Diffusion of innovations

How does an innovation diffuse through an organization or school district or school?

This question was answered over 40 years ago by Everett Rogers in 1963, when he wrote his first book, Diffusion of Innovations. Here is the fifth edition in Amazon and here it is in Google Books. He followed how hybrid corn seed was diffused throughout the farms in the state of Iowa. Since then, there have been hundreds of validation studies in various disciplines including science, sociology and education.

This is the topic I’ve begun to explore through my dissertation studies. You can read more details here in my doctorate blog.

Some questions I’ve been asking:

  • How does any educational technology become diffused and adopted?
  • How do Web 2.0 tools become adopted?

With any innovation, people first need to know about it. Then they make a conscious decision about whether to adopt it or not. It seems to me that with Web 2.0 tools and education, we are still at the first stage of adoption – that is the one where those who know about them and are using them are sharing them with others. There are many aspects to Rogers’ theory, but one that caught my interest is the fact that teachers who are more innovative attend outside of city conferences. So, it begs the question, are those who have blogs and wikis and attend conferences like the K-12 Online Conference more innovative than those who don’t?

As I’m learning in my doctoral program, first you have to figure out the question before you know the answer.

More details on Rogers’ theory here.

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2 Responses to “Diffusion of innovations”


  1. 1 sylvia martinez October 30, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Rob,
    If you haven’t already found it, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore is a fairly recent book that takes DOI and looks at it through a marketing and sales lens. I find it really helpful in talking about educational technology. It is often a purchasing decision, influenced by vendors and evangelists who market the innovations, rather than the examples Rogers uses, which tend to be more social, policy type things.

    Moore also does a really nice job explaining the motivations of the adopter categories and why persuasive arguments have to be completely different for each of them. He argues that there is a huge gap (the chasm of the title) of needs and wishes between the first two adopter categories and the remaining adopters.

    You often see that gap in ed tech, as the early evangelists and adopters try to talk the rest of the teachers into using technology, and end up turning them off.

    It’s fascinating stuff, albeit more jargony and less academic than Rogers.

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