Not All Learners Want to Learn What You Have to Teach.

It’s an ongoing frustration many of us have. In spite of the amazing training opportunities we offer, online or in person, some people just don’t want to learn what we have to teach about integrating technology into their instruction. It’s not malicious, at least most of the time, but I’m beginning to believe that people only have so much capacity for change. It’s not that they wouldn’t do their best to learn and put into practice something new if they were told they had to but if it’s one of too many new things all at once, something has to give. For many teachers, the fact that technology is not a topic on the state tests keeps them from giving it much thought, although the same people will complain that the lack of keyboarding skills keeps our kids from really being evaluated on their thinking on those same tests.

Roger's adoption/innovation curve graphic
Roger’s adoption/innovation curve

Although it is a stereotype, I do hear a larger percentage of teachers over 50 tell me that they “don’t do technology”. There is some truth to the fact that that even though personal computing technology has been available to that age group for a good portion of their lives, not all of them were innovators or early adopters. Many of those folks may have become the early or late majority of adopters because of job requirements but their learning may have only been focused on the task they needed to do with technology and never really translated to their personal usage. The laggards would have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the tech age and only because Facetime is the only way they can see their grandkids regularly.

So I get it. In an article on Wild Apricot (Ibele 2011) called “Guide to Helping your Members Embrace Technology” they mention an AARP survey of retirees and what they want from their technology.

They want technology to:

  • be safe and easy to use;
  • adapt to their specific needs;
  • connect each other;
  • act as a tool not a tyrant;
  • be a force of good.

Isn’t that what we all want? I find that baby boomers are not the only age group that feels that way. I run across young teachers, fresh out of school who tell me that “they don’t do technology” and we have students in all of our classes who can snap chat with their eyes closed but will hesitate to use PowerPoint or video because “they don’t do technology” either. I worry about pigeon holing any generation as particularly more open to technology. I don’t believe in the idea of a digital native. I think that you will always have people from all generations that will fit into the curve. What we need to look at is how we can work with the late majority and laggards to bring them around to at least making the effort to use technology for our student’s sake.

I came across a post by Kerry Pinny (Pinny 2017) in which he suggests that we’ve been having the wrong conversations with people about technology. He mentions what many of us know that technology is just a thing and it’s only useful if people use it but he reminds us that “If you do not consider the people in technology then you are doomed to failure.”

In the end, all the resources I looked at came down to the same thing…it’s about building relationships. We will only reach those reluctant learners when we get to know them. We need to find out what place technology could serve in their lives or their classrooms so our discussions are relevant. We need to know what their real fears are around technology use so we can help scaffold their experience or give them the support they need to give it a try. Building trust with them will allow us to have those conversations about how passionate we are about providing technology opportunities for our students, and how they can help us reach that goal, without it sounding insincere.

Pinny also suggests showing people real examples of how what technology can do and explaining the “why” to them. No one likes their time wasted. Making it relevant, easy to use and immediately applicable is important for busy teachers.

I clearly have been stuck in my office too much lately. My new goal for the rest of the year is to start getting to know more of the teachers that often close their doors and hope that technology will go away. It will take some time to build relationships but if I can leverage some of the tech leaders who are already in the buildings who already have relationships with those folks I think I can help create change, even for our most reluctant learners.

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3 thoughts on “Not All Learners Want to Learn What You Have to Teach.

  1. Karen – I am so curious what type of learners this “reluctant” bunch were in their K-12 school experience. Because as you say, “it’s about building relationships. We will only meet those reluctant learners when we get to know them. We need to find out what place technology could serve in their lives or their classrooms, so our discussions are relevant.” How did they learn if the teacher did not make an explicit relationship with them? How did they get through a masters degree? How do they train online when it is just a video and no human on the other end? How do they teach themselves new tricks? Are they the people that sit with the Verizon tech coach for hours?

  2. Karen, you bring up some interesting points. Thinking of those reluctant learners who “don’t do technology” in the workplace, yet use Facetime with family. We need to provide purpose and meaning behind how technology can enhance teaching and learning experiences. It sounds like the “why” and personal connection has been lacking in a lot of schools as they adopt new curriculum or integrate technology.

  3. I think you’re spot-on about teachers and the capacity for change. I’ve served on a few tech committees and anytime there’s anything new, it’s met with great reluctance as “not another thing to learn…” This year our school is looking at a number of other changes (not tech-related) for next year and the fatigue the teachers are experiencing is palpable. It’s so easy to burn out. The tips for technology you present here are eminently practical…which is what everyone wants and can help ease some of that stress.

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