When asking people to adopt a new idea or behavior, there are three general categories: early adopters, the majority, and laggards. Everett Rogers developed his Diffusion of Innovation theory in 1962. Based on my experience it seems as though his percentages are pretty accurate when it comes to educators and the adoption of technology infused learning, even now in the 21st century.
As a technology coach, the early adopters are easy to work with. They know what they want the technology to do for them and their students. They’re willing to experiment with several tools to find the right fit.
The laggards are especially challenging. They are the last to invite a technology coach to their classroom or to help with planning an upcoming lesson or project. Often, unfortunately, laggards are not convinced about the value of technology until they see hard statistics gathered over a long period of time and are required to make change by an employer.
The target of much of the time and effort of instructional technologists are the majority – the teachers who fall between the early adopters and the laggards. Just this past week I’ve had two different encounters with “majority” teachers.
The first was an eager high school teacher who made an appointment to see my colleague, another technology coach, and I. She will be teaching for the first time this fall and is excited to bring her own passions to her students’ learning experiences. As we sat down for the meeting she started by saying that she knew she wanted to use technology, but did not know where to start and wanted our advice. Then she paused and smiled widely at us expecting to be wowed.
We could have launched into an explanation of all the solutions and apps that other teachers in our school are using. Perhaps that is what she was expecting. Instead we asked her what she had planned. Here are some of the questions that got her talking:
- What do you want students to experience in your class?
- What are some projects you have started pulling together?
- How do you want students to be able to collaborate with you and with one another outside of class?
We found out she had planned at two step collage project using print media. So we talked about how using a few easy-to-learn apps could help students incorporate digital media — including videos — into the project so they had more content to work with. She also talked about a culminating work that students could publish to target groups in our school’s campus, so we discussed publishing options that included blogs, YouTube videos, and podcasts. She left the meeting excited. The technology is going to work for her and her students to make their learning deeper and more meaningful.
The second example with a “majority” teacher was part of a training I helped to plan and run with some new middle school teachers. Both veteran and new teachers were together in this particular workshop. In this case, a veteran teacher introduced herself to me. She talked about how she is interested in helping her students use their iPads more effectively in her class, but she doesn’t really know where to start. I assured her that it is perfectly OK to give me a call during the school year without knowing what to ask.
Instructional technologists should be experts on high quality instruction first. Technology will enhance instruction. That means it will help a great teacher create even better learning experiences for students, or will make it more obvious when a teacher is not engaging students in meaningful ways because they will be distracted by the bells and whistles of technology. So, when I spoke to this second teacher I told her to give me a call when she is ready so I can watch her teach. Once I’ve seen her methods and the ways she interacts with her students, she and I can work together to find out how technology can work for her.
As Everett Rogers’ theory indicates, education technology coaches’ target area is the majority of teachers who are interested, but also concerned about the impact of technology in the classroom. With the right approach — one that ensures the tech is working for the teacher, and not that the teacher is working for the tech — it can be an easy and rewarding win for everyone involved.