I thought this was rather interesting as it reflects partially what is being said repeatedly in the data analysis of my open source research project. While this is nothing profound, or unexpected, people, especially adults, have trouble moving to the Linux desktop because “it’s different”. However, making the interface more similar to what they know and expect may lead to greater adoption.
Fedora XP or “How I Got My Wife To Love Linux” demonstrates how even minor Linux modifications such as simulating the Windows “start” button (although my firm belief is that the Windows start button was never natively intutive, only intuitive by massive social repetition) could lead to wider acceptance of desktop Linux.
From my own experience and research, I know that this familiarity factor is very relevant to wide-scale technology adoptions in K-12 education. As a generality, teachers don’t like and will resist change. Making technology intuitive may not always be enough … familiarity, at least in the short term, may sometimes count for more.
The familiarity factor is certainly something I’ve had to address with teachers and students from changes in Operating Systems (Solaris and Windows) to a shift from office suites (Corel to Microsoft) and even browsers (Netscape to IE). Rather than try and emphasize similarities between environments, I’ve chosen to emphasize the constant change that is characteristic of technology.
To me, it’s like travelling. Those who travel with expectations that it will be the same as their home or culture are often dissappointed. Those who embrace what is different and learn to appreciate those differences enjoy the experience.
This is the attitude that in the long run will allow teachers and students to deal most effectively with technology.
Thanks for the post Dean. You say it well … I really wish we could get teachers to “embrace what is different and learn to appreciate those differences.” It’s certainly the ideal, in my mind. It’s just much more difficult, sometimes, in practice. However, sounds like through this very positive attitude, you’ve found some success. And certainly, if this type of approach toward technology is persistent in the classroom, students would certainly reap the benefits as well.
It took a rather spectacular disk failure on the Windows partition of our dual-boot machine for my wife to even entertain the idea of venturing into my Linux playground. I have KDE, with some eye candy but not too much.
For her, working from home, features were more important than look/feel. Once I convinced her that Citrix would still work fine and that she could open Word documents in OpenOffice, she was fine. I can safely put off the purchase of a new hard drive.
Many of those unfamiliar with computers, no matter the age, haven’t developed a big-picture intuition. To them, knowing how to print in Microsoft Word is not the same as knowing how to print in Microsoft Excel, or any other program. If professional development can facilitate the development of that intuition, rather than just train on the processes …
Incidentally, my 2-year old son prefers KDE. There’s no Tuberling on Windows. I found him in the den yesterday, sitting in the computer chair and calling “Tato guy!” at the top of his lungs.