Monday, July 25, 2011

Diffusion of Innovations

In considering the diffusion of innovations, definitions of terms provide a foundation for the discussion. An innovation is “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new” by an individual or organization. (Rogers, 2003, p.xx) The process of diffusion involves infiltration into a social system. I work in education, so the innovations about which I am concerned are found in the educational community. Rogers (2003) defines diffusion as the “process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.” (p.5) These are the four main elements involved in the diffusion of innovations. The innovation is the idea, practice, or object being introduced into the system. Dede (Laureate Education, Inc., 2008) offers the example of the landline video-phone. Other innovations in education include geocaching, podcasting, online school newspapers, flat screen monitors, charter schools, homeschools, and the whole language movement in reading instruction. Some of these innovations have diffused successfully into the K-16 schools and some have not.
I researched the unsuccessful diffusion of virtual worlds in education. Chris Dede (Laureate Education, Inc., 2008) asserts that all the elements must work in concert for an innovation to diffuse successfully. I know in my own experience that other teachers just tune out when I suggest a virtual world for teaching concepts. The communication channels are not open because I am not perceived as the authority at my school, and am not homophilous enough. Thus the communication process breaks down at the persuasion stage. As Rogers (2003) suggests, “diffusion is a social process” (p.35) in which the structure of traditional industrial age education impedes the diffusion of innovations that would change that structure. (p.25)
Hew and Cheung (2010) discovered five studies that suggested using virtual worlds enhanced learning. However, their conclusions found the use of virtual worlds was largely at the fringe of university level education and virtual worlds were not successfully diffused into the culture of academia. Salleh, Jack, Bohari, and Jusoff (2011) investigated the integration of technological innovations at the university level. They concluded that diffusing innovations successfully is crucial to organizational success, as the current generation of students choose to attend schools that embrace technological innovations. Adams (2011) reported on the successful diffusion of Skype in nursing education, documenting the astronomical growth of Skype internationally.
I would like to find research relating to how these innovations are used in PreK-12 education. I will have to dig deeper to find any or this may be a gap in the literature. Dr. Dede has a point that everything must change at once for an innovation to diffuse successfully. There are many barriers to overcome towards successful innovation in education in the communication of usefulness of these technological innovations, the structure of educational social systems or status quo, and the perceived timeliness of innovations.
Rogers (2003) refers to an innovator’s ability to deal with dissonance (p.22). Maybe to affect the four elements so innovations diffuse successfully we will all need to develop this ability.

Adams, L. (2011). Teaching techniques using Skype in clinical education. Radiologic Technology, 82(5), 475-477.
Hew, K. F. & Cheung, W. S. (2010). Use of three-dimensional (3-D) immersive virtual worlds in k-12 and higher education settings: A review of the research. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 33-55.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2008). Barriers to Adoption segment of Diffusion and Integration of Technology in Education. Baltimore: Author.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.
Salleh, S.M.H., Jack, S., Bohari, Z., & Jusoff, K. (2011). Use of Information and Communication Technology in Enhancing Teaching and Learning. International Education Studies. 4(2), 153-156.
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