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The impact of high touch in the high tech world of education: An issue revisited

R. M. Bollet and R. A. Cornell
Department of Educational Services
University of Central Florida

As the content and the tools of teacher education become increasingly technology based there is a residual effect possible the dehumanisation of instruction. The use of computers, videodisc, and other interactive technologies, when appropriately planned for within the context of instructional design parameters, can offset the tendency towards dehumanisation. The problem, however, lies in whether or not ISD is incorporated in the preparation of instructional materials. It frequently is not. Concomitant With the need to incorporate an appropriate ISD model is the need to "know" the diverse learning/information processing styles of our learners.

Over the years the Meyers Briggs instrument has been used to identify extant "types" of personalities. With its sixteen different cells, progress has been made in assisting learners make vocational and personal decisions. Don Lowery took the sixteen Meyers Briggs classifications and "reduced" them to four basic types called "true colours". Based on the concepts presented within the framework of True Colors, each participant will identify their own "true colours." Once this has been done the participant will then relate the True Colors information to the design of instructional materials and experiences, especially those which involve the use of technology.

When we were in Edinburgh we covered a multitude of information within a scant fifteen minutes - both the audience and we were exhausted! Now we ask you, is this any way to encourage the use of "high touch" in this whirlwind of technocracy which surrounds us!

We believe sufficiently in our message that we opted for another go at delivering it, and this time in Sydney, rather than dwell overly on the historical antecedents of how technology became entwined in how we teach, we'll simply provide a mental dash through time, lasting all of one and one-half minutes, and be done with it.

With any luck at all, we should have sufficient time remaining... all of it to address the far more critical issue of "How do we, as well as those we teach, cope with an ever increasing barrage of technostress?"

A number of options present themselves. All, however, revolve around one major individual - the learner! We'll state our "bottom line" now, should time prevent it from being repeated.

We who work in the educational technologies have the responsibility to insure that our every effort is designed to produce a learning experience which is as humanistic as possible. Doing so, however, requires insight into both we who teach (self) and those learn (others)!

Indeed, the field of instructional technology is becoming increasingly aware that, along with all of its near requisite "bells and whistles," there must be an accompanying responsibility to insure that human needs are addressed as well.

Author, humanist, computer guru, Ben Shneiderman, given the problem of technostress as it applies to the computer user (which increasing numbers of us have become) states:

Frustration and anxiety are a part of the daily life for many users of computerised information systems. They struggle to learn command language or menu selection systems that are supposed to help them to do their job. Some people encounter such serious cases of computer shock, terminal terror, or network neurosis that they avoid using computerised systems. These electronic age maladies are growing more common; but help is on the way!

...the diverse use of computers in homes, offices, factories, hospitals, electric power control centres, hotels, banks, and so on is stimulating widespread interest in human factors issues. Human engineering, which is seen as the paint put on the end of a project, is now understood to be the steel frame on which the structure is built (Shneiderman, p.v., 1987).

If we are to speak to these "human engineering" needs we simply must learn more about the learner, who he or she is, and problems they currently face. Not to do so is pedagogically unsound but cruel as well.

The need to assess our learner's background, however, is predicated on the fact that, first, we must fit a professional profile which will facilitate our own entry into the realm of instructional design. In truth, it is simply not enough for us to adopt the code of "do as I say, not as I do." If there is to be a joining between instructor and instructee, there must first be some element of compatibility extant between the two.

What do we mean when we say this? We are saying, in as direct a way possible, that there are baseline personal attributes which the instructional designer should possess if he or she is to adequately pursue the design of materials for others. Kemp appears to say it best when he states:

Not everyone can become and instructional designer. Just as the work of a medical doctor or that of an airline pilot requires that a person possess certain personal traits and act in certain ways, so there are personality factors and behaviour patterns which can indicate whether or not an individual could engage successfully in instructional development work (Kemp, 1985, p. 206).
Following this statement, Kemp lists ten traits which he deems important: Romiszowski, bridging our discussion of traits of the teacher/designer to those of the learner, examines the "missing domain" of the social, interpersonal, and interactive as applied to the act of designing instruction.

In this he indicates that, when it comes to interactive skills for the educational technologist, two tendencies from the past have conspired to impede implementation.

One is proffered by the various entrepreneurs who, confronted with what Romiszowski calls the "undefined and unanalysed area" [interactive skills], came forth with a variety of 'instant solutions', safe in the knowledge that it will be very difficult either to prove or disprove the effectiveness of their techniques.

