Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fear of Technology




The first part of our discussion in class today about Web 2.0 and the almost illogical fear of web 2.0 technologies that some people have was interesting to me because I think that it is a common problem.  It was obvious from the quotes shared by Matt and Neil in their presentation that these fears are generally the result of a misunderstanding of new technologies and their capabilities.  It raised the question in my mind of what our responsibility might be to educate people about the technologies that are emerging and what they can contribute to learning.  

It can be frustrating when we discover a new technology or application and want to make use of it but those we work for and with don't see its value.  But, we shouldn't be overly surprised when something new (or at least new to the user) isn't accepted readily because it's only human nature to be a little hesitant when dealing with new and unfamiliar things.  I think that we might shoot ourselves in the feet at times by trying to implement the use of new technology before we have helped stakeholders really understand its functionality and capabilities.  So, my argument is that, when faced with a new technology, we should not only ask "How can I use this to enhance learning?", but also "How can I enhance others understanding of this technology so that they will use it to enhance learning?".

I saw an example of this two summers ago when we were discussing the possibility of using Facebook to connect new students with each other and the University.  We made this proposal in a meeting and it was almost immediately shot down by a number of the committee members.  They were very unfamiliar with Facebook and had only read negative things about its misuse--I doubt that any of them had actually ever used it personally.  Consequently, it has taken almost two years to restart those conversations because of the knee-jerk reaction that the mention of "Facebook" elicits.  Looking back on that experience, I think we would have been much better off to have introduced the tool (Facebook) in an interactive way and demonstrated some of its uses.  That's not to say that it would have been warmly received immediately, but I do think that helping others see the value in technology and giving them time to become familiar with it goes a long way in gaining acceptance.

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