DAILY INSIGHT: Six laws of tech adoption, Law #5

Is edtech at a tipping point? 
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Is edtech at a tipping point? 

By Gary Shattuck, CIO Advisor

This blog is about the 5th Law of the Adoption of Technology in Education: the Law of Diffusion.

In 2003, Everett Rogers wrote a book about the diffusion of innovation. In this book, he explained that for an innovation to catch on it must achieve a tipping point of users willing to adopt this innovation. The number of users needed to make this innovation acceptable was surprising only 15% to 20%. This seems like a relatively small number, but when this theory is compared to Malcolm Gladwell’s work in The Tipping Point, this relatively small number is understandable. Gladwell explains that tipping points are those points in which a “social contagion” spreads outside it initial outbreak area. When comparing the spread of social innovations to the spread of contagious diseases, this relatively small number of 15% to 20% makes perfect sense. These numbers give hope to us in edtech that we will eventually achieve our goal of every teacher embedding technology into her lessons.

In Rogers' book, Diffusion of Innovation, he explains why diffusion rates vary from one innovation to another because diffusion of innovation is a social process and that “an important factor regarding the adoption rate of an innovation is its compatibility with the values, beliefs, and past experiences of individuals in the social system.” This idea ties in with my Law of Beliefs. Changing beliefs in what constitutes good pedagogy is difficult and can be a painful process that will take years if not decades. Rogers explains that diffusion of innovation in education can take as long as 25 to 30 years.

Rogers states that for an innovation to be adopted, it has to provide an advantage to the person thinking of adopting it. Here, I think, is why technology in education has been slow in its diffusion cycle. Teachers have not seen technology as advantageous to them in their role as teachers. However, with the new technologies that are reaching fruition I believe technology in education has, or very soon will, reach its tipping point. Safari Montage, for example, provides thousands of videos broken down into small segments that make it very easy for teachers to find the exact video clip they need for their lesson. Technology in VIEWPath makes flipping the classroom as simple as two clicks of the mouse. These are two examples of new technologies that are advantageous to teachers because they are easy to use. I believe that technology in education is on the verge of a breakout—or, in Gladwell’s terminology—technology in education is reaching its tipping point. The future has never looked brighter in the edtech field.

Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media services at Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter as @EdTechLeader