Technology usage and overlap

[cross-posted at the TechLearning blog]


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We can imagine a continuum of frequency of technology usage that looks something like this (click on image for larger version):

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People use digital technologies at various levels at both home and work. We can arbitrarily categorize the frequency of their technology usage as a range of very low to very high. Of course individuals may fall into one category at home and another at their workplace.

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We can imagine a second continuum of technology usage overlap that looks something like this:

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In other words, the digital technologies that people use at work will overlap to various degrees with those used at home. Some folks will have little to no overlap, using one set of tools at home and another at work, while others will utilize similar software and hardware in both locations.

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[There's at least a third possible continuum: type of technology usage. However, I'm not smart enough to figure out how to incorporate into this post how people use their digital technologies so I'll leave that for someone else. There probably are other dimensions of this as well. Maybe we'll hear from the tech integration folks!]

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We can conceptualize different individuals or job classes by using these two continua. For example, we probably would be safe in guessing that someone working in the information technology industry is likely to use technology a lot both at work and at home. That IT professional also may have substantial crossover between home and work in terms of tool usage. In contrast, a secretary might have a technology-intensive work life, using a computer nearly every minute of every day, but have a less-intensive technology experience at home. Finally, a fast food worker may not use technology much at work or at home, the latter perhaps because of income challenges. Lest I offend anyone, let me note that these are just generalizations to illustrate the use of the two continua; we all can think of many exceptions to these examples.

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If we use these continua to think about K-12 schools, then I believe the issue probably looks something like this:

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Speaking generally, the people in charge of implementing technology initiatives likely are high users at both home and work, with a fair amount of overlap in terms of the tools that they use. Teachers and administrators, on the other hand, probably are not using technology near as often. Also, they likely have relatively little crossover between the specialized technology systems they use at work (e.g., student information systems, electronic gradebooks, PowerPoint, parent portal software, and "clickers" for formative assessment) and what they use at home (e.g., digital photo management, games). What overlap does exist is probably mostly in the arenas of e-mail, word processing, and browsing the Internet. Finally, as we know, students' personal lives usually are much more technology-rich at home than at school. They use many more tools, most of which are not allowed during the school day.

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It would be interesting to discuss these continua with a school staff, ask educators to draw their own diagrams, and then compile the results in some way. For example, if we assign the numbers 1 (very low) through 5 (very high) to the first continuum and 1 (no overlap) through 4 (high overlap) to the second, we can think of individuals as numeric triads (home-work-overlap). Using the examples above, an IT professional thus would be 5–5–4, a secretary 3–4–3, and a fast food worker 1–1–0. A media specialist might be 4–4–3, a principal 1–1–1, and a student 5–1–1. Once the triads were determined, they could be analyzed for purposes of sparking discussion.

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I'm not strongly invested in these continua. There probably are better ways to think about these two dimensions and, if so, I'd love to hear them. But I do think it's helpful to try and diagram issues in a way that makes sense to people. If we believe that moving schools forward on the technology front is desirable, we have to help educators create mental models that are easily understandable and useful.

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Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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