Technology Acceptance in Education

The psychology of accepting technologies within the education sector

Published: 11 September 2012

Traditional technology acceptance models in the education sector have focused on how individuals come to accept and use specific technologies such as interactive wide boards, interactive projectors, tablet PCs, desktop computers or the World Wide Web. We all acknowledge that there are numerous factors that influence or determine whether or not we use a new technology. The first of these factors is the perceived usefulness of the technology; namely, how will it enhance a teacher’s or a pupil’s ability to teach or to learn. The second factor is focused on how easy the technology is to use[1] within an education setting. The third factor and perhaps the most decisive focuses on social influences; such as the emotional effort that individuals or the educational establishment have made in procuring the technology and the influence that other individuals, institutions and the media have had on our emotions and opinions when deciding to adopt or reject a new technology. The decisions made by early adopting educational institutions are increasingly influencing technology choices of the majority of schools. The decision to accept, delay or block the introduction of technologies or services in the education setting is thus determined by the availability of information and by the predilections and previous experiences of key decision makers in any organisation. It is also determined by pedagogy and the organisational culture of the school. In order to simplify the discussion I have decided to exclude variables such as opportunity cost and the financial cost of procuring and implementing the technological solution.

Up to now I have explored the human or psychological factors that determine the adoption of a new technology in an educational setting. Nevertheless objective qualifying criteria for adopting new technologies should not be ignored. Technological adoption must be supported by specific qualification requirements; namely the ability for the new technology to meet certain technical and functional requirements of the educational establishment. The technology (be it hardware or software) should first and foremost meet the institution's technical and functional requirements before being considered for adoption. If all other factors are met it must be noted that the educational criteria for accepting a new technology takes precedence. Schools need to assess the educational value of technologies and services before considering the technical and financial viability of various technologies in the classroom. Schools need to think more broadly when assessing given technologies or services. It is vital that school leaders support and sponsor a technical solution that supports and strengthens the wider educational vision of their schools. The choice of technologies can have small or profound influences for a school. For instance, the decisions can provide improved access to hardware and networked services; it could excite and engage learners or it could fundamentally alter the relationship between teacher and learner. For these reasons schools need to widen their assessment criteria before determining the choice of technologies or solutions[2].

But what happens when technologies are not accepted by schools? What are the reasons for delaying or rejecting given technologies in a school setting? What are the consequences of barring specific technologies or online services within a school? A common example that is often cited is the resistance to the use of social media and video sharing sites within the education setting. Schools qualify their objections to social media by stating that it distracts students from their learning because it reduces student engagement and participation in and out of the classroom. For similar reasons, the use of smart phones is also frowned upon by the vast majority of schools. Furthermore, school leaders are reluctant to allow access to social media, video sharing sites and smart phones because they are seen as a threat to student safety. Companies have recognised the education sector’s concerns for student safety and there are a number of e-safety solutions[3] that could enable school leaders to think again before blocking technologies or online services from their schools.

Rapid technological change over shorter periods of time has been the hallmark of technological development within the education sector over recent years and it shows no signs of abating. Evidence suggests that technological development will continue to grow exponentially. With this back drop it is vital for schools to have an effective change management strategy to support the introduction of new and emerging technologies. It is important to recognise that the benefits accrued by introducing new technologies into the education setting can only be realised if technological change is embedded within the context of a school’s overall ethos, aims and pedagogy. Technological change must be supported by a favourable and supportive environment at the school if it is to succeed. If changes in school pedagogy and education management take time to evolve it is no surprise to learn that the introduction of new education technologies and services can take time to be realised. Lethargic or delayed introduction of new technologies within a school could arise because there are inherent weaknesses in the management structure that sponsors and supports the introduction of new technology within the school setting.

The introduction of new technologies into the education sector such as Android, Apple and Windows tablet devices; cloud computing; and forthcoming advances in mainstream operating systems such as Windows 8 and the use 3D technologies in the classroom will place growing pressure on school senior leadership teams to drive forward innovation and to encourage technological acceptance within their workforce. The management boards of many schools will also need to accept that change and technological acceptance is sometimes better achieved from the bottom up. A management team’s backing for small and large scale technology projects will be strengthened if they have the support of their teachers and learners. Occasionally leadership teams need to recognise that technological change is less about them and more about their colleagues and pupils in the classroom.

The contribution that technology has made across the broader education sector can only be understood once we have seen widespread adoption and use of these technologies. The association between technological change and new and emerging educational paradigms cannot be underestimated. If the link between progressive pedagogy and advances in new technologies is strong then the pace of technological acceptance and educational innovation will be rapid.


  1. Fred Davis developed the technology acceptance model in 1989 and it attempts to explain how technology becomes to be adopted by individuals and the wider population. (Source: Wikipedia)
  2. Suggested reading on technology acceptance in education: Prof. Timothy Teo.
  3. A selection of companies specialising in e-safety: Securus, Bloxx and Garda.