By Gary Shattuck, CIO Advisor
In my last blog, I explained the third of the Six Laws of Technology Adoption in Education. This blog is about the fourth of the Six Laws of Technology Adoption in Education. My previous laws were based on researched-based ideas. This law is based upon my 13 years of professional experience in the edtech field. It does not matter what we in the edtech field think about a new technology—what matters is what the end users think. We cannot force new technology on teachers; we must influence them into adopting it. All the logic in the world, all the facts presented, all the research results listed, do not matter one whit. What matters is what the teachers’ perceive to be their truth. I learned this law the hard way many years ago.
Just recently, I was reminded of this law. We were implementing a new technology—putting a camera in every classroom (VIEWPath). Very interesting, very innovative, and the best technology I have ever seen to improve the quality of the teaching. In order to get teacher buy-in I promised the early adopters that the only person who could see the videos from her camera was the teacher herself. If she was willing to allow another person, an administrator for example, to view the recording from her room, this teacher would have to purposely add that administrator to the list of authorized users. The problem we had, however, was that the list of authorized users included the word “admin.” Everyone involved in the initial training understood that this “admin” was the network engineer who was the one who was responsible for this implementation. No one who attended the initial training had a problem with “admin” in their authorized user list after we explained it to them; however, once we did our initial training and turned this technology over to all teachers in the schools, a few of the teachers who did not attend the initial training saw “their camera’s” list of authorized users and perceived the person named “admin” to be one of their building administrators. Our reality was the truth. The “admin” in the authorized list was the network engineer, but the teachers’ “perceived reality” was that this other person was one of their building administrators and they stopped using their cameras. Their “perceived reality” is their truth—no matter what we know to be the objective truth. I had the vendor remove the name “admin” immediately because if these few teachers’ “perceived reality” spread throughout the schools our implementation would have failed. Luckily, I reacted quickly enough to save this implementation. If I had not known about the Law of Perceptions, I may have hesitated before reacting, thinking it would work itself out. By responding so quickly I was able for forestall a catastrophic event.
I tell my IT staff regularly that one of their primary jobs is to manage expectations. If we can control the end users’ expectations we can move their reality closer to our reality, thus aligning their perceptions to our Truth. This is the Law of Perceptions.
Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media services at Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter as @EdTechLeader