What do problem solvers, go-getters, and DIYers have in common? AGENCY
Teaching with emergent technology is NOT about Teaching with emergent technology. When we figure things and/or get things done, we tend not to feel as though they simply happen to us, instead we feel as though we are in charge. The sense of agency refers to this feeling of being in the driving seat when it comes to our actions (1). In an age where we see the best moments of people’s lives through social media, we must be more transparent with our learners about the real-ness of life and the sticktoittiveness necessary to get things done. We need to provide access to our agency.
The Power of ACCESS
We all know that access to a home library can have a powerful effect on children. My mother would frequently take us to the library to pick out whatever books we wanted. A parenting strategy she learned from her mother. These books provides me with access to dynamic places and opened doors for imagination, creativity, and critical thinking.
A new study finds that simply growing up in a home with enough books increases adult literacy and math prowess.
- A child growing up in a home with at least 80 books will have greater literacy and numeracy in adulthood.
- A home library can promote reading and math skills more than college alone can.
- Growing up in a pro-learning home leads to a lifetime of knowledge-seeking. (2)
Access to books amplifies our capacity to learn.
But access does not stop there in education, access to emergent technology is very important. Our approach to emergent technologies in learning is very important. We don’t talk about integrating reading into our teaching, we have adopted reading as a meaningful part of teaching. It’s part of our teaching practice. The word “integration” connotes coercion without choice, whereas, the word “adoption” conveys agency and choice. We need to be cognizant of adopting emergent technology rather than simply integrating it. This conscious choice directly relates to the type and quality of access we provide our students to these tools.
We know that closing the digital divide means providing access to emergent technologies, and the SKILLS to leverage them, for our students and their future.
My dad always had computers around the house. I was never told I needed to learn coding or embrace this as the work tool of the future. I just had access. And that access has led to increased comfort around using computers on a daily basis.
We understand the benefits of having access to the internet as well, it increases educational and career opportunities. However, we still need to work to provide access to more people in what we call the “digital divide.” While the digital divide continues, it has, by all indications, decreased in recent years. Measuring the number of people without access to computers and the Internet does not fully describe the digital divide. Many researchers are now shifting from focusing merely on access to focusing on digital literacy. (3)
Access to emergent technologies amplifies our SKILLS.
But access is not enough to bring about the paradigm shifts necessary to change education for the better.
Early research that compared traditional classroom-based instruction to technology-supported instruction and found no significant benefit from adding technology to instruction (4). This might seem counterintuitive to our arguments for the educational benefits of new technology, but a deeper dive into the research reveals important, productive insights: A particular technology used in classrooms is not as important as other instructional factors, such as pedagogy and course design…This is telling us what we already know, the importance of the teacher and that good teaching comes first. As teachers, our responsibility is to better understand emergent technologies as tools to improve learning and amplify good teaching practices.
It is in the adoption, rather than integration, of emergent technologies that we will start to see a meaningful shift in practice. Simply integrating new technology will not change our practices. It’s adopting a positive approach to innovation, and providing our learners with meaningful access to it, that will lead to a paradigm shift to better meet the needs of students in the future.
The benefits around access to books and closing the digital divide are clear. But there’s more for us to do. Teaching with emergent technology is NOT about teaching with emergent technology. We need to guide our students to a A SENSE OF AGENCY by providing them with access to our own agency in action.
Agency is about having a desire, making plans, and carrying out actions. The sense of agency plays a pivotal role in cognitive development, and includes the ability to recognize oneself as the agent of a behavior and as an empowered independent. Agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. Agency is one’s independent capability or ability to act on one’s will. (5)
Each of us exercises the power of agency when we look up how to do things. We use YouTube videos to figure out how to repair a refrigerator or dishwasher. This is us embracing our own sense of agency.
Agency is the attitude that you can figure things out. Psychologist’s work in positive perceived self-efficacy sheds light on the concept of Agency by illustrating that we can LEARN to not be concerned with the number of skills that we have, but with WHAT WE BELIEVE WE CAN DO with what we have… under a variety of circumstances. (6)
- People who doubt their capabilities
- shy away from difficult tasks.
- give up quickly.
- have low aspirations.
