Academic journal article Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Sus Ainabili Y of Innova Ions

Academic journal article Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Sus Ainabili Y of Innova Ions

Article excerpt

With the recent flow of funding to support instructional technology and interactive learning environments through the E-Rate, Technology Innovation Challenge Grants (TICG), Technology Literacy Grants, Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to use Technology (PT3) grants, and grants from various foundations, there is an increased emphasis on exploring the sustainability of these innovations once the grant funding has ended. The literature on institutionalization, scalability, and sustainability that is explored within this article goes back several decades, but in all cases, the innovation is considered to be sustained within an organization. Although institutions of higher education, educational consortia, and K-12 schools are organizations, grants cannot be considered as organizations. Hence, issues of bringing about systemic change, transforming traditional institutions into learning organizations, scaling the innovations, leveraging funds, forming new partnerships, and spawning new entities to support and sustain v alued activities are areas that are ripe for further research.

FOUNDATIONS: ADOPTION WITHIN A CLOSED SOCIAL SYSTEM

This article focuses on the process by which one can simplify and assist an individual's or a group's accommodation to new ideas. To explore the concept of sustainability, it is important first to be familiar with the adoption and systems theory literature. Only then can parallels be drawn and differences identified among these very varied theoretical domains.

Although the notion of "sustaining innovations" is new to some, many of its associated concepts have roots within various bodies of literature. The author begins with a discussion of the nature of innovations, the processes by which resistance to them can be overcome, and the dynamics of adoption.

What is an innovation?

According to Morison (1984, p. 135), an innovation can be a new concept. Alternatively, it can be thought of as a combination of existing concepts that, when brought together, make a particular activity possible for the first time. Rogers (1995, p. 11) defined an innovation as "an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption...if the idea seems new to the individual, it is an innovation."

Traditionally, an innovation is a relatively discrete practice, product, process, or organizational arrangement that is to be diffused, disseminated, or introduced to users throughout the system. This process takes place in three stages: initiation, implementation, and institutionalization. Change agents or change facilitators promote the awareness of the innovation and encourage its use through a dissemination strategy that combines various incentives and supports. Since systems seek to maintain equilibrium, the innovation encounters varying degrees and forms of resistance as it diffuses (Knapp, 1997, p. 249).

The study of diffusion of innovations has had a history spanning over four decades. Beginning with Rogers' (1962) seminal work, Diffusion of Innovations, researchers began to realize that an innovation--"an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption" (Rogers, 1995, p. 11)--often required a long period of time from the time they become available until the time they are widely adopted and used. Diffusing an innovation is the process by which an innovation is communicated "through certain channels, over time, among the members of a social system" (Rogers, 1995, p. 5). According to Rogers (1995, p. 6), "Diffusion is a kind of social change, defined as the process by which alteration occurs in the structure and function of a social system."

Adoption

Rogers (1995, p. 21) defined adoption as a decision to make full use of an innovation as the best course of action available, and rejection as a decision not to adopt an innovation. …

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