Facilitating Technology Adoption
How does a change agent encourage teachers to adopt new technologies in the classroom? For those wanting to encourage more Web 2.0 use in their schools or universities, there are some excellent tactics they can apply.
You can lead them to the water, but...
Many an instructional technologist frets over how to increase technology use at their school, and often they are frustrated at the constant resistance they perceive or encounter.
Rogers (2003) defines the main factors of the adoption of new innovations as relative advantage, compatibility, complexity (simplicity), trialability, and observability. Web 2.0 tools have all of these factors in excess, and therefore have been quickly and widely adopted by many users, though not all teachers are adopting their use.
Rogers (2003) also outlines the different categories of innovation adopters, from early adopters (innovators) to late adopters (laggards). People tend to be either more innovative or less, though there are variances depending on interests. For example, one may be an early adopter of the latest video games, while avoiding innovation in other areas they do not know well, or that they do not have an interest in. Different people react differently to a new innovation, and it is not always logical reasoning that will guide how/when one adopts something new (Evans, 1996; Goldsmith & Foxall, 2003; Rogers, 2003).
On various 'educational technology' blogs I commonly see innovators refer to laggards as 'stubborn', 'close minded', 'out-dated', 'medieval', etc. Claiming that all teachers who avoid using technology in the classroom are just 'old dogs' solves nothing, and serves nothing; except to make the criticized annoyed, and thus potentially even more resistant to change. It is better to know what the barriers to adoption may be in a given context rather than just assuming. And some people have very good reasons for not wanting to implement every new technology innovation.
There are several generally known barriers to technology adoption among teachers, such as: ready access to technology, sufficient training, administrative support, and supportive policies. The stages of concern about a new innovation or change plan can thus be convoluted, and several fold, affected by the following (though not limited to these): (1) beliefs/attitudes, (2) refocusing, (3) collaboration, (4) consequences and fear, (5) support, (6) personal concerns, (7) informational, (8) awareness, (9) cultural or religious reasons, and (10) personality type (Ertmer, 2005; Mitchell & Geva-May, 2009; Parasuraman, 2000; Rogers, 2003; Tallerico, 2005).
Different people are affected in different ways by these various constructs, and they determine whether a person will adopt new technologies, or resist them. There are many ways to reduce change-resistance among faculty and teachers. Let's take a look at some commonly used tactics:
The first and foremost is to learn that people, by nature, will not want to adopt something new that they don't understand, and that they cannot first test out and get to know (Rogers, 2003). Therefore it is critical that the change-agent or leader is communicating regularly with all stakeholders, and giving a lot of information to those who will have to adopt a new innovation. Make sure to give a platform, sandbox or testing area to try the new innovation out (if it is equipment or a new procedure). It is also critical that appropriate professional development, training and support is given to teachers on any new procedure, software or equipment.
Next, it is important to also be a good listener. LISTEN to them. Hear WHY they don't want to use it. Hear them BEFORE speaking to them. Conduct surveys to pinpoint any frustrations, concerns, suggestions, or problems in advance. Talk with various stakeholders to get a feel for their concerns. Know any problems or barriers to adoption before those problems begin to inhibit the change process. By doing these things in advance of introducing a new technology to teachers, then the innovation will integrate much more fluidly (Rogers, 2003; Tallerico, 2005; Evans, 2005).
For example, understand the personal barriers to using a new innovation. Maybe a teacher just needs a little support and training. Maybe they already have so much to do at work they cannot possibly find the time, so given time they would be happy to learn about a new technology. In other cases they may have a negative perception about technology from media-based reports they have read. Etc. There are a million examples, which all lead to the same conclusion: If the change-agent first understands the self-reported barriers to adoption, then they can better circumvent such concerns to insure successful adoption.
Next, Rogers (2003) outlines the importance of community connections and communication channels in the successful adoption of an innovation. Within any context, say one school, there are community connections among the teachers. And there will be an 'opinion leader' in that community. This may not at all be the outwardly obvious leaders, such as the principle, or educational heads or directors. Instead, it could very easily be just one or two people, even low in the hierarchy, who tend to hold power over the views and actions of the others in the group. Learn who the opinion leaders are. Buddy up to them. Talk to them. Get their support. This is because the others follow them. If you can get them to try out the innovation and accept it, they will talk about it to their peers, and by default others in the group will then follow suit. If a change agent can get the opinion leader on board then the diffusion of the innovation will happen much more quickly (Evans, 1996; Rogers, 2003).
Finally, and most importantly: respect the laggards. Do not go rushing into a school or university and call any teacher not willing to try new technologies or online learning an 'old stubborn dog'. This is not going to facilitate change very well. Instead, respect why they might resist technology in education. There ARE a lot of good reasons. A heavy-handed force-it-down-their-throat tactic will not work. A change agent must, first, respect the knowledge, expertise, and views of the person who is resisting the change if they next want to instill change (Evans, 1996). By first understanding where these individuals are coming from, what they need, and how they see things, we not only learn about their barriers to the change, but they in turn will feel respected, and thus may be more likely to consider trying the new innovation in return.
Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The final frontier in our quest for technology integration? ETR&D. V53. No. 4. pp 25-39.
Evans, R. (1996). The human side of school change: Reform, resistance, and the real-life problems of innovation. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Goldsmith, R. E. & Foxall, G. R. (2003). The measurement of innovativeness. In Shavinina, L., V. (Eds.) The International Handbook on Innovation. Elsevier Science Ltd.
Mitchell, B., & Geva-May, I. (2009). Attitudes affecting online learning implementation in higher education institutions. Journal of distance education. v23. no.1. pp 71-88.
Parasuraman, A. (2000). Technology readiness indext (TRI): A multiple-item Scale to measure readiness to embrace new technologies. Journal of service research. May. v 2. n 4. pp 307-320.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. 5th ed. NY: Free Press.
Tallerico, M. (2005). Supporting and sustaining teachers' professional development: A principal's guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.