Thursday, September 21, 2017

Five Educator Groups for Technology Integration

Recently I've been thinking about technology integration and I read this article While this article is not talking about eduction, the labels of the 5 segments of technology adopters resonated with me as I daily work with teachers helping them integrate technology into the classroom.

The article suggests "not everyone will adopt a disruptive idea despite obvious benefits." The article then quotes the research of Rogers to place adopters of technology in the following segments (my thoughts follow each label as it relates to what I see in education:

  • Innovators - These are the people that actually thrive in change and long to be change-agents because they are not convinced the status quo is what is right, or best, or easiest, or (fill in the blank). Innovators are often alone in their convictions and because educational systems change very slowly, they are often very frustrated with the day to day of educating. My definition of innovation has always been "the point where need intersects with passion under an umbrella of creativity." Innovators don't always use technology to get a job done but those that do are often seen as risk takers or rebels. For some administrators this is seen as a good thing and for others it is terrifying. The innovative educator is willing to fail, they have an open mindset, and sometimes have to be corralled back into the fold for the good of the whole but innovators need opportunities to try things. As a rule, there are very few innovators in a school building. In fact, I bet the 2.5% mentioned in the article is just about right for educators that are innovators in a school system. 
  • Early Adopters - These are the ones that are willing to take a risk and even feel comfortable with learning things on their own to understand things better but they aren't necessarily the ones out their looking for the cutting edge thing to change their classroom. They are the ones that once they hear about it they think "YES! That's what I need." Early adopters have a strong influence on the other educators in their building. Because they are often seen as individuals that understand technology easily, others are watching to see how they react to new technologies. Early adopters tend to look at technology as a way to teach differently instead of trying to fit a technology into the way they already teach. 
  • Early Majority - These are the educators that are obviously a bit slower in adopting the idea of change in the classroom but being followers, they look to the success the innovators and early adopters have had and decide to join the party. The early majority often feel they are not equipped to use technology but rarely take the initiative to learn more on their own without clearly laid out resources at hand. The early majority's success or failure with new technology is often in direct correlation to how well they feel that technology fits how they teach and how often they are willing to try to use it. The early majority often feel they need hand holding and support but tend to thrive once they truly understand the capabilities of the technology.
  • Late Majority - These educators are the ones that do not really want to change but feel they must either because they are being told they have to or because they realize their lack of change is making things harder for themselves. These are the skeptics among us. The ones that fear that "next year there will be something else you will want us to do instead." These are the ones that may not truly believe that technology integration is what is best for the students so unless they are "forced" they do not adopt or adapt. These educators often don't feel equipped to "take on" technology but they don't take advantage of growing themselves in that area either. These are the ones that panic when something doesn't go right and truly appreciate and expect great support. The innovators, early adopters, and early majority really have little impact on the thinking of the late majority adopters but the late majority adopters often give a balance to the early majority and innovators in discussions. When I "win over" a late adopter it is like Christmas morning for me. These are the educators that sharpen me to know my stuff and be able to justify my reasoning for tools. 
  • Laggards - These educators are the ones that either vehemently oppose all things technology or strongly believe (and maybe rightly so) that they can teach their classroom just as well without the use of technology. The laggards are the ones that will refuse to follow set norms in a school about technology usage in either an intentional and/or unintentional way. There is often something in their life that makes them fear the technology. These educators often do not have much influence upwards due to being viewed as closed-minded. 
Obviously each segment of technology adopters bring value to the conversation of what is best in the educational setting. Each group presents a balance to the others that often leads to a more acceptable medium adoption rate of mass technology rollouts at schools. I believe schools need representatives of all segments to best meet the needs and have a pulse on the community the school serves. 

I often find it interesting how educators can move from one segment to another based on the technology being rolled out, the grade level of their students, and the subject matter curriculum they are teaching. Unlike the article, I have found that age doesn't necessarily place a teacher in certain segments. Some of the most amazing technology integrators I have seen have been over the age of 55. I do think the receptiveness to change is the biggest indicator. And the truth is, as a rule, education systems do not change quickly. You could walk into almost any school in the U.S. today and see rows and columns of desks with a teacher in the front just like you did in the 1800's. Education is built on tradition. Educators are often the type of people that thrive in routine. It's the nature of their world. 

I believe education as a whole has changed more since 2010 and the advent of the mobile device than in any decade in my lifetime and dare I say in my father's lifetime as well. I also believe with the constant growth of educational technology towards smart software, quick assimilation of data, streamlining of basic tasks, and the ability to personalize learning more easily we will see the average classroom continue to wrestle with the exponential change opportunities out there. I truly wonder what the education system will look like for my grandchildren one day. Will it be better or worse? More sterile? More active? Less relational or more relational? Will certain schools stand firm in the idea of traditionalism and what will that look like for those students?