We continue, to this day, to be bombarded with innumerable brochures which announce that, if one attend this workshop, one will become expert in "resolving employee dissatisfaction" ... "managing internal corporate conflict" ... "effecting higher motivation levels among the work force" etc. etc...

Opposing the entrepreneur mind set is, Romiszowski states, the second tendency - "a rejection of the technique(s) [as above] and of all connected with it by the 'scientific community', meaning those who like to see all things measured and reject anything that cannot for the moment be measured (1981, p. 219)."

Romiszowski concludes:

Thus there has been a tendency for educational technology to ignore the group dynamics movement and this has no doubt been helped by a philosophical polarisation between the 'social education ' supporters who are staunch believers in the process oriented approach to education (and all that implies in the way of discovery approach to all learning), and the more dyed in the wool educational technologists who want to have measurable products (objectives) defined for all learning and often find it hard to justify discovery methods on a cost effectiveness basis (1981, p.219).
We are left, then, with a polarity of opinion, even within our field, as to what might be the "best" pedagogical approach to take where designing materials in a 'humanistic' manner is concerned. One group most definitely would include such a concern, the other most likely would not, seeing such as being not cost effective nor necessary. It is to those in the latter group towards which we direct this paper.

Obviously, our prime concerns are two fold, that of the teacher and that of the learner. Assuming that we meet the Kemp criteria previously stated, and that we do plan our instructional design along the lines of Romiszowski's discovery approach to teaching, how do we access the concerns of the learner; how do we insure that what we know of the learner is also what is best included within the instructional design? Let's take these questions in order of their mention.

How can we possibly get to "know" our learners, you ask? There are a number of various tests, scales, surveys, etc, which can shed some light on this mystical identification process and tell us a great deal about who our learners are.

To name three - the Meyers Briggs provides considerable information about the style of person each of us is. So too, does the work of Dr. George Manning at Northern Kentucky with his instrument, "Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry - Which are You?"

Both offer considerable insight, to the teacher as well as to the learner, as to who one "really is".

A third instrument, one which we find most intriguing, was developed by Dr Donald Lowery and is named "True Colors". In fact, with the kind permission of Dr Lowery, we have reproduced a few of its questions and in slide format, his "true colors" cards. I will now lead you through each of the cards and provide some sample questions which, even if in skeletal form, will provide a sense of where the True Colors materials lead.

True Colors is taken from research done on the Meyers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. Where the MBTI has a matrix of 16 types, True Colors reduces them to four general "color" types. Lowery indicates that most of us have at least one preferred "color" type of behaviour and perhaps at least one secondary colon We are happiest and most content when allowed to operate from our preferred "color" mode of operandi. When the human organism is happy, content, in its preferred state, it will experience less stress and remain optimally operational. Therefore, using a format such as True Colors, may be one way to better understand our learner and keep him/her less stressed by high tech. By understanding one's preferred style and attempting to design learning activities which allow our learners the freedom to use their preferred style of learning, potential stress and uneasiness will be greatly reduced. These "high touch" factors are important to keep in mind as we continue to develop "high tech" curricula. Designing materials geared toward the users preferences will better insure decreased burnout and higher productivity.


Well, there you have it, scant period of time during which we've taken you from where you are into a truly mystical and intriguing world beyond.

We cannot turn back the hands of time, albeit, some of use might wish to. We cannot bury our heads in the collectivity of multiple sand piles and hope that all of this technology stuff will just go away. (We're sure that, at least for this group, such is far from the case!)

What each of us can do, however, is to rejoice in the knowledge that the world our learners might experience from this day forward, may well be one in which the "high touch" of humanity and compassion will take its rightful place beside that of technology in education and that both will emerge the better for having done so.


Kemp, J. E. (1985). The Instructional Design Process. New York: Harper & Row. pp. 206-207.

Lowery, D. (nd). True Colors. Laguna Beach, California: International Communication Companies.

Romiszowski, A. J. (1981). Designing Instructional Systems: Decision Making in Course Planning and Curriculum Design. Kogan Page, London: Nichols Publishing, NY. p.218.

Shneiderrnan, B. (1987). Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Please cite as: Bollet, R. M. and Cornell, R. A. (1990). The impact of high touch in the high tech world of education: An issue revisited. In J. G. Hedberg, J. Steele and M. Mooney (Eds), Converging Technologies: Selected papers from EdTech'90, 30-34. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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