Use of Technology in Teaching: Issues and Problems
— Khagendra Acharya
There has been a very significant proliferation of literature regarding the use of technology in teaching (Dede, Allen, Muthukumar). Mostly, these writings unequivocally accept technology as the most essential part in teaching, if not a panacea for every problem that exists in teaching. In a sense, a tendency to emphasize on inevitable role of technology in pedagogy to the extent of obliterating human part of teacher by technology part has been very dominant. Even in the balanced arguments, only words of caution for appropriate use of technology seems to be meagerly appearing, “Inappropriately used in the classroom, technology can be used to perpetuate old models of teaching and learning. … Teachers can use multimedia technology to give more colorful, stimulating lectures” (New Horizons). It means there has hardly been any appropriate interest regarding issues and challenges that pertain in technology use in teaching. This paper, based on general model of Public Relations (PR) process developed by Center and Jackson argues that we need to take many issues in consideration so that the use of technology does not become problem.
General model of PR follows a series of logical steps to constitute a continuous four-step process: the first being fact-finding and data-gathering and the other in order are planning and programming, implementing appropriate strategy and evaluating (Center and Jackson 14). Fact-finding and data-gathering, when applied in class-room context, concerns the assessment of not only the instructor but also the students in terms of familiarity with the technology. The question that becomes pertinent in this regard is – are we techno-geeks or technophobes, digital native or digital migrant? The second question that is of equal importance concerns more pragmatic issue i.e. the students’ expectation and needs in the classroom regarding the nature of treatment to the subject. Based on my experience in Kathmandu University (which I am sure applies to many), I have found students having three types of expectations – those who desire entertaining treatment to the subject, those who anticipate only teaching and those who wish for the combination of the two i.e. edutainment. Investigation into these two questions provides an overview of the existing environment of the class.
The second stage – planning and programming – is based on the finding in the first stage. The type of class environment we own largely determines the goal which then dictates the objectives. Goal generally determines the contour whereas objective states the destination. At this stage, primarily we need to get answer to the questions like, i) should we use technology? ii) If so, what is the nature and magnitude of the use? These questions necessarily lead to the third stage.
The third stage – implementing appropriate strategy – follows by design from the second stage. Because the third stage is the function of the second stage and tangible aspect, it should specify the type of game plan and the technology to be used in the class. The process can be illustrated using permutation and combination of the elements discussed in the first stage of PR. For instance, if the teacher is techno-geek and the students are digital natives which are generally characteristics of classes in developed world, any highly sophisticated technology can be unquestionably used. However, any of the remaining combinations demand for selection of appropriate technology. For example if the class comprises digital migrant teachers and students which is the nature of developing society, the use of technology demands for its limitations. In the latter case compared to the first one, the demand for discipline is higher and thus the need for teachers’ authority exercise is more. Consequently, the use of technology in these conditions demand for its controlled and very often minimal use. Nevertheless, the point to note is the necessary revision that this equation might undergo due to the students’ expectation and needs in the classroom regarding the nature of treatment to the subject.
The fourth stage – evaluation – concerns the magnitude of effectiveness of technology use. We need to assess efficiency and impact of technology use. Unless these two aspects are studied, we cannot determine results and decide what, if anything, to do next or do differently.
The four-step process, which finally directs either to intensify or continue or deter or delay the use of technology, brings home an undeniable fact: use of technology is not a panacea; it is spatio-temporal process that is dialectically determined by various components of the class.
Allen, Ethan. Nanoscale Science and Technology. New Horizons for Learning. 29 April 2010 < http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/allen.htm>.
Center, Allen H. and Patrick Jackson. Public Relations Practices: Managerial Case Studies and Problems. 6th Ed. India: Prentice-Hall, 2002.
Dede, Chris. Testimony to the US Congress, House of Representatives: Joint Hearing on Educational Technology in the 21st Century. New Horizons for Learning. 29 April 2010 <http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/dede1.htm>.
Kumar, Muthu. Learning with the Internet. New Horizons for Learning. 29 April 2010 <http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/muthukumar.htm>.
New Horizons. Technology in Education. 29 April 2010 <http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/front_tech.htm>.
[The argument in this article is based on my contribution as a panelist in an International Conference organized by H. M. Patel Institute, Gujarat, in January 2010. I acknowledge Mr. Hem Raj Kafle and Mr. Tirtha Ghimire for their insights.]