Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

A feminist view on Learned tech helplessness


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

I read a really great post “Over Easy” by Alan Levine  today in which he says “educators can have a built in “Learned Technological Helplessness””

I agree. I see it all the time. I also agree with a lot of other stuff in his post, that people want things to appear easy (e.g. blog aggregator) and sometimes allow what seems complicated to stop them from taking first steps. I tried said blog aggregation following Alan’s instructions – it was not only easy (just lots of steps and i decided to enter feeds manually) but it made life easier later coz i did not have to follow each student’s blog via wordpress. I could just refer ppl to one website.

It might be an instance of what Mike Caulfield calls “hard to learn, easy to use”.

Ok ok but as ppl who are tech savvy (and i blame myself too) how much of other people’s learned tech helplessness is a result of our patronizing attitudes? Neither Alan nor Mike are among ppl i count in this category

I am projecting from my own experience as a young computer science major. I had played computers with my dad since i was a kid (Atari) and older. Took GCSE Computer Studies rather than French (hmmm i think i regret that) and went on to major in computer science in college (not coz i liked it, process of elimination).

I was top of my class and yet men and boys made me constantly feel inferior to them coz i didn’t enjoy programming or hardware like they did. It got to the point i would just “let them do it” coz they enjoyed it more than i did.

Even after i graduated w highest honors my dad (was a physician) always thought he knew more about computers than i did. Really? My husband and his friends (most medical doctors) – same thing.

It reminded me of Audrey Watters’ post, Men Teach Me Technology. Her post is much more serious and about harassment but also the small micro aggressions women endure everyday.

At some point i became sadistic at work (i distanced myself away from ed tech for a while) – i would let the men struggle with a tech issue for a while before giving them the simple solution i could see. C’mon they deserved it!

But seriously – i know i enable this attitude of men. Shame on me. As soon as i heard about #fedwiki i looked around for who else was there and i didn’t tell Kate or Audrey I would use them for tech support, I told Alan and Tim Owens. Ok, to be fair, i have tried the awesome tech support of those guys and don’t see these particular women as tech support of any kind (but our univ’s CIO is a woman and academic computing dept is full of women leaders (all of them?).

But the real issue is i played the helpless card which is silly. I actually went in and played around and gave Mike feedback which I think is gonna help others. Who says i need tech support? (well ok maybe from Mike but he’s like the teacher! Lol)

Anyway back to my own practice. How much of my own practice is patronizing to others? To my students? To faculty i support? My mom?

Still asking


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