Some Time to Play: Individual Technology Adoption Decisions and a Diffusion Strategy
Kahler, Tony, Distance Learning
It's 3 days before Winter break and you receive the package. No, if s not a present from a student or colleague, but from a vendor and your director; it is a tablet PC with a built-in Web cam. The note attached ... "Take this home, have fun! Have a nice break, send an e-mail to Judy for an appointment after the break." One week later: the New Year's calendar with digital pictures from last year, check; revised syllabus for next semester, check; video chat with brother and niece, check; new Web pages with video and podcast lectures to supplement Power Point slides; next week while at the beach. It's not a dream. It is more than a pilot test. It's an organization with a strong vision and mission for relationships and quality support services. It is a user-friendly technology innovation diffusion strategy that provides the end-user with a new technology, and time and the opportunity to play, that is, practice, with the technology on a trial basis to learn about an innovation or how to use a technology. As indicated in a teacher survey response, the strategy could be very accommodating for some.
Teachers should have time to play and learn with different applications already available in schools . . . playing gives ideas on how you use computers with students ... I would like to see more release time or having computers available including a laptop for teachers to take home for extra practice [and] preparation. (Wozney, Venkatesh, & Abrami, 2006, p. 194)
The strategy being promoted in this essay involves employees interacting directly with a technology or innovation in order to explore its use and gain insight for its educational applications as part of the innovation decision-making and adoption process. The two primary elements are time and the opportunity (access and freedom) to practice with an innovation. The idea relates to expectancy-value theory and to innovation diffusion theory. The premise is that a user-friendly diffusion strategy that provides end-users with time and opportunities to practice with a technology may increase the perceived value toward the innovation and lead to higher levels of implementation. Intended or unanticipated consequences may also address issues related to organizational barriers to educational technology innovations. The caveat . . . time needs to be allocated for learning about new technologies. The theoretical base supporting the strategy stem from Rogers' Theory of Diffusion of Innovations; Wozney's research on expectancy-value and teachers' perceptions of instructional technologies; Berge's research on barriers to distance education; and research from Venkatesh on the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model. Suggestions for a user-friendly diffusion are listed to help facilitate the innovation-decision process. Incidentally, the suggestions directly or indirectly address many of the student barriers to distance education identified by Miulenburg and Berge (2005).
Rogers' (1995) theory of diffusion of innovation indicates that people will adopt innovations at different rates depending on their individual perceptions of that innovation, where an "innovation is an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption" (p. 12) and "diffusion is the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time amongst the members of a social system" (p. 5). The different categories of adoption classified by Rogers are innovator, early adopter, early majority, late majority, and laggard and characterize the relative order an individual adopts (uses) an innovation. Diffusion is they way in which awareness of the innovation is conveyed. This essay suggests diffusing educational technology innovations in a manner that conveys a client-centered user-friendly approach and that ultimately leads to an optional (voluntary) decision to use an innovation.
An individual's innovation decisionmaking process involves a progression through five stages identified by Rogers (2003) as Knowledge, awareness of the innovation; Persuasion, forming favorable or unfavorable attitudes toward the innovation; Decisions, choosing to adopt or reject the innovation after engaging with it; Implementation, putting the innovation to use; and Confirmation, seeking reinforcement of the decision to continue, reinvent, or revise the decision. …