Barriers to Technology Integration

There is never enough time or money!

Page 5 of Technology Integration: Hitting a Moving Target, Sandra K. Webster in the Symposium:  Toward a Well-Integrated Research-Rich Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum- One Department's Journey, at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, Massachusetts, August 20, 1999.


Possibly the most serious barriers to integrating technology with the psychology curriculum is time.  Twenty years ago there was great fear that technology would replace people.  We now know that using technology well takes more time than it saves. This is because it takes time to "invent the wheel" and then to keep it spinning as the technology vehicle keeps changing speed and direction.  Many teaching, learning and research tasks are extremely faster with the use of technology. However, we do more now than we used to and we spend more time in updating.  Consider the process of preparing a-v aids for a lecture.  Twenty years ago I needed to know how to use the board and how to make overhead transparencies.  Now there's the additional step of thinking how to use the Net to enhance student learning. I need to know how to design interactive multimedia web pages, use the blackboard and talk really well so that people can hear what I have to say layered over the rest.  With experience the time required to produce good course materials decreases, but it is still substantial.

More communication with students means more time in communication. Some strategies to reduce my time answering e-mail questions while increasing the student access are to use a bulletin board, a well-organized course web site and frequently updated What's New Page.  Others have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) as part of their course web-site to reduce time answering the same questions.  I always copy the answer to a good student question to the rest of the class. The student is recognized for having asked a good question and the entire class benefits.  This cuts down the number of times students repeat the question and also motivates them to think well as they phrase their question since it may be forwarded to all of their peers.

Another strategy to deal with the time drain is to limit your applications.  Prioritize the technology applications and spend time on course content that can benefit most from it.  The solution is to do what you want and not try to do all of it.  In our department each of us specializes in one type of technology.  For example, I don't do videotapes.  (Well occasionally.)  But if I need to use that technology my colleagues can help me.  I reciprocate by helping with web page development.  It's also important to limit the time that you play.  For example, while surfing the Net one finds many, many interesting things and spends a lot of time learning about them.  One must practice discipline to focus the search on the task at hand and not be distracted by fascinating side trips.  It may be fun, but fun takes precious time.


The hardware, software and support all cost money which can be a very considerable barrier to their integration into the curriculum.  I've long felt that computers don't really run on electricity.  They run on a pure current of dollars.
Departments should have an annual operating budget that supports software upgrades and hardware replacement that are specific to psychology. They should also take advantage of the shared resources of their institutions. External grants are also a very good way to fund technology innovation. My experience has been that writing a grant application is valuable whether or not the application is funded. First, the process of designing and justifying the particular innovation strengthens the technology integration plan.  Second, many unfunded agency grant applications are eventually funded through private donors or internal funds.

It's more cost effective and efficient for teaching if faculty members use the same presentation, graphic, web browsing and word processing software as the majority of the students.  That allows a lot of our teaching of technology to be done by example.  It also lets us learn from our students. There should be a good balance between standardization and specific task needs. It is important to maintain variety in software so that students know how to accomplish a given task using different specific tools.


A final barrier to integration of technology with the psychology curriculum is motivation.  I've spoken about technology integration often with colleagues and with information systems directors from other schools.  They usually claim that faculty members do not want to use the technology available to them.  My experience has been the opposite.  I think the reasons that members of our department are so well motivated for technology integration are the democratic process of the department, support, recognition and primary interest in student outcomes.
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