- dwell on deficiencies
- focus on negative consequences of failure.
- thus, they undermine their efforts by
- diverting attention from effective thinking.
- being slow to recover from setbacks.
- falling easy victims to stress and depression.
- People with strong belief in capabilities
- approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered.
- set challenging goals and maintain commitment to those goals.
- have high effort.
- thus they:
- think strategically.
- attribute failure to insufficient effort.
- quickly recover after failure.
- reduce stress.(6)
Positive Perceived Self-Efficacy toward our abilities is Agency.
Growing up, I would help my dad repair the family cars, everything from changing the breaks to swapping out engines. My role was to hand my dad the correct tools. We would sweat and toil together trudging through all kinds of grease and oil… yes, there are different kinds. I would not say that this taught me HOW to repair a car, but I learned that it could be done. I learned, through ACCESS to my Dad’s AGENCY, that I can use the skills I had to get things done I could read a repair manual, I could use a tool… I learned that I CAN DO IT.
An increased sense of Agency will foster an ethic of self-sufficiency, promoting the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks for themselves.
ACCESS TO OUR AGENCY will amplify our students preparedness for THEIR Future of Work (#FOW)
We do not know all of the jobs that will exist for our students even in the relatively near future. We should not train our students to replicate our tasks that may soon be irrelevant. In fact many of our more mundane task are soon to be automated. The automation of tasks takes a lot of control out of our hands, simple things like auto-correct for typing and complex things like self-driving cars are examples of control headed toward automation. Automation raises concerns over agency, if we adopt technologies that automate, we are choosing to give up some control.(7) This is a bit scarier than you may think, for example one area where automation is well-established is aircraft control, much of the pilot’s work is carried out be a computer. One research study into the different levels of automation and the effects on pilots found as automation increased, the sense of agency decreased (thankfully the research was done is flight simulators) (8). Studies like this remind us to be cognizant of our agency as it relates to future automation and to teach our future to be prepare. How?
Teach Agency in our own efforts to adopt emergent technology. As professional educators, we want to deliver polished lessons where “nothing can go wrong,” in effect, we are trying to deliver a social-media, picture-perfect lesson. The design of these lessons often leads us to a state of analysis paralysis actually prohibiting us from trying new things. We must be transparent with our learners about the real-ness of life and the sticktoittiveness necessary to overcome obstacles and challenges in our ever day (even our teaching). We need to provide access to our agency.
In an age where trying to master the latest and greatest is nearly impossible, our new norm is to innovate regularly. And this process must take place transparently in order to teach our students to prepare for a future that we can’t even fully conceptualize. Trying new technology, investigating the relevance of a new tool, and having reflective dialogue around the value of what we are doing, must all be transparent. Teaching with emergent technology is NOT about Teaching with emergent technology… it is about providing students with Access to Agency. So that through vicarious experience and hands-on effort they will learn Agency and amplify their preparedness for their future.
1. Moore JW. What Is the Sense of Agency and Why Does it Matter?. Front Psychol. 2016;7:1272. Published 2016 Aug 29. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01272. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5002400/>
2. Berman, R. Big Think. “A home library can have a powerful effect on children.” Big Think. 13 Oct. 2018. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/mind-brain-home-library-benefits>
3. Wharton Public Policy Initative. “Bridging the Digital Divide.” Wharton Public Policy Initative. n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/2420-bridging-the-digital-divide/for-students/blog/news>
4. Johnson, S. D. and Aragon, S. R. “An Instructional Strategy Framework for Online Learning Environments,” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2003, no. 100, 31–43, https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.117. Wiley Online Library. 20 Nov. 2003. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ace.117>
5. Wikipedia Contributors. “Agency (sociology).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Dec. 2019. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)>
6. Banduar, A. “Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control – Chapter 2.” Uky.edu. 15 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/effbook2.html> Reviewed by Valiante, G.
7. Moore J. W. (2016). What Is the Sense of Agency and Why Does it Matter?. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1272. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01272. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5002400/>
8. Berberian B, Sarrazin JC, Le Blaye P, Haggard P.”Automation technology and sense of control: a window on human agency. – PubMed – NCBI.” PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34075. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034075. Epub 2012 Mar 30. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22479528>