A critical review of the Stages of Technology Acceptance and a discussion of their significance and implications by Dana Lee Robbins, Jacobs Fork Middle School, Catawba County Schools.

Critical Review: CLASSROOM DYNAMICS: Implementing a Technology-Based Learning Environment, by Ellen B. Mandinach and Hugh F. Cline, published by Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, Inc. New Jersey 1994

Ellen Mandinach and Hugh Cline are right in principle and right on target regarding the implementation of technology into the curriculum. In their book, Classroom Dynamics: Implementing a Technology-Based Learning Environment, they offer keen insights and observations concerning the process of acceptance and utilization of technology in the educational environment. The difficulty of effective integration of technology into the curriculum, widely reported in the literature, can be traced with few exceptions to a failure to recognize or apply these principles.

The work of Mandinach and Cline provides valuable observations into how technology is accepted and utilized by teachers in the classroom. Their findings reveal a series of stages through which teachers progress as they strive to implement technology into their instruction. It is clear that each stage has its own set of issues and challenges that must be addressed. Furthermore, the stages are developmental in the sense that each stage must be successfully addressed in order for progress to continue.

The stages of proficiency with technology and systems thinking are presented as:

  1. Survival
  2. Mastery
  3. Impact
  4. Innovation

The simplicity of these stages belies the power and depth of the principles they suggest. Indeed no program of technological integration will be successful if these principles are not recognized and conscientiously applied. A brief overview of each of the stages would be helpful.

The Survival Stage is often a struggle, hence the name, and the primary focus for the teacher is simply survival in the midst of new and uncomfortable conditions. The technology introduces a barrage of new issues, and teachers are often tempted to take refuge in the comfort and security of traditional classroom practices. Technical problems, physical arrangements, and class management concerns all demand attention as the technology is unpacked and installed.

At this stage teachers are vulnerable to two serious threats. The first is that they will simply give up, reject the technology, and revert to the comfort of traditional practices. This effectively kills the benefit that the technology can offer if effectively applied. The second threat is that the teachers will, on the surface at least, accept the technology, but relegate it to an obscure place and a benign role in their instruction. In this outcome the technology is present but not effectively utilized. This situation stunts the growth potential that is possible if the technology is wisely introduced and applied.

The Survival Stage is a high-risk area for many teachers in their acceptance of the implementation of technology. At this point many are on the ground floor, and frankly they don’t have much to lose by rejecting the transition. Later, after they have acquired a greater equity in the technology, they will have greater resilience in the face of the challenges and problems sure to come. Great care must be taken to recruit and nurture teachers in this phase of their technological initiation.

Those teachers who survive move on to the Mastery Stage. This stage is somewhat more comfortable than the previous stage as the teachers have developed strategies to cope with the changes in their instruction and have developed a working knowledge of the technology they have encountered. They are experienced in the day to day operation of the technology and have the ability to use the technology in their instructional plans in ways that are basic and varied. Teachers are accepting of the technology and are not as fearful of its presence as before. They have developed coping strategies and alternate plans to carry them through the unexpected problems lurking in the background. This stage is characterized by developing current skills and expanding to include new ones. The teachers are becoming better and more confident at what they do and are finding themselves capable over a wider range of applications. This stage develops a "Can Do" attitude and a confidence in present skills as well as the ability to meet further challenges as required. Teachers exit the Mastery Stage a confident, satisfied, and happy bunch. Yet, even greater things lie ahead for those who journey on.

The Impact Stage finds the teachers operating on a new and higher plane. Technology is now more widely infused into the daily curriculum as the teachers are at ease and skillful in managing the class and accessing the technologies. Teachers have become comfortable in a teaching style that is more learner-centered and varied. Cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and project oriented assignments are a few of the methods employed in the instructional plan. The teacher becomes more of a facilitator rather than a dispenser of knowledge. The teacher is able to empower the students by giving them control over certain aspects of their work. Standards are clearly set and schedules developed, but students are given choices as to topics, reference sources, presentation methods, and a variety of other details. The technology in this setting simply enhances the options available to the students and teachers thereby making the learning more productive and enjoyable.

At this stage teachers continue to build on present knowledge while acquiring new skills. This continues as it did at the Mastery Stage but at a higher level of sophistication. The truly distinctive feature of this stage occurs in the teacher's mind. The focus grows from the simple acquisition and development of skills to the desire and striving to increase the impact of that which is done. The focus progresses past the what or the how and moves on to questions of efficacy and efficiency. The teacher at this point is not just operating a tool in the performance of the task, but is continually honing and preparing the tool for even more effectiveness in producing the desired outcomes. Increased effectiveness in attaining desired goals is the epitome of having an impact in one’s environment.

The final level in the progression is the Innovation stage. To reach this level the teacher has thoroughly mastered the technology and has made an observable impact on the educational environment. The teacher has consistently used the technology in ways which have clearly improved the state of the learning process. This final step occurs when this master teacher is able to then evaluate the elements of the technology and modify the technology or the process to improve or expand the productivity of the educational endeavors. The teacher understands the overriding principles of the issues and is able to envision new and innovative applications and approaches to the processes previously employed. This level goes beyond productivity to what might be called meta-productivity. Meta-productivity occurs when the educator analyzes and evaluates the factors of the learning process and is able to create new and more effective approaches using current and anticipated technology. As can be imagined this level is not so much the result of being taught in the traditional sense as it is the result of time, experience, and enthusiasm for the application of technology and for education itself. Teachers who arrive at and progress through this level will do so based on a great deal of enthusiasm, curiosity, self-discipline, and creativity.

Many people would overlook these stages and their importance to the integration of technology into the curriculum. Some, perhaps, might notice the steps but pass them by as obvious or even trivial. This is a grievous error and a tragic omission. As was stated earlier in this paper, the simplicity of these stages belies the power and depth of the principles that they suggest. No program of technological integration will be successful if the principles are not recognized and conscientiously applied. Plans to integrate technology into the curriculum which bypass or fail to recognize these stages of acceptance are subject to weakness if not outright failure.

These stages of acceptance from Mandinach and Cline provide a firm and comprehensive framework for the development of goals and objectives, the planning of training programs and activities, as well as the ultimate means of evaluating the growth of the participants in the process. This is a firm philosophical foundation on which to build the plans that will unlock the power and potential of the technology to enhance the learning environment.

D. L. Robbins: Permission granted for non-commerical educational use with citation.