Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Barriers to Change in ICT

Do ICTs in and of themselves lead to more constructivist styles of teaching, and if so, how does this affect the diffusion of innovation in a traditional context, such as in a developing country? The change in pedagogy could be the biggest change of all, rather than getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of the hardware/software.

While researching for a Masters assignment about ICT diffusion in Africa (the NEPAD E-schools Initiative in particular), I came across this article by Bude Su, which looks at exactly this issue, comparing traditional and constructivist approaches. 

Barriers to adoption involving the technology itself (and the training and support they entail) are called first-order barriers, which are solved by the introduction of the technology and support systems. In other words, if there is no access to the internet, this first order barrier can be solved by introducing wireless capability, for example.

Second-order barriers, on the other hand, are those which are "deeply rooted in teachers’ pedagogical and psychological beliefs about teaching and learning" and these barriers are more fundamental. One of the most tragic responses to the introduction of the amazing technology we find ourselves surrounded by is to apply their use based on the old assumptions about how learning happens. Su argues that only a systemic approach is likely to overcome these barriers and this takes time and commitment.

"Making such fundamental changes is surely a challenge for many teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders. However, we know such a systemic change is doable as there are successful cases in the literature. Fullan (1993, p.26) remind us over a decade ago that “successful schools do not have fewer problems than other schools – they just cope with them better”. If educators use a systemic approach to deal with both first- and second-order barriers, success will ultimately come."

Any implementation of e-learning initiatives, whether in developing or developed countries must focus as much, if not more, on the pedagogy (how to fish) than the tools (the fish). 

Su, B. (2009). Effective Technology Integration: Old Topic, New Thoughts. International Journal of Education and Development using ICT [Online], 5(2). Available: 

Image credit: Computer Lab, Vukani Primary School, by teachandlearn,


  1. This is so true - I am using the 'teach a village to fish' metaphore a lot at the moment when I speak around the place. The pedagogy (or framework as I prefer it) has always been the most important, but, now that the tools are becoming more and more simple all the time, I am perplexed to see schools who focus on them without developing their framework for eLearning first.

  2. Thanks Dorothy. It's like having lots of furniture but no house, isn't it? Perhaps it's a novelty thing, with so many new applications coming out all the time. If one's framework is sound, then how to use the tools will be obvious, but also with plenty of scope for innovation, because the potential is easily envisaged.

  3. Maybe they need to try their hand at Andragogy ?
    A 21st century approach to educating children wo requires a balance of Andragogy and Pedagogy in the ICT mix...

  4. Thanks Anon,

    I certainly think 21st century learning needs to contain aspects of andragogy, as you mention, such as self-direction, relevance and experience as a basis for learning. But surely pedagogy itself is being defined more and more in these ways anyway? Are children becoming more and more like adults in their learning, or are we just expecting them to?

    Thanks for your comment.