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Do older faculty and technology mix?

December 10, 2009

I like being able to brag that I have been helping faculty use computers for over 25 years, so I can’t honestly pretend to be young. I suppose it’s time to start being less interested in technology and begin to play dumb(er). At least, that’s the impression I get from some of the literature on adoption of technology. There seems to be an unchallenged assumption that the older you get, the less interested you are in technology and the less able to use it. Here’s a silly YouTube look at this issue:

I don’t buy this connection, and my experience does not jive with it. I know professors who are well over 60 years old and doing very creative things with computers. I also know young faculty who have little interest in using technology. That’s not necessarily a problem for me. In his post, “Age and Innovation” at the Inside Higher Ed. blog, Joshua Kim had this to say:

Senior faculty often do the best and most interesting work in learning technology and advanced pedagogy

The data from two studies that Pete Reilly cites in his post, “Fact or Fiction? Are Older Teachers Slow to Adopt Technology?” seem to put the lie to conventional wisdom. These lyrics from one of my favorite classic songs fit nicely:

Why must every generation
think their folks are square?
And no matter where their heads are
they no mom’s ain’t there.

(click to play)  from “Younger Generation
by the Lovin’ Spoonful

Underlying all of this is an unspoken message: it’s always bad to resist adopting a new technology. If my classes are going well, why should I necessarily want to change them? Each time an improved cell phone becomes available, do I really need one? I may want one, but I’m not going to buy it unless I perceive a significant benefit.

I believe educational technologists have two jobs. The first is to help people see how technology can benefit them in their teaching. Once we identify something the person believes will help their students learn more effectively, the second task is to make it as easy as possible for them to implement it in a course. And I don’t believe that the faculty member’s age has any predetermined impact on this.

P.S.  I was motivated to write this by the fact I’m a year older today. Wish me a happy birthday!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2010 4:43 pm

    Happy Birthday! Great Post.

  2. December 10, 2009 12:06 pm

    Interesting article, thanks for posting

  3. LT Lab permalink*
    December 10, 2009 11:24 am

    Thanks, Josh, you have a good thing going at BlogU — I’m a subscriber!

  4. Kevin permalink
    December 10, 2009 11:08 am

    … as some of us know it could have been even longer than 25 years 😉

    Happy Birthday!!

  5. December 10, 2009 10:25 am

    Chris…first of all – happy birthday! 25 years? Amazing. We need more folks like you in our discipline who have gone down the road once or twice and can share your wisdom.

    Enjoyed reading your post (and now I’m subscribed to your feed) – looking forward to learning from you in the future. Josh

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