At the end of yesterday’s post, I challenged everyone (including me) to
See what it feels like to break down a few compartments and let “stuff” mix together.
I did that physically with my weekend adventure, which is still “mixing together” so much that I’m not ready to blog about it. But I’ve also been letting some ideas mix together, and I think they’re ready – or almost ready – to serve up for public consumption. I’ve been thinking a lot about
- the issues of experts and novices that we talked about last week – and how 20th-century, factory-model schools conceptualize experts and novices;
- the closely-related conscious competence model; and
- the theory of diffusion of innovations, which I’ve mentioned from time to time in previous posts, usually referring to Geoffrey Moore’s work on the subject.
In the course of this Google+ thread, I started to wonder if there was more to the diffusion of innovation than Moore’s writing on the subject. A quick Google search sent me to this Wikipedia article and to Everett Rogers’ seminal book on the subject, Diffusion of Innovations, which is partly available on Google Books.
I’m definitely still at a point of conscious incompetence when it comes to the diffusion of innovations! But I’m starting to see some connections among these three seemingly unrelated issues.
Why do factory-model school structures persist even though “everybody” agrees that they’re no longer optimal? According to diffusion theory, five factors drive decisions to adopt (or not adopt) an innovation in any area:
- relative advantage
There’s a growing consensus that changes to the factory model would have a relative advantage. But the other factors are problematic:
- What other changes would a different model bring? That’s a scary unknown in the area of compatibility.
- How hard would it be to change? That’s a huge, scary unknown in complexity.
- What if it doesn’t work? Can I try it out without having to change everything? That’s a giant, terrifying unknown in trialability.
- What if someone sees me mess up? What if they laugh at me or fire me or put a mark in my permanent record? For many educators, those are real and terrifying unknowns under observability.
Obviously, if you’re an early adopter or an innovator, these concerns are small to nonexistant. But even for the early majority, they’re very real … and that’s why so many innovations fail to “cross the chasm,” as Moore says. All too often, the innovator/early adopter community doesn’t realize that their friends in the early majority don’t speak the same language or have the same needs. So no one addresses the compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability pieces in a way that the early majority can embrace.
Where do you see yourself on the scale from early adopter to laggard? Which of the five factors seems most important to your decisions? And when it comes to educational innovations – whether they’re relatively small, like using the Tres Columnae Project instead of a textbook in your Latin class, or relatively huge, like abandoning the factory model completely – what kinds of reassurance and support do you need?
quid respondētis, amīcī?