So how do we evaluate an educational technology?
Well, there are really two ways, there’s a formal way to do it based on a set of criteria
where someone would go through and evaluate the interface or how it works in a formal
way. But then there’s another way and it’s very human and non-linear and it’s just
‘How do people eyeball something?’ And how we do this will determine whether
we form an intention to go and use it and then actually use it. And so this kind of
thinking and this kind of methodology called ‘Technology Acceptance Models’ is very
useful from a governance point of view. So our end-point is ‘Actual Use’. This
is what we want everyone to be able to do with an educational technology, so what are
the factors that lead someone to actually use a technology?
Well, firstly, they have to form a ‘Behavioural Intention’ to use it, and that in turn is
influenced by their ‘Attitude’. So, what they think of the technology, if they like
it, the general impression, and from there they’ll form the intention and then go on
to use it. So what feeds into ‘Attitude’? That’s
the million dollar question, and that is the subject of technology acceptance modelling.
There are two competing kinds, but generally the factors that people measure when we are
looking at technology acceptance models and using them to evaluate a technology… the
biggest one is ‘Usefulness’: whether or not someone perceives that technology to be
useful for what they want to do, for example, calculating something, accessing a record,
accessing a quiz, loading a document, having a discussion. Is the technology going to do
that? If it’s not then no one’s going to want to use it. So that’s number one.
Number two is ‘Ease of Use’: Is the technology easy to use? If it is then that barrier is
conquered but if it’s not easy to use, if the interface is complicated who is going
want to actually have a positive attitude towards it? No one, so that’s really important.
The third aspect that’s really important is ‘Social Norms’. Are you the only one
thinking of using it? Are you going on your own? Are you going to have supports? Are your
peers using the technology as well? Are your students wanting you to use the technology?
Are your bosses wanting you to use the technology? So social influence is, generally in the literature,
the third most important factor in determining your attitude towards it. In ‘Social Influence’
is also whether or not the technology is compulsory or not so, for example a Learning Management
System: if this is being introduced into your institution and it’s the only one you can
use well the social influence is very strong, and so this is kind of set to 1, put it that
way. So this is generally for any kind of technology
– we form an intent but then if we then go to use it but then we can’t, there’s
a barrier there isn’t there, and so in here we have something called ‘Facilitating Conditions’.
Facilitation. And that would be things like support, training, access and so on, so all
of those practical things for you to go and use the technology, when you turn on your
computer, is it there in your start menu, is it there on your dashboard, so this is
important. These are the four main determinants to your
attitude to use an educational technology and how someone would perceive of a technology.
But then other people have found lots of other reasons, that aren’t commonly brought into
a lot of the main models and so I’m just going to list a few. I think what’s important
in educational technology is the ‘Educational Compatibility’, and so what this means is
whether a technology is going to fit with your style of teaching
or your style of learning. Let’s take virtual reality as an example, if you’re a student
who likes visual and likes to be inside the moment, if you play video games a lot and
that’s how you learn about things then virtual reality is going to be educationally compatible
for you. If you’re a lecturer who likes to test your students often then quizzing
is going to be a technology that you are going to want to use. If your course needs people
to discuss ideas for the students to be able to form consensus or understanding, then discussion
boards are going to be a technology that you are going to want to deploy in your course.
And so there’s a bit of a distinction here between ‘Educational Compatibility’ and
‘Usefulness’.. ‘Usefulness’ is ‘does the technology do what it says it’s going
to do?’, versus ‘when a technology does what it says it’s going to do is it actually
going to be aligned with your methodology of teaching or the way you like to learn?’
So this is something that isn’t really brought up very often, and I think it’s very important.
So these are the main factors that people use when they eyeball a technology. So if
you go to something and you’re introducing technology and you say ‘I think you should
use this’, artificial intelligent feedback, you’re going to have a number of different
responses from people. They’re going to be thinking ‘Do I need that?’, ‘Is it
going to be easy to use and set up?’, ‘Is anyone else going to use it?’, ‘Do I need
that for my course?’, and ‘How am I going to be trained on it?’ And so when we talk
about evaluation of technology for education, we have to take into account these soft factors
which are very human and non-linear, as well as the very linear and formal evaluation that
we might see elsewhere.