I have mixed feelings this week. Again. But mostly my head is full of ideas and intersections, and questions as to whether a diffusion of innovations theory does in fact apply to a review of educational technology, or more importantly, to this course.
Here are a few things that stand out to me - in no particular order, and in a bit of a hot mess in terms of how well they are articulated, but I just need to get them OUT!
I initially balked at the idea of "diffusing innovation" in my context - as though instructional design processes are quite systematic, I find the adoption of technology for instruction to be less so
As defined by the online journal Hybrid Pedagogy (one of my favourites), "Digital Pedagogy is precisely not about using digital technologies for teaching and, rather, about approaching those tools from a critical pedagogical perspective. So, it is as much about using digital tools thoughtfully as it is about deciding when not to use digital tools, and about paying attention to the impact of digital tools on learning" (What is, n.d.) In my mind, this definition, which I subscribe to, does not align with the idea of a diffusion of innovation. I don't agree that the adoption of edtech should be as systematic as Surry (1997) describes
Jesse Stommel (2014) writes "Most digital technology, like social media or collaborative writing platforms or MOOCs, does not have its values coded into it in advance. These are tools merely, good only insofar as they are used. And platforms that do dictate too strongly how we might use them, or ones that remove our agency by too covertly reducing us and our work to commodified data, should be rooted out by a Critical Digital Pedagogy. Far too much work in educational technology starts with tools, when what we need to start with is humans." Boom!
If Stommel's assertions are with merit (and I believe they are), then most certainly you can not think that diffusion of innovation applies in this sphere - ed tech - or at least as he notes, we need to return to a more human practice of adoption and ask critical questions about our tools and our practices, and their influence (or not) on learning
George Siemens (2015) wrote a post recently, "Adios Ed Tech, Hola Something Else" where he elaborates on what I am (not so eloquently) articulating above. He notes that his framework for technologies in the edtech space is comprised of 5 key elements in the form of questions -
Does the technology foster creativity and personal expression?
Does the technology develop the learner and contribute to her formation as a person?
Is the technology fun and engaging?
Does the technology have the human teacher and/or peer learners at the centre?
Does the technology consider the whole learner?
These are the questions (and more!) we can be asking ourselves in the support of teaching and learning with technology.
Yet, on considering a recent technology adoption project I led at work, I realize in some ways, I *do* follow a process of diffusion. Now, let me say in advance that I had evaluated the technology on its merit, and after said evaluation, I believed it to be of value for our instructors. I approached 2 faculty members (innovators) and proposed (knowledge and persuasion) a proof of concept activity over a single semester. Following its success, these 2 faculty members were convinced (decision) and we on-boarded ~10 colleagues (early adopters) for a larger scale pilot (implementation). Following this we experienced our period of rapid growth, when the College where we were piloting decided to adopt a license for the technology and we invited several more instructors to use the system (early majority). We are now entering the fourth semester of the project, and I am noticing that even more instructors will use the platform in the coming semester (late majority?). Long story short, am I just kidding myself that I don't work this was? I would argue that while it seems to fit, for me the above story is about process and evidence not diffusion.
I will also add the following, an excerpt from a discussion board post around the challenges of supporting the "middle" on campus. The "middle" is the chasm pictured below. ".We have the innovators on my campus for sure - they are a small minority who will innovate with or without my help - but they are also collaborators and so I do make some time working on projects (both new and existing) as certainly some magic can come from these collaborations. When I think of laggards in my work, we often don't spend any time - at least in so far as trying to encourage educational technology adoption...Our challenge is in the "middle" and so I just a similar matrix [Ansoff] to decide how to organize my time to ensure that a diffusion of innovation sees maximum gain....hard work when the middle is around 80% on my campus!"
My last statement above is disingenuous and I'm not sure why I said it (fatigue?). I want to see teaching and learning innovations on my campus, and I do believe that technology can benefit teaching and learning activities if implemented thoughtfully and after asking some of these critical questions. But, as noted above, sometimes the answer is in "deciding when not to use digital tools" (What is, n.d.),
You might well argue that we were not learning about diffusion of innovation etc. in this course as a lens for adoption, but more to understand a couple of theoretical underpinnings for how innovation *happens*, but I'm still not convinced....not convinced of the merit of this learning in this course, not convinced of whether this concept applies in my own context - innovators will always be innovators, or as Stommel (2014) notes " [t]eachers teach; pedagogues teach while also actively investigating teaching and learning" so it is the work of the pedagogue to innovate (and/or arguably the learners), not the role of the technology.
And now a short note about the Diffusion Simulation Game.
I actually enjoyed playing this game. As mentioned on the course discussion forums, perhaps it resonated with me due to my background in higher education publishing sales. Though it that role I wasn't attempting to work to see a single innovation adopted across an organization, the approach was in many ways the same, in particular when large committee decisions were a reality. I actually felt like I was doing quite "well" (oh, and I'm also competitive), but my impatience finally got the better of me - when I had the principal on site I forced adoption thus ending the game. If only I had worked at it until June! I am trying to think of areas in our curriculum where this game might be useful....it was certainly useful to bridge the theory-practice gap and got me thinking about my role on campus as an instructional technologist and whether it applied...(more below). All in all it was fun. I might even play it again!
So what did I learn?
Please tell me that it is evident above.
Andreas (2006). Electric Sun [Photograph]. CC BY-SA 2.0. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/eCWYx
Hancock, D. (2007). Too many surreal shots of the Detroit airport tunnel - 6 [Photograph]. CC BY-ND-NC 2.0 Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/24L6ey