"Islands of Innovation" or "Comprehensive Innovation." Assimilating Educational Technology in Teaching, Learning, and Management: A Case Study of School Networks in Israel

Article excerpt

Introduction

In recent years, many education systems have introduced educational technology into the schools for teaching, learning, and management purposes (Cunningham, 2009; De Freitas & Oliver, 2005; Fullan & Smith, 1999; Halverson & Smith, 2010; Selwyn, 2010). Despite the great potential of these technologies to improve teaching, learning, and management processes, their implementation encounters resistance and many obstacles both in Israel and elsewhere in the world (Salmon, 2005). This has led to partial implementation that has not met everyone's high initial expectations (Fullan & Smith, 1999; Mioduser, Nachmias, Tubin, & Forkosh, 2006). The partial implementation is usually the result of the gap between policy makers and those putting the policy into practice--principals and teachers--who have a different view of the implementation of innovation (Fullan, 2006). The obstacles are usually fear of the unknown and of the possible consequences of the change for position holders, particularly the teachers (Levin & Fullan, 2008)

Educational organizations tend to implement innovation through pilot programs or by creating "islands of innovation," which are usually characterized as local innovation that does not encompass the whole organization. The implications of this innovation are local and do not modify the organizations values or basic assumptions.

The hope is that these "islands of innovation" will radiate out to their surroundings and lead to comprehensive innovation (Levin & Fullan, 2008; Mioduser, Nachmias, Tubin, & Forkosh, 2006).

This study examines and characterizes the essence of the gap between the innate potential of implementing innovative educational technologies and the reality in which implementation is partial and does not meet the high expectations originally set. In this context, this research will examine the features of the process in an attempt to distinguish between the effectiveness of innovation implementation through islands of innovation as opposed to the comprehensive innovation approach.

This is a case study research on a chain of seven post elementary schools in Israel. Based on the case study, the research will provide new information in the context of the effectiveness of the "islands of innovation" approach as a strategy for leading and implementing educational technology innovation and will point out its risk as an impeding factor for the spread of the innovation throughout the school system.

Theoretical Background

From research on technology innovation implementation within the educational system (both elementary and post elementary schools), it emerges that innovation is usually the result of a top-down policy imposed without the cooperation of the teachers (Levin & Fullan, 2008; Tyack & Cuban, 1995) and without taking into account that the change "lands" in an environment that already has its own well-defined practices and norms in addition to built-in resistance based on previous failures to implement innovation (Levin & Fullan, 2008; Ogobonna & Harris, 2003; Vaillant, 2005; Zimmerman, 2006). Many factors are involved in the successful implementation of learning management technology in schools (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). These might include bodies outside the school, such as the local authority, technology providers, instructors, policy makers, and inspectors, as well as factors within the organization whose involvement is linked to essential organizational change that also includes cultural change (Sarason, 1995; White, 2007) requiring change at all levels of the organization, in its basic assumptions, its values and not just in its external characteristics (Fullan, 2006; Goldhaber & Eide, 2002; Schein, 1990). There are three levels of organizational culture: (a) external--characteristics that include everything that is seen, heard, and felt, (b) values--the collection of accepted perceptions within the organization regarding desired behaviors, and (c) basic assumptions--the basic values that dictate the dominant worldview of the organization. …