1997) Journal of Instructional Psychology

“Why aren’t you using me to teach your students, Dave?”

It is clear from the outset that “Development Through Educational Technology. . . ” was not written by someone with an interest in guiding his reader gently into the subject.  The introduction to the article is a rather abrupt; “The indispensability of education as a tool for improving pedagogical efficacy, information dissemination, and the speed of learning was examined.”  By whom? How was it examined?  Apparently we’re jumping right into the deep end here.  The author, Dr. Chris Ike, is trained in psychology and that is heavily reflected in the usage of vocabulary terms like “axial tomography” and discussing the concentration of hydrogen atoms in the brain.  Given all this, it is understandable if the prose is lacking a certain poetry in its word choices and turns of phrase.  We don’t typically read the work of educators outside of English expecting the same level of polish and narrative skill as, say, Mike Rose.  Still, for an article that so loudly trumpets the usage of computers to streamline and simplify the work of educators- it is tough to overlook the fact that the author’s spell check somehow confused the s in “defence.”

But let’s be fair and get at the heart of what this article is about. It is intended as a broad overview of the resistance to technology in the classroom.  This paper breaks into numerous categories with headings like “The Teacher and the Computer” “Student-Centered Learning” and “The Role of Teacher’s Personality.”  Many of these comprise little more than a paragraph.  The author does a good job of hitting upon the numerous potential facets of resistance- including the works of psychologists and neurologists.

Ike also, to my pleasant surprise, presents tangible actions for instructors to take to overcome their inhibitions towards instructional media.  He specifically touts a “collaborative autobiography” approach, where a teacher confronts their hesitations or weaknesses in concert with other educators.  It really is an overly elaborate way of saying that technophobic teachers should create a support group– but at least it presents a solution. So many other articles I’ve read in a variety of disciplines content themselves merely to illustrate a problem, tossing off the notion of finding a remedy to subsequent researchers. Ike instead offers a sketch of a collaborative workshop in which this teacher support group can work through their issues.

However, the entire premise of this article hinges on the idea that the use of technology is not only an inherent good- but that it is often “better” than traditional methods.  “The teacher who understands the computer concept seems to be the one who appreciates the fact that the computer is indeed a productivity mechanism for the student as well as for the teacher…” (emphasis mine).  The words “fear” and “weakness” are constantly evoked throughout the text as the source of resistance to using technology.  While these personality “traits” (“deficiencies” seems to loaded a word, despite it feeling more apropos) certainly comprises a good chunk of that resistance (hell I’ll concede most of it), does this leave absolutely no room for reasoned debate? Must every objection be born out of some deep-rooted fear that when the lights go out a rusty commodore 64 will climb out from under the bed and murder me in my sleep?

Ike does seem, at the very end, to acknowledge that the need for teachers to get comfortable with tech is due to “…the realities of technocratic orientation that has overtaken the contemporary educational philosophies…” the root causes are all attributed to “fear.”  This creates an argument where any objection based on pedagogical concern may be dismissed as rationalization of the “fear.”  I might be more convinced if Ike had devoted any part of his essay to debunking these objections or at least explicitly linked them to a rationalization as opposed to valid intellectual questions.  At least then he would be allowing for those types of arguments.  Instead it’s just assumed that any objection is “fear” and “weakness” based and can be cured with group hugs and black coffee.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go plug in the nightlight so that commodore doesn’t sneak up on me.

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