Technophobia to Technophilia
by Dr. Mary Ann Bell
"I have almost made it to retirement without learning about computers and I'm not about to bother now!" was the proclamation made several years ago by a colleague, reacting to a mandatory training session. This individual and others sharing her feelings were not lacking access to computers, and excellent computer training was offered through our district. But they were adamantly resistant. Although they might not have liked the term, they exhibited characteristics often attributed to the modern malady called technophobia.
Recently the same friend exclaimed, "I love my new computer set-up, and there are so many great things I can do with it. I am almost sorry that I have only one year to go before retirement!" The disparity between her two strong statements, along with my own similar experience, made me wonder how many librarians and teachers have made the "conversion" from strongly disliking technology to being avid users. I also wanted to know what could cause such dramatic change.
In an effort to learn what prompts people to change their attitudes about technology, I posted queries to several on-line message groups. I asked group members if they could be described as having made the change from "technophobe," one who had a strong aversion or fear relating to computer use, to "technophile," an eager, frequent, and avid computer user. If so, I asked what factors precipitated the change and what training tips they might offer.
Many who responded described extreme past feelings of dislike or discomfort relating to computers. Respondents included technology directors, media specialists, and graduate students. Four factors were mentioned repeatedly, and can be used to classify responses.
- Mentors-- Many people mentioned the value of one-on-one relationships. They spoke of patient, understanding mentors, who allowed them to learn at their own paces. A typical comment was, "The thing that turned the tide for me was someone who walked me through the process letting me do it rather than telling me what to do…a patient teacher who put my hands on a computer and let me play."
- Communication--Several respondents cited that e-mail as the first application they used, saying the desire to have frequent and convenient communication with a family member or friend was the first reason for using a computer. After using the computer for this purpose, the transition to other applications was easier.
- Relevant application---In my own experience, desire to use a certain program caused me to overcome my reluctance to use computers. I was ambivalent about the value of using computers in teaching until I attended a HyperStudio workshop. For the first time I saw an application that I thought would generate excitement and creative responses among my students. Other people related similar experiences, such as a librarian from Ohio who stated, "Now I embrace technology because it is relevant to the things I enjoy most---teaching, researching, learning."
- Sink or swim--The largest number of responses described people's unpleasant realizations that they would have to use computers in order to do their jobs. Said one librarian, "I knew I had to push past the fear, which I did. For me, the change came just from enough exposure."
Many respondents also offered training tips. Frequently mentioned was the need to offer training that is basic and simple. In the words of one experienced trainer, "the more I can do to make participants feel non-threatened, the better the class turns out to be." Other comments supported the value of small training groups. The general agreement seemed to be that large sessions that are not hands-on have little worth. The need for training to be relevant to the needs and interests of the recipients was another common refrain. As one person said, "Can the theory. Concentrate on what your audience can DO with computers." Immediacy was also praised as a valuable characteristic of successful training. One specialist commented, "my best sessions are the ones which might be called ‘crash and burn' where you help someone at the moment he is having a problem." Ongoing training should be available, with more advanced sessions offered for experienced users. Finally, several individuals reminded me that training should be enjoyable. From Utah came the comment, "learning to do something fun AND useful really helps."
It is not necessary for everyone to adopt technology to the extreme of being a technophile. In most libraries and schools, though, it is impossible to ignore new developments, which change the way we communicate and complete necessary tasks. The stories of people who have experienced the metamorphosis from technophobe to technophile can offer lessons for us all.
Learning with Technology: A Constructivist Perspective
by David H. Jonassen
$34.00 from Amazon.com
Computers as Mindtools for Schools: Engaging Critical Thinking
by David H. Jonassen
$44.00 from Amazon.com
Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching
by M. D. Roblyer
$65.00 from Amazon.com
Instructional Media and Technologies for Learning
by Robert Heinich
$63.87 from Amazon.com