Understanding and Overcoming Teacher Reluctance
Teacher Reluctance: Understanding Reservations About using Technology to Overcome Them
New Jersey City University
As people tend to be creatures of habit, and teachers are people, there is a tendency to resist new ideas to be incorporated into teachers’ pedagogy. This is especially true when it comes to using technology in the classroom. This resistance is not without its costs, as all new technological innovations are created to enhance the quality of life, and –if used appropriately- can improve the quality of education. This resistance is also, however, not without reason. Many teachers have various reasons as to why they resist incorporating the use of technology into their pedagogy and hold the conviction that those reasons are supremely valid. Such narrow thinking, however, is a detriment to the evolution of education, schools and students. After all, as Acker, Buuren, Kreijn and Vermeulen point out, using things such as Information and Communications Technology, “…is supposed to be paramount to the education of knowledge workers” (p. 496). As such, this narrow thinking must be challenged. The only way to do so would be to first understand the reasons behind teacher resistance.
Teachers who have been educational practitioners for years often feel as though their methods of delivering instruction have always been successful, so there would be no need to inconvenience themselves by changing them. This is exactly the situation Ali Ersoy points out in his scholarly journal, which details a single teacher’s journey of using technology in the classroom. The name of the teacher in question is Mehment Bey who, after having had much success using interactive white board, decided to introduce this technology to his colleagues. Upon introduction to this technology, he describes his coworkers’ collective disposition as one of fear. He says that when they saw the technology, “ Everybody looked at it…they were scared. That was something that they hadn’t done before….but they were successful the way it was…They didn’t want to do it” (Ersoy, ). Essentially, their apprehension of practicing something different caused them to hold more firmly to the more traditional methods that they used. This new technology, because it was unfamiliar, was presumed to be too difficult to use.
The notion that technology would be difficult to use is at the root of the fear that some teachers have in regard to use of technology. If teachers do not initially know how to use the technology, they assume that the use of technology will make their jobs more difficult. As Ersoy points out, when taking note of the teachers’ reactions after Mehment presented the Interactive White Board to them, “…they had a system they were used to…Giving up a system for another system, they see it as a burden…they were successful the way it was for years…they thought they will fail when they changed it” (p. 10). This perceived inevitable failure results in myriad excuses being made to avoid the technology at any cost. At first, Mehment met resistance as teachers asserted that the Interactive White Boards were emitting radiation (Ersoy, 2015). After debunking that false claim, other reasons for objection were brought to the forefront.
One such an objection had to do with the presumed inability to perform simple tasks on the Interactive White Board. This is indicative of the notion that technology complicates things. For instance, Ersoy points out that many teachers had insisted that “…they cannot draw a triangle, or a circle on the IWB” (p. 11). Once more, this misconception stemmed from the teachers’ fears of the unfamiliar, as quite the opposite is true. As Mehmet points out “Being able to project and write on it…This is one of the best features of IWBs. Another feature is being able to move materials in the resources, which is also very effective….it is easier to draw on it…because it has its own materials and tools. It has its goniometer, protractor, divider…” (Ersoy, p. 11). Essentially, the tool that the Interactive White Board is equipped with makes it easier to project a shape onto the board and eliminates the drawing process. Despite the increased efficiency, teachers were still reluctant to use the IWBs because they simply did not know how to do simple this on this new platform. This supports findings in a study done in which the variables that affected teachers’ willingness to were examined. Findings showed that “The most influential contextual variables…were…perceived ease of use, incentives to change, support and collegiality…” (Acker, Buuren, Kreijns and Vermeulen, p. 499).
Taking the aforementioned scenario into consideration, it is apparent that many teachers are reluctant to use technology because they do not receive the proper training, before or after they start to use the technology. Often times the technology is being presented to teachers by individuals who are not knowledgeable about pedagogy. They only know how to operate the technology but not how the technology can complement and enhance instruction. However, “Teachers need to know how they will use it at the first stage, and what benefits they will gain. Since they don’t know these, the selling company only tells them the aspects that are, let’s say, cool” (Ersoy, p. 10). In doing so, teachers are then presented with a plethora of features, which confuses the teachers, because they are all covered extremely quickly (Ersoy,). As such, teachers tend to forget what they have been taught. Moreover, they have no real time to absorb all of the information they are being presented with to determine how familiarizing themselves with these features can enhance their instruction.
Training teachers, who are already reluctant to use technology, are by representatives from the companies who make the product makes it more difficult to even mitigate their reservations about using technology. As Ersoy points out, “Mehment Bey thought that the trainings for teachers who would use IWBs for the first time should be given by teachers who actually used IWBs in their classrooms…training that are not given by another teacher can negatively affect teachers’ use of IWBs” (p. 10). If a teacher who has successfully used the technology in his/her classroom provides training, however, other teachers will benefit, as the teachers will know what features are best for instructional purposes. The teacher leading the training can even model their use of the technology for his/her colleagues, as opposed to merely stating fact after fact regarding what the technology is capable of.
The best way to overcome teacher reluctance is to make it clear as to how technology will benefit both teachers and students. The best way to do this is not by showing them how to use the technology; rather, all teachers should be shown why they should use technology. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the focus is on what the technology can do and how to do it, rather than why the technology should be present. As such, reasons for using the technology are lost upon most teachers. They don’t see the practicality of using technology. As Mehmet notes, when using IWBs “…the instructional processes were easier, more practical and effective…more questions can be answered, the content can be finished in time…and students can have more meaningful learning” (Ersoy, p. 11). Without a teacher to show them these things, none of these benefits will be apparent.
By shifting the focus for how to use the technology to why the technology should be used, even the most reluctant teachers will become will, perhaps even eager, to incorporate it into their practice. If the focus is merely on what the technology can do, teachers will be inclined to think that they can do those things even without the technology. If it is made clear that the technology can make teachers’ old practices more efficient, they will see the benefit in taking time to learn about it. As Rinelli points out, in an article about overcoming teacher resistance to using technology, “It is of great importance that professional development be specific to teachers’ needs” (p. 5). Though it may be time-consuming at first, teachers will ultimately see how using technology saves everybody time overall.
Acker, Buuren, Kreijns and Vermeulen. (2011) Why teachers use digital learning materials: the role of self-efficacy, subjective norm and attitude. Education and Information Technologies, 18(3), 499
Ersoy, A. (2015) Understanding an elementary school teachers’ journey of using technology in the classroom from sand table to interactive whiteboard. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 8(1), 9-11
Rinelli, K (2013) Overcoming k-12 resistance to technology and learning using m-learning. ProQuest LLC