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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Difusion Theory Health Education and Teaching Technology

Diffusion Theory provides a working format for the inclusion of educational technology in the health education curriculum and practice. There is a lot of excitement and "talk" regarding the potential for educational technology in HSE, but little discussion of philosophical orientation, design methodology, adoption rates, design techniques, or underlying structure. Meaningful discourse regarding direction and design of HSE methods and materials is needed to ensure continuity and credibility in the field.

Diffusion theory is the process by which an innovation is adopted and accepted.

This applies to health education and technology for several reasons;

1. Do most people want to learn? What is the motivation…if any.

2. Is learning simply acquiring knowledge? What defines learning in this context?

3. Can the use or failure to use technology enhance or hinder learning? How? Why?

There are several forms of diffusion theory, some more "suitable" to this topic.

Innovation Decision Process by Rogers which states diffusion is a process that occurs over time with five distinct stages: knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation.

Individual Innovativeness theory (Rogers) states individuals will adopt at different pace.

Rate of Adoption (Rogers) states innovations are diffused in an s-shaped curve over time…builds on concept of a critical mass.

Perceived Attributes states adopters judge an innovation based upon five attributes of the innovation; trialability, observation, relative advantage, complexity, and compatibility.

Instructional Technology Diffusion Theory

Building on the general diffusion theories, IT has formed Macro and Micro diffusion theories related to instructional technology.

1. Systematic Change Theories. The reform and restructuring of educational institutions. Major examples include Schoolyear 2000 model, Third Wave educational sys, etc..

2. Product Utilization Theories. Increasing the adoption and utilization of specific instructional products.

Examples of each theory are in operation at many campuses…some schools use technology to implement a restructuring of educational goals, assessment, and evaluation where other schools emphasize learning software and hardware components as one more skill in a repertoire of skills.

The systematic change theories and product utilization theories are each subject to philosophical debate surrounding the primary purpose of technology. There are two main "schools of thought".

Technological determinists view technology as an autonomous force which is the primary cause of social change. The technology itself becomes greater than those who created it, thereby leading to a Utopian view…technology will 'cure" societal woes, or a dystopian view where technology will decay society. Determinists gravitate toward a developer based theory to IT diffusion…basically believing adoption of IT is dependent upon the development of superior products. Four primary purposes of instructional design are identified as essential to diffusion; the ability to improve learning, improve management, improve evaluation, and build theory.

On the other hand, Instrumentalists view technology as a tool under the control of society which can be used for positive or negative means. Instrumentalists generally subscribe to an Adopter based IT diffusion theory which views the end user as the ultimate force for adoption and diffusion rather than the product itself. The adopter based instrumentalist perspective rejects the assumption that superior products or practices will automatically are the primary reason for adoption and diffusion. Instead, they "attempt to understand the social context in which the innovation will be used". There is a concept of "Revenge Effect" applied which seems like a synergistic philosophy; a revenge effect occurs when "new structures, devices, and organism react with real people in real situations in ways we could not foresee".

Adopter based theory applies to both product utilization theory and systemic change theories of IT diffusion.

Product Utilization:

In 1987 Ernest Burkman suggested a product utilization theory based on an instrumentalist view of IT. While rejecting the notion that product superioriorty was the determining factor for adoption, he proposed a process based on opinions needs, and perception as the primary force:

Burkmans User Oriented Instructional Development process consists of 5 steps;

1. Identify the potential adopter

2. Measure relevant potential adopter perceptions

3. Design and develop a user friendly product

4. Inform potential adopters of the user friendly product

5. Provide post adoption support.

Systemic Change:

In 1987 Hall and Hord developed a Concerns Based Adoption Model for IT diffusion theory. In this theory "facilitators" (as opposed to developers), bring about systematic restructuring by understanding the social, political, and interpersonal aspects of the end users.


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