Seels & Richey (1994) define utilization as "the act of using processes and resources for learning" (p. 46). The AECT (2001) has identified design as one of five domains that define the knowledge base of and functions performed by instructional technologists.
The utilization domain includes four subdomains:
3.1 Media Utilization: "[T]he systematic use of resources for learning" (Seels & Richey, 1994, p. 46).
3.2 Diffusion of Innovations: "[T]he process of communicating through planned strategies for the purpose of gaining adoption" (Seels & Richey, 1994, p. 46).
3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization: "[U]sing instructional materials or strategies in real (not simulated) settings. Institutionalization is the continuing, routine use of the instructional innovation in the structure and culture of an organization" (Seels & Richey, 1994, p. 47).
3.4 Policies and Regulations: "[T]he rules and actions of society (or its surrogates) that affect the diffusion and use of Instructional Technology" (Seels & Richey, 1994, p. 47).
Utilization may be an area in which many instructional technologists with whom I have worked in the past have struggled the most. It can be difficult to look at technology from the learner or user's perspective, particularly if you as the instructional technologist find using technology easy. One of the reasons I chose to pursue a degree in the ITMA program is that I found others often told me I did explain technology well and was helpful in educating learners on its uses. I felt that if I could help others have better experiences with technology, they might see its benefits and use it more. Perhaps because I feel especially attuned to the needs of learners, especially learners who have difficulties, I found utilization to be the domain I struggled with the least. Determining how learners might use the materials I created guided me a great deal as I designed and developed the materials.
Using an RSS feed reader is second nature to me because I have been using one for at least six years; however, I know that the concept is new to some people, including the learners targeted in my Project and Report, which focused on creating and using websites and podcasts. I created a video tutorial designed to help users learn to use Google Reader, one of the most common RSS feed readers. My goal was to approach the technology with the users in mind—their experiences, prior knowledge, and skill level. Because I felt this video was a good example of using media as a resource for learning with the goal of helping learners to decide and to implement a tool, I selected it as one of my artifacts.
At the beginning of my ITMA studies, I took Introduction to Instructional Technology. At that time, I felt frustrated by my own school's lack of interest in technology. I felt alone among my colleagues in terms of the technology integration and usage that marked my classes. Over time, I think my colleagues have changed their minds (see Reflections page), and I would like to think that I have been a part of the reason for our school's new interest in and engagement with technology. However, my responses to the article by Reigeluth (1994) stand as a good example of my thinking on the kind of change I wanted to see taking place in my school.
As part of Educational Research, I examined several articles discussing online collaboration with Web 2.0 tools. I am interested in such collaborations. My own forays into collaboration have not worked out very well, and it was my hope that my research could tell me more about where I was going wrong with collaborations. The articles I examined discussed some of the stages involved in adopting online collaboration tools as well as some of the difficulties that can arise, which are important to consider in adopting these technologies.
My Project and Report, a professional development program for teachers that focused on creating and using websites and podcasts, is a good example of materials and strategies used in a real setting. I created the program with my own colleagues in mind. They told me that they wanted to learn about creating websites and podcasts. The program is designed to help them implement this innovation in their own classrooms and through their implementation, to institutionalize the use of websites and podcasts in my school as a whole.
Because teachers need to know copyright and fair use regulations, especially if the materials they are going to use will be published on their websites, I included a module in my program that addressed these rules and assessed learners on their understanding of the rules.
I also explored policies and regulations as part of my final in Telecommunications and Distance Learning. I discussed common issues that distance learners face and how they compare to/contrast with traditional learners as well as considerations that need to be balanced when selecting distance learning technology.