Situatedness and Variations in Student Adoption of Technology Practices: Towards a Critical Techno-Pedagogy

Philip G Neufeld, Henry D Delcore
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 17  •  2018  •  pp. 001-038

The effective adoption of an ICT across every segment of the student population may occur where the design, implementation and supports recognize and adjust for variations in adoption practices across the student population and the situatedness of the promoted ICT adoption. The goal of this study was to demonstrate methods to explicate variations in perceptions and meanings associated with the adoption of a technology; facilitate the segmentation of the population based upon these variations and sociodemographic variables; constitute agents’ practice, within a respective segment, based upon their behaviors and beliefs; and compare these agents’ adoption of a specific technological practice relative to their adoption of the critical practice of effectively selecting and using technologies.

Students emerge into a world infused with ICT where the critical technological practice of effectively selecting and using ICT affects students’ participation in a network society and information economy. Education policies and practices, regarding technology use for instruction and learning, often assume student populations are homogenous in their perceptions and practices concerning a given technology and do not account for how situatedness influences students’ perceptions and experience with technology. Universities and faculty, while promoting an ICT, may unintentionally reproduce inequity when not attentive to the ways in which students, as socially situated actors, acquire or fail to acquire the practice of effectively adopting technological innovations.

This study was an instrumental case study of the phenomenon of ICT adoption, in this instance tablet technology for academic purposes, at a public university where over 30% of students in the study self-identified as the first generation university attending student within their household. This study utilized mixed methods to identify students’ perceptions regarding this ICT, using a two-phase survey (phase 1 n=652; phase 2 n=440), and then explored students’ experiences and associated meanings regarding this technology through the use of photo diary interviews (n=11) and focus groups (n=6,6,2). The survey items were based upon constructs found in the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology. These constructs include determinants and moderators for behavioral intention and use behavior for user adoption of a specific ICT.

This study contributed to research as follows: 1) ICT adoption from students’ perspectives; 2) evidence for segments within populations based upon perceptions and meanings associated with ICT adoption; 3) evidence for how situatedness affects adoption; 4) a practice-oriented approach that distinguishes adoption of a specific technology relative to efficacious practice of selecting and using ICT; and 5) how promoting adoption of a specific technology, given effects of situatedness and variations in segments, may help or hinder the adoption of the critical practice of effectively selecting and using technology thereby affecting students’ participation in modern society. This study points to ways to better understand and support segments of students based upon variations in ICT perceptions and practices, differences in ICT assemblages, and dissimilar situatedness. This study advocates for a criticaltechno-pedagogy whereby students culti-vate the practice of critically choosing and effectively using ICT thereby improving their agency within a digital society.

The findings from this study included 1) variations among students in perceptions, meanings, and practices associated with the adoption of a specific technology; 2) segments of students, based upon sociodemographic variables, for whom there were similar perceptions, meanings, and practices; 3) situatedness affecting students’ adoption of a given technology based upon students’ available ICT assemblage, instructional context, settings of student work, and social and cultural contexts; and, finally, 4) technology adoption as a practice, shared from teacher to students and promulgated within an educational institution, may compel some students to adopt a given technology rather than promote the critical practice of effective selection and use of ICT.

Universities and faculty should ascertain and accommodate segments of students who have variations in perceptions and practices associated with ICT adoption as well as differences in situatedness relative to students’ available ICT assemblage, instructional contexts, and social contexts. Universities should insist on student participation in the design and implementation for prospective ICT adoptions and ensure student voice from a diverse set of students. Universities should accommodate variations among student segments by tuning ICT designs, implementations, and supports for each segment. The methods described in this study facilitate timely discovery of student perceptions and practices as well as situatedness of students relative to an ICT adoption. Institutions and teachers should model ICT adoption practices that foster mature student-centered ICT adoption in ways that cultivate the competent practice of effectively selecting and using ICT.

Research on ICT adoption should consider 1) the voice of adopters, 2) segments among adopters differentiated by perceptions, practices, or sociodemographic variables, and 3) in what ways situatedness affects ICT adoption. Re-searchers should evaluate effectiveness of accommodations to ICT adoption initiatives where design, implementation and supports better facilitate each of the defined student segments.

A critical techno-pedagogy understands that students’ technological practices, as learned perspectives and embodied practices, affect students’ participation as co-agents within socio-technical systems of education, employment and life in current and as-yet-imagined futures. A critical techno-pedagogy is mindful of the hegemonic influence of technology firms upon education; is attentive to the non-technological dimensions shaping socio-technical systems; and is aware that technological practices embody and engender values, thereby reproducing inequity or inclusion. Institutions intent to adopt this or that technology must not forget the future-ready imperative of cultivating students’ critical techno agency, namely, setting students on the journey of effectively selecting and using ICT in ways that realize students’ participation in an information economy and net-worked society.

Future research should explore the interplay of student learning experiences and outcomes relative to pedagogical practices as well as available ICT assemblage including devices, connectivity, and applications. Research should also explore how the interplay of agents and social practices within education effect the development of the practice of effectively selecting and using ICT.

student, technology, equity, situatedness, segment, cluster, practice, learning, pedagogy, adoption
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