Examining Pervasive Technology Practices in Schools: A Mental Models Approach

Vaikakul, S. "Examining Pervasive Technology Practices in Schools: A Mental Models Approach"


Studies of computers and education have failed to account for the relevance and importance of tacit assumptions and unquestioned expectations that

underlie educational technology practices. A major premise of this dissertation is that it is these taken-for-granted interpretations of technology that most significantly influence how technology is used in the sphere of education. It is thus analytically useful to examine technology use in education by investigating the assumptions on which currently pervasive educational technology practices are built. I employ the concept of "mental models" to study current educational technology practices. An examination of the literature revealed key elements of the prevailing mental model of technology in education, which I call the mental model of computers as information technology and multimedia machines.

In this mental model, computer technology is viewed as a means to provide students and teachers with Internet connectivity and access to extensive, up-to-date information. The computer's multimedia authoring capacity can then be utilized to synthesize the wealth of information culled from Internet sources into presentations with integrated text, graphics, sound, and video. I investigated how this mental model organizes thinking about technology use and education within a large-scale initiative to implement one-to-one computing in public schools, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI).

The MLTI study highlights the pervasive influence and inherent inertia of an entrenched mental model. When users of technology draw upon a wellestablished and widely-shared mental model to drive their actions around technology, they will likely develop the tendency to view the particular mental model as the way technology is supposed to be used. Their technology experience and pattern of use, guided by the existing mental model, in turn reinforce the community's established mental model of technology use, institutionalizing a set of technology practices and routines. An entrenched mental model can have pervasive influence in limiting individual and

collective capacities to pursue possibilities outside of the established approach, or to recognize the need for such pursuit. This was observed during the first years of the MLTI, and is happening on a larger scale in the education system as more and more computers become available in classrooms.

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