EdTech & Design, Leadership, Opinion, Promising Practices

When You Bring Tech to the Teacher, But You Can’t Make ‘Em Click

Six ideas to increase technology adoption in school districts

This blog post is part of our series on leadership and governance.

Much is made of the amounts of money sunk into technology in education – sometimes with few extensive innovations in teaching and learning. Alfie Kohn recently discussed the issue in his blog post, “The Overselling of Ed Tech”[1]. Technology in education can be a physical object, software, or both, but ultimately, what technology leaders desire is an uptake (adoption and diffusion) of technology that improves teaching and learning – and/or the various other processes (clerical, administrative, HR, etc.) that support education. When evaluating the success of technology in education, it cannot be measured solely by the extent to which it transforms personal or institutional pedagogies or practices.

As Puentedura illustrated in his SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, & Redefinition) technology adoption model, technology uptake spans a continuum from enhancing existing educational practices to transforming them.[2] In some cases, even a lack of adoption and diffusion may be acceptable when technology doesn’t suit the individual or the context.[3] Like students, educators (and by extension their organizations) can be at different developmental stages in regard to pedagogies, methodologies and technologies. Expecting technology to rapidly transform pedagogy, practices and the institution belies the cognitive load inherent in learning new concepts and/or in new methods through unfamiliar technologies as well as the conservative nature of the institution. Educators experience cognitive load like other learners – and perhaps schools do too.

The topic of individual behavioural change – which includes technology adoption as a subset – has been the focus of much research, most frequently related to public health initiatives. Most technology adoption literature focusses on the organization and factors external to individuals (e.g. funding, release time, policies, access). While important, these factors are often considered in isolation from more individualized aspects.

Below are six key intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects to consider when fostering technology adoption. They are taken from the literature of individual behavioural change across a variety of fields. (Some specific strategy ideas will be provided in a follow-up blog post, You Can’t Leap a Technology Chasm in Two Jumps.) The importance of these considerations will vary according to the individuals and their contexts.

1. Individuals have different dispositions to change.

Willingness to adopt new[4] technology can be affected by factors including: upbringing, experience, age, personal values, self-efficacy, confidence, reliance on routines, as well as interest in novelty & new stimuli.

2. A “Technology’s Perceived ROI” (or TPROI) needs to be positive.

ROI is a business term for “return on investment”. TPROI is my term relating to the balance between a) an individual’s investments of time, effort, etc. in learning/using a new technology; and b) if/how the technology improves the individual’s situation. TPROI encompasses more granular terms like perceived usefulness & perceived ease of use, as well as the practical reliability of a technology (e.g. limited glitches or time-outs).[5] The greater a TPROI, the more likely a person is to think about adopting a new technology and begin using it. Positive experiences can boost self-efficacy, and increased self-efficacy can increase the values individuals place on TPROI for subsequent technologies to adopt.

3. If new technology changes pre-existing practices considered central to identities (personal, professional, organizational), it will likely be resisted.

Some practices define or fortify a core identity – for individuals, professionals and organizations. The more a technology is perceived to substantially change a core identity practice the more adoption resistance there will be.[6]

4. Individuals need a degree of autonomy.

Elements of choice, flexibility, & volunteerism can support technology adoption. Straub suggests even when “it is difficult if not impossible to make technology adoption a free choice…building in flexibility for teachers to have the perception of a choice may improve adoption facilitation”.[7]

5. Both individuals and their uptake of technology will vary; so don’t expect homogeneity.

 Bergeron[8] found among clinicians, individuals “have very little in common with each other, in terms of their daily work routines, need for information and time pressure”, they each adapt differently to a new technology and “within each specialty, there are technology adoption patterns that become apparent as a function of individual differences”. Parks, Bansal, & Zilberman[9] tell us that a technology fits differently across disparate groups due to “differences in socio-cultural, economic, geographic, and environmental factors”. They go on to say that techniques like modelling and demonstrations can increase “adoption efficiency by providing a better match between individuals and the technology”—even when such strategies appear to decrease demands for a technology. An observed decline in interest after a demonstration could indicate reduced waste (e.g. not blanketing a school with technology that ends up unused) and get technology into the hands of people who will use it.

