The flattening effect

Many people around the world are talking about the flattening of the world effect that is occurring due to the speed and increased capabilities to connect with one another. I want to talk about a different flattening effect – this one is in relation to the diffusion of an innovation, Roger’s approach to the adoption of technology.

After over two years of providing services to faculty so they feel ready to increase the levels of technology application in their classrooms, we’ve leveled out … actually we’ve stopped increasing the number involved in ETIP. Early on we developed a great website with all types of information on Web2.0 tools and more – then we provided workshops, follow-up included 1-on-1 mentoring – last we’ve done in-class workshops to help students navigate through applications such as wikis and blogs. This diagram from Rogers shows our path:


Over time (the x-axis) we’ve seen a growth in the percentage (y-axis) of faculty participating in ETIP. Now we’re seeing the flattening effect. It’s a very interesting phenomenon, and doesn’t really fit into any model. Even Roger’s most famous descriptors don’t seem to coincide with the participants.


Now, my dissertation was, in-part, based on Rogers’ constructs, but I’m beginning to see this in a different light. I would not classify many of the ETIP faculty in the Innovator, or even Early Adopter, categories. But according to Rogers, I’m wrong. So my questions arise, what really makes an Innovator? What characteristics exemplify an Early Adopter? I’m thinking much more has to do with boldness than with ease of use. Let me describe one faculty member who personifies boldness.

Helen was a hired to teach Literacy, several classes with pre-service teachers. She is part-time, a retired classroom teacher, probably in her late 50’s or early 60’s. She is not really comfortable with technology, but goes to workshops on her own time and calls on me to answer questions and help her problem-solve. When I went into Helen’s class at the beginning of the semester to show her students how to get in and use the class wiki, she had a hard time remembering the URL – I’m not sure she recognized the term URL. She had learned about wikis at one of my workshops at the teaching and learning center on campus – Helen knew she could use the tool to support the outcomes that she sought.

During the 30 minutes with Helen and her class, it was evident that Helen didn’t mind the students knowing that she didn’t know all about wikis; nor that she got lost and had to find help. This is very refreshing, and once again shows a boldness that isn’t evident in many college faculty … Helen has no need to be the final authority, she’s comfortable being the teacher-learner.

Well, I’m still working on this – partly because it’s intriguing, but mostly because I’m still trying to figure out how to create an engaging environment for the remaining 90% of our faculty … What do you think Rogers would do if I put 90% Laggards?


5 thoughts on “The flattening effect

  1. I have been having a really good hard think about Roger’s Adoption of innovation curve myself. When I reflect on the people who I am getting to buy in and actually start using what they are learning it is the innovators and early adopters. Mostly the people who already had the technology skills just needed to be shown how they could use them.

    The problem I have is Marie Jasinski report on “Innovate and integrate Embedding innovative practices” (2007) which has just come out. I feel that initially we will have more success with the innovators and early adopters but her report states we need to be focusing on the early and late majority that make up 64 % of any population and these are the ones who can make the difference to whether an innovative practice is embedded in an organisation.

    Personally I would like also to make it 90% laggards. If you want to check out my work it is located here.


  2. I believe our attitudes to innovations are determined by the way we perceive ourselves. If we perceive ourselves as the ultimate expert in our field, then we would have a greater tendency to resist and reject new ideas. Most often when an idea is new it is easiest to persuade the early adopters because that’s part of their personality, they are change agents. Every innovation presents a challenge to them and they are willing to adapt or take the risk. Often times these people are bold enough to say ‘I don’t know but I am willing to give it a try’. In the area of technology integration, this is where we would like faculty to be, co-learners, not ashamed to learn at the same time with their students, in some cases learn from their students. Technology is constantly changing and we must be ready to be facilitators in our classrooms, collaborate with other teachers, and attend faculty development workshops to improve our skills and to keep up to date with technological developments. To the 90% laggards I would say “be bold like Helen and become part of the change process”.

  3. Thanks for the common thoughts, Sue. I think, as with most models, Rogers take on adoption is one view … and I’m not sure the longevity of any particular model. They are arrived at through studies of human responses … I’d be curious what Rogers would find if he studied cell phone or Web2.0 use, rather than the innovation of farm equipment.

  4. Olivia, you really are a bold users. You’ve learned how to do so much in such a short period of time. I also think that you are an inspiration to many who can relate to your use of technology … before the big leap that is. 🙂

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