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H807 – Applying Rogers’ ideal types (3.1)

February 22, 2011

Who innovates, who follows?

is the title of week 3. Everett Rogers provided the most famous answere – at least according our course material – and he classified in his book ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ people in five adopter types.

  • Innovators – enjoy high levels of uncertainty of risk, have the knowledge, the money, may seek help from cosmopolitan group. Local community considers them with scepticism, uncertainty and with criticism
  • Early adopters – more rooted in community – localities, respected as opinion leaders
  • Early majority – think carefully before adopting an innovation, staying well behind the leading/bleeding edge, wait until initial problems have been ironed out and the innovation brings secure benefits, about one-third
  • Late majority – sceptical and cautious, don’t make the change until there is a lot of pressure from their peers and the system
  • Laggards or ‘near isolates in the social networks of their system’ or late adopters – generally less empathic, have a lower ability to deal with abstractions, have fewer years of formal education.

Rogers interest in innovation started already 1950 when he could not explain why some farmers delayed new practices that would have increased their profits. To provide an answer he examined how doctors started to use an antibiotic drug, and how kindergartens spread. Rogers (2003) found out that they all showed very similar patterns of innovation and he was convinced that ‘the diffusion of innovations was a kind of universal process of social change’.

We are now asked to explore and to discuss if his model applies to more recent developments, such a elearning.

We are asked to answer the following questions and discuss the answers in our tutor forum.

  1. Do Rogers’ categories correspond with your experience of people’s attitudes to innovation?
  2. How far can you apply this model to a context you know. For example, can you link it to an innovation in elearning. e.g.?
  • the extent to which online conferencing is being adopted in education?
  • the take up of CD-ROMs or Virtual Learning Environments?
  • the introduction of PDAs to capture students experience of field trips?
  • the use of mobile phones to enhance language learning

Already reading these examples let me feel like I am in the wrong movie 😦

Working in a typical female discipline (home economics and health care) I experience very often that my colleagues seem to have indeed a lower ability to deal with abstractions. I am just unsure if this is a female trade or if it relates to the discipline. The uptake of computer in home economics is still pretty low and computer skills are still on the top list of qualification and competences that a nurse in Germany is supposed to have. However, I would not regard my colleagues as less empathic and they have enough years of formal education as teachers. Yet, looking at our students and we have students who have a quite humble upbringing, they still have the newest gadgets and know exactly how to use the newest generation of smartphones or other technology, thus this argument does not apply as well. Hence, I agree with those in our group who said that the labelling involves the danger to be too general and does not really provide a complete picture. Nevertheless, they are a starting point and identify those who innovate, and those who follow.

Nevertheless, Roger’s categories pretty much correspond with my experience of people’s attitudes to innovation, although I know more who belong in the later groups. I know or knew older teacher colleagues who argued that they just have a couple more years to go and did not saw the need to learn how to use e.g. a computer, we also had colleagues who did not lacked the attitude but were convinced that students need to learn how to count and write on a paper before using a computer, they were convinced that computers does not improve writing skills. However, theoretical I fall in the category of laggard as well, at least in my professional context, because even if I would like be more innovative in my teaching, I simply get no access to computer labs, or we just have four smart boards so far in our school with about 2800 students. In my department the students have no computer lessons at all, and even the staff has no computer with Internet access. So talking about innovation. I could ask – online conferencing, VLE, PDAs to capture field trips, mobile phone are forbidden in my school – what is that? We are still a long way off. And as longer I am studying the MAODE courses and listen to your experiences, well some have similar reports like me, as more I become aware how much we are actually running behind, all the possibilities that these innovations could offer if applied accordingly, it is really a pity and another reason that I need a change.

Sure some might ask why is she not more determined, but let me tell you, I fight this unwinnable fight already for years and in my new school where I changed about one and a half-year ago and there is no reasonable chance at all. Our vocational school is a business vocational school and my health care department is just a small appendix. Business students have first priority accessing computer labs and the school administration has no computer labs left for our department and I sometimes have the impression that they do not really see a need for our mainly female classes 😦

Reference

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

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