Friday, February 17, 2012

There’s No Such Thing as a Techno-Peasant…Really!

Someone recently introduced me to the term “technopeaseant”.  I found this term to be largely misleading and problematic.  The term implies a binary of system with regards to technology; those who can use technology (Technophile? Techno-elite?  Techno-noble?) and those who can’t (techno-peasant).  In fact, its usage and presence really only perpetuates helplessness and a sense of overwhelming that people feel with regards to technology.  

The idea that one either is or isn’t attuned to understanding and using technology leads people to decide that they “shouldn’t” or “can’t” try to do something with technology.  Instead of experimenting or instead of stepping into the unknown (where we do so much of our learning, right?), we veer away to be safe and accept that we weren’t meant to go there.  We limit ourselves and accept the label of “technopeasant.”  We learn our place.  

Imagine if we took that approach with our students.  It would feel ethically wrong to accept that stance when it comes to our students.  We know that there is potential for them to reach competent levels of knowledge and understanding about a wide range of subjects.  To simply
It’s important to understand that no one knows everything about technology.  The ubiquity of technology (and more specific, programs and computers) means it is extremely hard to stay atop of all the technology that is out there.  There are arenas of knowledge and familiarity.  Regardless, you don’t have to know everything about technology, nor should you.  

Technology is simply another word for tools.  Some tools are easier to operate (a hammer) than others (a chainsaw) and some tools are more relevant to you as an instructor (laptop) than others (missile-guidance software).   But with whatever tool you’re interested in using, it does take some time and energy to learn how to operate.  It’s a far cry from operational knowledge to mastery knowledge, but just like we don’t expect our students to be masters of the subject matter we teach, nor should you expect to master any technology without substantial effort.  Obtaining operational knowledge will still require effort, especially if you are not familiar with it.  This makes sense because you are integrating new ways of approaching and thinking about problems and solutions through the lens of the new tool.  

In the end, it’s ok to be challenged or confused by technology, but to imply that you can’t know technology speaks to a learned helplessness that sustains you in that position.  It’s also important to remember that there are ample resources out there to help you make sense and learn various tools.   Besides us here at Academic Techology, there are a great tools at eHow.com, that provide walk-thrus for all sorts of tech-related tools.  
  • What kind of obstacles have you run into with technology and how have you overcome them?
  • What areas of technology do you find the biggest challenge?
  • What stories do you have about learning/conquering a new technology?