Aesthetics in Technology Integration

My University has recently upgraded to a new online system for its academic services. This morning, I wanted to enroll for a new class for the Fall semester and found myself struggling with almost everything this new service offers to its “customers”. After about 30 minutes of frustration (and boredom) I expressed my feelings to the world on Twitter :

This experience made me think about technology resistance in education, particularly the “teacher resistance to technology.” Assuming that all other support systems, such as professional development, access to technology and resources, a caring teaching and learning environment, etc., are in place, I think:

Teachers are not resisting to technology; they are resisting to the feeling they get when using technology.

And they have every right to feel that way, especially when using tools and services that are designed with “no tie-ins to human feelings, psychology.”

Aesthetics matters. How we feel about a tool or service matters, even more so than their efficiency and ease of use.

Going beyond aesthetics, Ted Nelson offers the term “fantics” to describe the “art and science of getting ideas across, both emotionally and cognitively.”  He says,

The character of what gets across is always dual; both the explicit structures, and feelings that go with them. These two aspects, exactness and connotation, are an inseparable whole; what is conveyed generally has both. The reader or viewer always gets feelings along with information, even when the creators of the information think that its “content” is much more restricted.” (p. 319)

Nelson then talks about how technical manuals might carry with them an air of authority, non-imagination, competence, etc., depending on the readers’ perceptions of how the information is presented. Because, he says, “people receive not only cognitive structures, but impressions, feelings and senses of things.”

Perhaps we need to pay more attention to teachers’ “impressions, feelings, and senses of things” when thinking about technology integration. Need to pay more attention to the “lived experience” and understand and respect the fact that what works for one teacher may not work for another teacher at all…

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