Preliminary TecU Field Research

Preliminary TecU Field Research

By Cathrine Hasse og Jamie Wallace

Throughout May 2011 - August 2011 researchers working on TecU project undertook a series of field research visits to a number of schools and hospitals in the Copenhagen area. This preliminary empirical study focusing upon the use of technology within professional practice is intended to provide a range of insight suitable for setting the scene for following research efforts. During this period the team of researchers have been meeting to plan methodology and to share initial foresights and findings. The field work began with ethnographic observations of professionals at these sites and was conducted in close collaboration with the institutions. These become the basis for the development of a questionnaire supported by the ongoing literature studies and a research ‘mini lab’ attended by a range of Danish and International researchers.

[Technological Literacy Seminar 16 May 2011 DPU – A review of Definitions]

The study was deliberately kept open in character to maintaining a broad perspective to the kind of situations relating to the adoption of technologies integrated within everyday practice. Initial observations in conjunction with ongoing theoretical developments became the basis for a series of interviews conducted with teachers and nurses within these institutions, a sub group of which were professionals having positions that influenced the implementation or management of technologies. Focus was placed upon both an initial understanding of technology across the two professions of nursing and teaching together with a more general and basic research endeavor of what technology was understood to be. Specifically how it played a role with the everyday learning processes of working life and its influence upon the continuation of lifelong learning and the changing character of working life.

Generally the pilot study sought to clarify:

  • How technologies were adopted during the execution of the working day and what they were used for?
  • Ways in which technologies influenced attitudes towards professional practice and professional identity and ways they affected factors such as the collaboration between fellow workers and between them and their pupils or patients.
  • Ways in which technology and professional practice were related through both formal and informal local organisational and cultural or social structures.
  • The means through which workers had learnt and developed their skills of technology use and application.

Examples were sought of formal and informal aspects of learning found during everyday life in terms of both human-machine relations and technologies mutual relations as were incidents of technology use and how these were comprehended within broader issues of work.

All those interviewed showed an unpredicted willingness to reflect deeply upon the influence of technology upon their working day and shared many examples of how technology enhances and changes the nature of their practices. Negative as well as positive opinions revealed something of the complexities involved with technological use such as what is understood as the effective or ineffective use of time or the extent to which experiences of technological implementation colour the attitude towards their use.

  • "I often think it was easier when it was just a piece of paper we used.... it takes much longer these days ...I could have been doing something else" – senior nurse (6:59 Rembrandt)

The time needed for learning particular skills that often comes in the wake of new technologies or preparing particular activities appear to change patterns of working such as the balance between home and working life. This poses questions related to the relevance of adopting time demanding new techniques in light of the improved outcomes they might provide.

  • "have children learnt more in 3 or 4 minutes through an activity that took 3 hours to prepare by computer at home, than could have been done in some other way?" – mid career teacher (45:18 Cézanne)

Reflections upon the use of technology provoke practitioners to consider what the essence of their work is. To what extent technology plays an essential collaborative role within practice or alternatively how it remains merely supportive of the fundamental aims of the profession.

  • "to be able to look at a patient and see if they are alright or not hasn't been helped by technology... it's a question of knowledge" – nurse (33:24 Goyer)

The TecU preliminary field research has made visible technologically initiated change processes, learning found within working culture, working practice and professional know-how, drawing attention to the increasingly intertwined effects of technological change, culture and working practice and process. Providing essential new data necessary for the tuning of the TecU research design it represents a move to understanding better the entanglements of working life so that future teachers and nurses can be better prepared for the encompassing effects of technology without losing sight of the aims of their professional practice.