W. Castro

Aalborg University (DENMARK)
Technology has been recognized as an instrument for supporting new ways of teaching and learning, for improving the memory retention, for increasing students' motivation and the promotion of collaborative learning and interaction; among others. On the other hand, the impact of technology in education has not reached the expected level. This tension between benefits of technology in learning and its impact in terms of scope has been studied from the perspective of barriers of teachers in technology integration. Ertmer’s approach identifies two types of barriers limiting teacher’s adoption of technology: first-order and second-orders barriers. This approach has led to a type of inquiry mainly oriented to identifying and classifying the existing barriers, first and second-order, independently one to each other.

However, human activity must not be seen as a separation between the internal and the external world or as a separation between internal beliefs and the surrounding physical world. In terms of barriers, must not be a separation in the study of faculty barriers to using technology in daily work. The present study respond to the necessity of understanding limitations of technology integration from a more comprehensive perspective, taking into consideration a broad diversity of actors participating in the activity and recognizing that any human activity is mediated by tools, affected by others; and conducted in a specific cultural context historically constructed.

Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is the theoretical stance in the study. CHAT third generation considers the human activity as the complex process of a subject motivated to accomplish a goal, mediated by tools that may be physical or mental. The mediated activity is also influenced by other members of the subject community, rules and the division of labor. A basic principle in CHAT is that the whole activity system is considered the unit of analysis. Thus, not only the subject perspective describes the surrounding reality, on the contrary; a complex reality can be represented, echoing the voices of others participating in the activity leading to discover contradictions in the activity. Contradictions can be understood as disturbances or problems affecting the fluent pathway of the activity. This paper aims to identify the different participants in the activity of using technology in Higher Education and describes the linkages between first level and second level contradictions.

This paper has been written on the results of an empirical work developed with Higher Education professors in a public university in Costa Rica. Eleven teachers participated in the seven focus groups organized. An open call to participants was made following two participation criteria: users and non-users of technology in teaching and learning. Professors proceed from different educational backgrounds, different years of teaching experience and from different departments. CHAT was also used as the analytical tool for data analysis and interpretation.

Findings show how applying different approaches of research to study barriers toward technology use open the possibility for new barriers arising and consequently spaces for further research in the development of institutional strategies to promote technology use. Moreover, a different and comprehensive configuration of the technology integration activity is described with possible implications in new professional development models.