Adoption Theory and Education

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In the midst of exploring a research topic for a course, I chanced on an article that covered adoption theory, and it piqued my interest. Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovation is an intuitive and powerful investigation on how individuals, cultures, and societies accept certain ideas, inventions, and concepts.

In the content area of science, diffusion is defined as the net movement of particles from an area of high concentration gradient to an area of low concentration. In physics, it is the interaction of molecules as a result of their kinetic energy. Rogers (2003) defines diffusion as “…process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system”. An innovation is a concept, practice, or object perceived as new by an individual, and its diffusion process involves mass media, interpersonal communication, and information technologies such as the Web or smartphones (Stacks & Salwen, 2008). Note that the innovation need only be perceived as new.

One example that intrigued me is Rogers’ discussion of the QWERTY keyboard, which was invented in 1873 as an attempt to slow typists down and prevent typewrite keys from jammimg or sticking together. Despite the presence of the Dvorak keyboard, which is supposedly more efficient, QWERTY is universally used in mass market technology. Even when technological innovations are more efficient and faster, they may not necessarily be diffused, much less adopted.

In education, Lambert and Gong  (2010)  trace the five progressions in adopting technology, namely, knowledge of the technology; persuasion of the value of technology in the classroom; decision to adopt the technology; implementation of the technology; and, reaffirmation or rejection of usefulness. Educators have tended to use technology as linear media, that is, as aids in lectures and tools for student research. Social media applications in the classroom are still at the infancy stage, and their gradual acceptance comes as a result of new standards in public school education, specifically, the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards.  More importantly, Rogers’ third variable in the rate of adoption, the social system, affects the  shared vision for the integration of technology in the classroom.

Can technology change education? Does technology depersonalize learning? This TEDTalk  reveals how it can facilitate student-centered learning.

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