 6. Social influence has potential to cross the diffusion chasm.

When adoption spreads from one individual to another, you have diffusion. While innovators & early adopters readily latch on to new technology, and can provide visible (e.g. public relations level) examples for a school or district, these groups don’t necessarily share their learning with the larger population. One study found that only about one in four innovators/early adopters shared their learning with the larger group.[10] Unlike innovators and early adopters, the ‘early majority” of the wider population “aren’t interested in the nuances of the underlying technology but in what it can do to solve their problem[s]”.[11] Educational practitioners may rely more on contextually based practices, personal experience and communication with colleagues than research papers when considering new technology.[12] Moore referred to the gap between innovators/early adopters and the early majority as a chasm and states it can be difficult to bridge.[13] Social influence relates to how others can influence individuals’ opinions, behaviours, and attitudes. In the case of a new technology, leveraging social influence is thought to be a significant strategy to bridge the chasm, though “the late majority and laggards may accept innovative [technology]… only though the pressures of conformity”.[14]

A major consideration seemingly absent from the technology adoption literature is the role (if any) played by educators’ considerations of their students: “The teacher is not only an adopter of the innovation but also must act as a change agent for his or her students”. Straub compares our current relationship with continually emerging technologies to that of Sisyphus and the rock he perpetually rolls uphill, concluding, “understanding and facilitating the process of acceptance may be more important than the adoption itself”.[15] I’m inclined to agree.

[1] Kohn, A. (2016). The overselling of ed-tech. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/blogs/ed-tech/

[2] Puentedura, R. (2006). Part 1: A model for technology and transformation. Transformation, technology, and education. Retrieved from http://hippasus.com/resources/tte/

[3] Straub, E. (2009). Understanding technology adoption: Theory and future directions for informal learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 625-649.

[4] “new technology” refers to technology new to the user; it could be emerging technology new to society or education in general, or technology new to an individual’s practice.

[5] Davis, F. (1989). Perceived usefulness, perceive ease of use, and user acceptance of technology. MIS Quarterly, 13, 319-340.

[6] Jaffe, D. (1998). Institutionalized resistance to asynchronous learning networks. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 2(2), 21-32.

[7] Straub, E. (2009). Understanding technology adoption: Theory and future directions for informal learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 645.

[8] Bergeron, B. (2002). Achieving clinician buy-in to technology. Medscape. Retrieved from


[9] Parks, M. Bansal, S., & Zilberman, D. (2015). Technology adoption under fit risk: What should development project donors and managers know? Procedia Engineering, 107, 3-10.

[10] Morrison, P., Roberts, J., & von Hipple, E. (2000). Determinants of user innovation and innovation sharing in a local market. Management Science, 46(12), 1513-1527.

[11] Bergeron, B. (2002). Achieving clinician buy-in to technology. Medscape. Retrieved from


[12] Evidence-Based Intervention Work Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2005). Theories of change and adoption of innovations: The evolving evidence-based intervention and practice movement in school psychology. Psychology in the Schools, 42(5), 475-494.

[13] Moore, G. (1991). Crossing the Chasm. New York: PerfectBound (Harper Collins).

[14] Lin, M. & Hong, C. (2011). Opportunities for crossing the chasm between early adopters and the early majority through new uses of innovative products. The Review of Socionetwork Strategies, 5, 27-42.

[15] Straub, E. (2009). Understanding technology adoption: Theory and future directions for informal learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 645.

Meet the Expert(s)

julia hengstler

Julia Hengstler

Julia Hengstler is a Professor & Educational Technologist at Vancouver Island University’s Faculty of Education (BC). Author, speaker, researcher & teacher-educator, Julia enters the Joint Ph.D. in Educational Studies Program at Lakehead University, Brock University & the University of Windsor (ON) summer 2016. Contact Julia via: Email: Julia.Hengstler@viu.ca Blog: http://jhengstler.wordpress.com; Twitter: @jhengstler

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