Current teachers have a variety of stances on instructional technology. We may be the last generation of teachers to consider teaching with and without technology as fundamentally different.
Students currently view our segmented stance on using and not using technology as old-fashioned.
Part of my job is instructional technology, the other part is helping teachers to manage change in education. There are really only three types of teachers: those who celebrate, those who tolerate, and those who undermine the movement of instructional technology into classrooms. Everett Rogers’ (2003) diffusion of innovations theory illustrates the rate at which new ideas and technology spread. Everett Rogers book on the subject rings true, was first published in 1962, his book is now in a fifth edition.
Rogers quantifies the bell curve which is the adoption of new ideas: 2.5%
Innovators, 13.5% Early Adopters, 34% Early Majority, 34% Late Majority, and 16% Laggards. In schools, teachers can provide very accurate illustrations of each category. The Innovators and Early Adopters barely need encouragement or permission to start using new technologies. Whereas your Majorities appreciate waiting for permission, mandates, or guidelines; interestingly some value being “early’ or “late” in this category. The Laggards are often predisposed to not be interested; they only comply when forced to do so. The real question is how to operate in the Chasm which exists between Early Adopters and the Early Majority.
Teachers who celebrate technology are easy to invite to try new technologies. Sometimes the Innovators and Early Adopters like trying the technology for the novelty; this is a benefit as this group can give feedback on the product and user experience with their strong technological background.
This group is characterized by a self-efficacy, the belief that one has the specific skills to engage in a recommended behavior (Bandura, 1986). This group is not slowed down by “learning” the technology, they are able to easily integrate it into their classroom. This group is important because they can help an instructional technologist identify the next most likely adopters of any technology.
Social networks can work both to propel teachers toward innovation, such as Twitter, or to repel them from technologies if a luddite social group. So starting with the Innovators and Early Adopters who celebrate technology allows nascent field testing with little downside, but also offers the benefit of knowing which specific teachers can be invited to try the technology next.
This is the most important group.
No movement happens without engaging those who only tolerate instructional technology.
As the Majority, they are always right in the sense that they represent what most educators in that group are doing. To convince them to change is monumental and involves targetted marketing to this group. Allow your Early adopters and Innovators to identify your Early targets and surround them with support and reassurance in multiple ways, multiple times.
Often versioning of an innovation may be useful to offer to those who encounter adoption in a less enthusiastic manner. Offer scaled-down versions of the product to limit training and get them directly into the technology. Also, try to co-teach with them to show how technology enhances their content. As possible, plan with them or their team to integrate the technology slowly and methodically into the classroom.
Access to the diffusion process can also mitigate how quickly more teachers are brought onboard. Is the technology available through an existing portal/network/place? Or is it buried behind multiple, not widely-known links? Instead of relying on existing school leadership structures to disseminate the technology, who may not be a consistent factor school-to-school, make this technology directly available to all teachers. This may mean social media, web site, existing portal/LMS, or QR codes in the mail room.
Structural characteristics of individuals (Rogers, 2003) – which may or not be permanent – often constrain adoption. The scarcity of time may force some teachers to fail to adopt the recommended technologies or strategies. This could be situational; while a teacher is in graduate school, attending to family concerns, or otherwise is overloading in one area of his/her life that teacher may not be capable of attending to new learning. Be aware of any of these factors in your target market and allow those with such characteristics to come back to this when they are ready.
Openness to change is a relatively fixed characteristic of individuals according to Rogers (2003). Acknowledge that some individuals may only use the technology you are promoting if their Principal mandates it. It is a more efficient use of your time to move the Majority to the technology and allow the administrator to worry about moving the Laggards to the technology.
Sometimes Laggards spent their energy on reasons or examples of when the technology did not work. This is a trap. Do not engage any more than necessary. Tell them the truth: “That has not been my experience” or “You should talk to Mr. SoAndSo about how it has worked for his class” just do not get into a battle with them. The Principal already knows how to work with this individual no doubt.
However, with the Laggards comes a new opportunity for the instructional technologist, here you can support building administrators! By documenting the technology use, best practices, and limitations throughout the onboarding process, you now have guidance for him/her to use with the building Majority and Laggards.
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Educational technology is not going anywhere. It will continue to increase past the novelty, past the optionality, beyond the control of any one teacher. The best way to use technology is to use it on your own terms. I recommend an earlier adoption to try out several ways of teaching with any technology. Try technology out in a variety of ways to find your perfect teaching fit before any technology is mandated into your curriculum or classroom.
Bandura, A. (1986). The social foundation of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition. New York, NY: Free Press.