Words Matter; Symbols Matter: Technology Adoption in Education

Larry Cuban, a well-respected education blogger, recently posted the following:

Technology Evangelists, Skeptics, and Those in the Middle

In it, he points out that what is new is not always what is better and that the language being used to describe late adopters of technology include value judgments that are frankly dangerous.

“Evangelists for technology seldom engage in reflection because they are true believers. True believers seldom entertain questions or skepticism because they are often taken as an attack upon bedrock principles. And for teachers, principals, parents who ask questions or raise issues about the new technologies, they risk being called resisters, an epithet that in U.S. culture, enamored with innovation and technology, is akin to the Scarlet Letter.”

— Larry Cuban

 

I agree that words matter. Symbols matter. I also believe that 99% of educators want what is best for students — so if they’re not implementing some new technology, it is not because their heart’s are not in the right place, it’s because they have a reason that’s appropriate for them. If we label educators who do not adopt new practices immediately as “resisters”, then we are preventing the very dialogue that needs to happen in the process of innovation. Therefore, I propose the following convention instead.

Screenshot of Google Chrome (12-10-15, 8-09-54 PM)

Pioneers are those who blaze the trail. They are heading towards the promised land. They understand that they could get lost, could get hurt, could fail in their pursuits, but they persist because they are true believers.

Fast followers won’t go first, but they will trod on the trails pioneers have created before they are full-blown paved roads. They test the waters and cautiously venture forth.

Anchors are deeply rooted in their practices. They need a lot of convincing to let go. And, anchors can also be necessary. They prevent people from steering completely off course.

Everyone is a pioneer, fast follower, or anchor in some ways but not in others. For example, the anchor who does not want to incorporate new technology, might be a pioneer in restorative justice practices.

We need to respect ALL educators and have labels that are non-judgmental when it comes to adoption of technology. Only then can we really come together to make a difference for the people who ultimately matter most, our students.

— Deborah Chang