EdTech & Design, Leadership, Opinion, Promising Practices

You Can’t Leap a Technology Chasm in Two Jumps

Strategies to increase technology adoption in school districts

This blog post is part of our series on leadership and governance and part 2 of this post.

To paraphrase Geoffrey Moore[1], the greatest point of peril in technology adoption lies in transitioning from early adopters—dominated by a few visionary users—to mainstream users who are predominantly pragmatic: in between the two lies the chasm.  In my first blog entry, When You Bring Tech to the Teacher, But You Can’t Make ‘Em Click , I offered the following six evidence-based ideas to increase technology adoption in school districts. 

  1. Individuals have different dispositions to change.
  2. A “Technology’s Perceived ROI” (or TPROI) needs to be positive.
  3. If new technology changes pre-existing practices considered central to identities (personal, professional, organizational), it will likely be resisted
  4. Individuals need a degree of autonomy.
  5. Both individuals and their uptake of technology will vary; so don’t expect homogeneity
  6. Social influence has potential to cross the diffusion chasm.

Now I’d like to share the strategies that could underpin the implementation of these ideas and foster technology adoption in your school district.

1.     Support people with low levels of technology experience & self-efficacy

  • Ladder these potential adopters up from small achievable technology adoptions before attempting larger ones;
  • Provide them intensive initial supports for early “wins” to build positivity & self-efficacy;
  • Expose them to adoption successes of people they like or admire, especially those who had/have proximal skill levels;
  • Arrange for a person or people they trust and find credible to provide positive, genuine, and specific verbal reinforcements;
  • Encourage more positive mental or emotional states by incorporating stress & anxiety reduction techniques before/while using new technology (e.g. playing soothing background music, using screen savers with images of nature, using positive self-talk, etc.) – or providing individuals with the stress reduction techniques to use themselves.

2.     Increase Technology’s Perceived ROI” (or TPROI)

  • Create opportunities for people to learn or experience positive applications of the new technology indirectly by sharing case studies, connecting potential adopters with colleagues already successfully implementing the technology, providing opportunities to observe the technology in action;
  • Encourage people to envision ways the new technology might be useful or beneficial in their specific contexts (class, office, etc.);
  • Guide potential adopters to technology with levels of complexity matched to their developmental experience and/or provide a range of supports to make learning the specific technology more accessible;
  • Structure low-risk opportunities to experiment, or experience partial implementations of the technology.

3.     Adopt a proposed technology that changes an important past practice

  • Determine if the practice was a “defining” one for the individual adopter, the profession or the organization to anticipate levels of adoption resistance;
  • Where possible, try implementing technology adoption in small stages to shift existing practice over time;
  • Identify underlying values from the pre-existing practice that could be identified with using the new technology and wherever else they might be evident; coach individuals to identify these other reflections of the core identity in locations other than the past practice effected by the technology.

4.     Ensure autonomy

  • Create smaller phases for larger technology roll-outs and allow individuals to pick their phase;
  • Allow individuals to select new technologies to investigate or adopt and have them share their information or progress with others (e.g. departmental or staff meeting);
  • Create self-directed professional development opportunities around new technology;
  • Develop a “volunteer” list of technology adopters willing to be observed & schedule opportunities for others to observe as interested;
  • Create opportunities for individuals to suggest new technologies for use and pilot them.

5.     Personalize the learning

  • Provide opportunities for innovators and early adopters to have time and/or access to new technology; they will likely self-support but if they reach out for additional professional development resources be prepared;
  • Create a number of learning opportunities – events/resources for individuals prepared to use the new technology in a specific situation or those who will use it if it can provide “some reasonable benefit to their practice”; [2]
  • Suggest technology matches between individuals’ pedagogy or methods and new technology (e.g. use Carrington’s “Padagogy Wheel v 4.0” matching apps[3], Bloom’s Taxonomy, & Puentedura’s SAMR phases)[4].

6.     Leverage social influence

  • Familiarize yourself with the networks of relationships, formal and informal power within the school – map them;
  • Identify individuals interested in technology adoption who also are well networked in the school/district—the “opinion leadership”[5] and enlist them in a collaborative plan to diffuse technology;
  • Ask potential adopters and the wider population to nominate peers as technology adoption leaders; approach these nominees as potential volunteers to support technology diffusion (incentives like release time or other carrots can help);
    • Ask respondents to name five people for each; names may be used more than once[6]
      • Who do you respect as a peer in this school/district?
      • Who are good leaders in technology and other group activities in this school (or district)?
      • Who do you look up to as a peer in this school/district?
      • Which peers have you had a conversation with today or connected with online?
  • Connect (as genuinely possible) use of the new technology with social factors such as: requirements of an individual’s position, being a practice valued by colleagues & ‘higher ups’, being “required of other school professionals in their position, or … in the area of [their] expertise”[7];
  • Create a communication bridge – a person trusted by both the innovators/earlier adopters and wider population tasked with collecting information on uses of new technology by innovators and early adopters and communicating the information to others.

Technology adoption has costs – in dollars, human resources hours, cognitive load, stress, etc. Even some of the most promising educational technologies end up gathering dust in those places where good technology goes to die in your district. To be fiscally, as well as educationally responsible, our technology planning must include monetary, infrastructure and organizational factors. Yet in our planning processes, consideration of the factors influencing adoption by individuals is perhaps the most important and most overlooked factor. The Straub citation from my previous post bears repeating: “understanding and facilitating the process of acceptance may be more important than the adoption itself”.[8] I hope my contributions to this blog improve your success when fostering technology adoption. Let me know.


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

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


[3] Carrington, A. (2015). Padagogy wheel v 4.0. Retrieved from


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

[5] Holliday, J., Audrey, S., Campbell, R., & Moore, L. (2015). Identifying well-connected opinion leaders for informal health promotion: The example of the ASSIST smoking prevention program. Health Communication.

[6] Starkey, F., Audrey, S., Holliday, J., Moore, L., & Campbell, R. (2009). Identifying influential young people to undertake effective peer-led health promotion: The example of A Stop Smoking in Schools Trial (ASSIST). Health Education Research, 24(6), 997-988.

[7] 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), 483.

[8] 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

Read More