Is it human nature to resist technological progress

I (and many of the people that follow this blog) spend our working lives trying to encourage people to engage with (or better engage with) technology to support teaching and learning. Something that is common to us all, is the resistance that many have to changes and improvements in technology and in particular what a lot of people do is use a new technology to do an old job rather than realising the potential of the technology and changing our behaviour as a result. This may be frustrating for us, But i have come to accept that this is actually part of human nature for most people and this isn’t a new phenomenon. If we look back at other major technological advances we see a recurring pattern.

  • When trains were first used to carry passengers even though they were capable of going faster they were limited to about 29 mph as this was the fastest that a human had ever travelled (on a horse) and they thought that humans would implode if they went faster – so early trains were effectively expensive horses.
  • When cars were first invented they thought they may be dangerous so someone walked in front with a red flag thus restricting the car to walking speed
  • When the first ATM cash machines were installed they put them inside the bank so you could only use them during bank opening hours. Although obvious now, it was a leap of faith for someone to turn the machines round to face outside the bank and be useable when the bank is closed.

And so this is where I think we are at with learning technology. There are many people who have adopted and ’embedded’ technology which is great but of these I would say that probably 75% are just using the technology to do the same things that were possible before the technology. How do we move forward – well my standard answer is as always to invest in the work force through staff development and CPD, but it is more complicated than that in we need to consider the awarding bodies of qualifications, inspectorate influences and the ever present pressure of finances and budgets and if this is a pre-determined characteristic of human behaviour then a very difficult challenge indeed. I just hope that in the coming months and years as government (who ever is in power) tries to squeeze budgets that we don’t stagnate.

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