Towards a Theory of Learned Technological Helplessness

Towards a Theory of Learned Technological Helplessness

Joy E. Harris (University of Missouri - Kansas City, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch006
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This research attempts to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a proposed theory of Learned Technological Helplessness (LTH) in female adult learners. The theory posits that females’ technological ability and technological self-efficacy (TSE) are impacted by socialization into traditional gender roles. Analysis of the intercorrelations between the individual’s gendered characteristics (as measured by the Bem Sex Role Inventory or BSRI) and the participant’s computer self-efficacy (as measured by the General Computer Self-Efficacy score) indicates that several masculine characteristics are statistically significant predictors of TSE. The qualitative results demonstrate that women consider men to be more adept at using technology. This feminist emancipatory study provides useful information to adult educators interested in how females perceive their technological ability and capacity to learn using technology, and provides the groundwork for other researchers interested in exploring LTH.
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It is a widely held belief among 21stcentury educators that all persons above the age of three need technology skills, as evidenced by the National Educational Technology Standards. These national standards outline what children should know and be able to do with technology at all ages. Following is a list of the technology standards for Pre-K through 2nd grade:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technological Self-Efficacy: One’s belief about one’s ability to succeed at a specific task that involves the use of technological tools.

Semi-Structured Interviews: An interview technique that allows for a natural conversational tone while asking the same questions of each participant.

Phenomenology: A qualitative research technique that examines phenomena from the perspective of the person experiencing it.

Member-Checking: A qualitative research technique wherein the researcher compares her understanding of what an interview participant said or meant with the participant to ensure that the researcher’s interpretation is accurate.

Autodidactic: Self-taught.

A Posteriori: Knowledge that depends on evidence or experience.

Learned Technological Helplessness: A state of learned helplessness that applies specifically to technology usage.

Informal Teacher: An adult who teaches another adult in a setting other than an educational institution.

Technology: Electronic machines, components, and wireless devices used for personal, educational, and professional productivity, as well as those used for entertainment and the infrastructures behind such devices.

Vicarious Helplessness: A type of helplessness that is learned by observing the failure of others rather than through personal experience.

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