From Innovation to Adoption of Technology

I was having lunch with @gary_kern recently and we talked about the difference between innovation for and adoption of technology in education.  Innovation involves creating something new, a method, a model, a thing while adoption is the implementation or use of a method, model, or thing.  Gary and I talked about what to call an innovation involving the educational use of technology.  Is it a model, a program, a project, or something else?  The question is, “what will help us take an innovation to full adoption within schools?”  Does it matter what we call it?  Will calling it something like “a program” help people more easily connect with and adopt it?

When talking about an innovation, we often talk about it being transformative or causing a transformation.  For example in our School District we often refer to laptops for students in a one laptop per student configuration (embedded use of technology) as transformative to their learning.  Another might be that  the use of Blogs by students are transformative to journal writing (ability to write for a global audience rather than just their teacher or parents).  Also, my post Technology Powered Learning Environments refers to our learning portal (my43) which is "designed to transform the learning and work of our School District…" In other words I would say that something is innovative or transformative when it allows people to do things that could not otherwise be done without the use of the innovation.  The resulting change would be more than incrementally different – rather it may in some ways be completely different.

Let’s say the innovation we want to promote is blended learning where learning involves some face to face teaching, some use of technology in-class / –school, and some use of technology to learn from outside of the school.  Would you pilot this approach in a few schools and classrooms?  How would you take it system-wide?  How do you, with limited funding, get an entire system to shift from primarily a paper-based face to face model of teaching and learning to one that is fundamentally digital, blended, and flexible in terms of time and space?

What process do you use to move from innovation to adoption of technology in education?  Have you ever taken an innovation system-wide to all schools, classrooms, and students?  What were the results?



  1. Great points! I think there are really two models working here. If it was left up to the teachers to find the best use of technology in the classroom you would have thousands of teachers experimenting and then sharing their results online with others. Unfortunately I believe instead the decisions about technology in the classroom will be made a higher levels. School boards, state school administrators and worse of all, Washington DC administrators. The farther you get from the classroom, decisions tend to be less about education than about politics and money. (NCLB) To answer you question, I think more and more the funding you speak of will come with strings attached. Nobody is handing teachers the money and saying make your own choices. In the end, this is why things move so slowly.

  2. Personally, I think the decisions need to be collaborative with good District leadership. I don't think either extreme (top down or completely distributed) for making decisions are great. Balance usually ensures a better outcome. Wisdom of the crowd is a bit scary for organizations... :-) Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  3. I agree that good leadership within the district and administration is so important. On Friday I ran a professional development day for the other teacher-librarians in the district on web 2.0 and its implications in the classroom, as well as the big picture changes. I was eager to share my knowledge with others as few are aware of the tools and their implications. Our students are using technology in their daily lives but have absolutely no direction in terms of harnessing it for educational purposes. There is a misconception that they are very techno savvy but of a group of 22 grade 10s, none knew what Flickr was. I feel strongly that we need to educate educators so our students aren't left alone. We need to show them the potential of these tools so they can know where to find perspectives, facts and information: how to collaborate and dialogue. Most importantly we have to teach them to ask the right questions that will guide them on a search for knowledge. The curriculum should be the starting point for discussion.
    We are working towards a much more blended environment in my school and already have students working in this manner. It is difficult to convince some teachers that there is another way to go besides one teacher to one classroom in one block of time. We have to get creative and provide students access to several teaching experts in different fields in order for them to examine issues from many perspectives. Road blocks are many: not enough money for the technology; not enough buy-in from teachers; and the biggest one is an administration that sits on the fence waiting. In collaboration with colleagues we have created a draft plan for a blended environment and we have had very positive feedback from the parents in the community.
    We have to change and I would like to see us being leaders and an example to others that students can become engaged and enriched in this manner. Thanks for the thoughtful post. And yes, we need to use technology to do what would other wise not be possible.

  4. Hi seven summits librarian. You've hit a good point about students and the type of use they make of technology relative to what we adults thing. I used to like the term "Digital Natives" for referring to kids these days but I don't think it's representative. Left to themselves kids use technology primarily as social and entertainment tools. Sure they'll use it for buying and selling on craigslist or ebay but as learning tools? Not so sure. I read a book "The Dumbest Generation" ( that you might be interested in - I don't agree with everything but I think it speaks to the need for adults to engage with kids in learning / using technology.

    Who will show students the value of technology to support their learning and as a life skill? Parents? Parents, like teachers, need to be "taught". I think adult learning for teachers, parents, and school principals is so important today to make they see the way and ensure that we take advantage of today's tools in effective ways.

    I am interested in your plan for a blended environment. Would you be willing to share it?

    Thanks for taking time to comment.

  5. @gary_kern

    Brian, I am keen to read your plan for a blended learning environment!

    As for the innovation vs adoption conversation, I re-read part of Peter Senge's Fifth Discipline. Although it is really old (1990's) it represents the beginning of the shift of how we think about learning organizations.

    One of his key concepts is the institutional mindsets that adults develop. He believes adults have "skilled incompetency" and defines this as anh adults incredible talent and skill at avoiding the pain and uncomfort caused by new learning experiences. You know what I mean - although I am a fearless learning in regards to technology, I will avoid at all costs anything that causes me pain (karaoke, guitar lessons, anything musical).

    To overcome our skilled incompetency, Senge argues we need "committment" for change to occur in an organization. Committment occurs when we "buy in" and internalize the vision of the initiative. Thus, we need vision, followed by committment, and then the ability to overcome our skilled incompetency.

    Which takes us full circle to adoption. What is the vision? How are we encouraging committment? How are we building competency?

    I really want to read your plan for blended learning!

  6. Gary - I think you doing karaoke would cause me pain my friend :-) Seriously though, I the "state of flow" plays a role. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ( describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake". He goes on to say "To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results."

    I take from this that commitment comes, yes from a compelling vision, but also when people's ability to learn / change are matched but have a high degree of challenge.

    Stay tuned for the "plan for blended learning"... it'll come to me.

  7. "Left to themselves kids use technology primarily as social and entertainment tools." Perhaps they simply need to be lead along into seeing learning as if it were social and entertaining...

    The trick to unleashing the blended learning environments and transform the education system might just be in provding students with the framework of what is to be learned AND CHOICE. Not just choice in the delivery method but also the method of assessment and the parameters of when. Think of how many people fire up Youttube now to find out how to "Fix a leaky faucet" then go to another handyman site to confirm it - and finally they get to go and complete the task. Self satisfaction is then the catalyst to do the learning all over again in another new circumstance.
    None of us necessarily "wants" to fix the facuet but we need to in our personal context. Perhaps charging students with their own learning and then opening up the choices and methods would be the "blended" nature we seek. However also be prepared for masses of learners that do not fit into boxes know as Classrooms and schools and a curriculum ride that cuts across grades and discipines.

    Oh by the way if the facuet leaks - try again...

  8. Anonymous - I wonder how your suggestion of choice for delivery, assessment, etc. scale to younger students and teenagers? Also, I wonder if it scales to all students or perhaps only for gifted and self-directed learners? I think we always need to think about individuals rather than "students" since they're all a little different from each other and different approaches will work differently for each. I agree that many learners probably don't fit our traditional classroom / school model. We need to keep adapting to accommodate varying learning styles and needs.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


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