DIFFUSION OF THE INTERNET
WITHIN A GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
Lorraine Catherine Sherry
B.A., Vassar College, 1961
M.A.T., Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1962
M.S., Northeastern University, 1969
M.Ed., University of South Florida, 1994
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
1998 by Lorraine Catherine Sherry
All rights reserved.
This diesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Lorraine Catherine Sherry
has been approved
W. Alan Davis
Laura A. Goodwin
Sherry, Lorraine Catherine (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Diffusion of the Internet within A Graduate School of Education
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Brent G. Wilson
This case study investigated the factors that affect the use of the Internet within the
School of Education at the University of Colorado, Denver. In this context, Internet
tools" were defined as e-mail; a FirstClass BBS known as Colorado Education On-line
(CEO); and the WWW. The study combined empirical research within the school and
an extensive review of relevant literature to identify 28 separate factors that impact
Internet diffusion. These factors clustered into six major themes, namely: (a) user
characteristics and perceptions; (b) cultural and organizational issues including norms
of use and legitimate activities; (c) tools, design, and impersonal supports; (d) social
issues including scaffolding, mentoring, and communication; (e) individual learning,
adoption, and conceptual change; and (f) group learning, adoption, and conceptual
change. The parallel between this independently developed conceptual framework and
activity theory was striking. Activity theory thus became the overall framework for
Ten research questions were investigated, using varied data collection activities. These
consisted of: (a) two surveys conducted two years apart; (b) twelve interviews with a
purposeful selection of early- to late adopter students, faculty, staff, and a policymaker,
(c) a focus group of novice students; and (d) an analysis of electronic artifacts
Principal findings included the following. Users valued personal scaffolding but had
individual preferences concerning specific types of scaffolding. Self-efficacy x
perceived value persisted across time and across programs. Early adopters tended to be
intrinsically motivated, whereas later adopters often felt extrinsic coercion.
Personal/cultural compatibility, rather than time, separated earlier from later adopters.
Early adopters often expressed a good fit between Internet tools and their personal and
cultural values. Late adopters voiced concerns about the impact of the Internet on their
core pedagogical strategies, indicating that it may not support their vision of learning.
The study resulted in a set of recommendations for improving access, functionality,
training, and technical support; use of communication channels; and use of electronic
conferences to enhance classroom discussions. It also highlighted the need for an
incentive system, and for ways that faculty might share promising practices that use the
Internet to enhance teaching and learning.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
Brent G. Wilson
This dissertation is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Sophie Sherry, who never
lost faith in me.
My thanks to my committee, to my doctoral laboratory cohort, to the members of the
Internet Task Force, to the professors, staff, and students who participated in my
interviews and focus groupsand especially to my advisorfor their continued
patience, understanding, cooperation, and support throughout the past four years.
1. Introduction to the Problem.................................................1
I. I Overview and Purpose of the Study.........................................1
1.2 The Internet: Myths, Facts, and Questions.................................3
1.3 Searching for Answers.....................................................6
1.3.1 Initial Internet Task Force Efforts.......................................7
1.3.2 SOE Web Page..............................................................9
1.3.3 Recurring Questions......................................................10
1.4 Developing a Conceptual Framework........................................11
1.4.1 Evaluation of the Boulder Valley Internet Project....................... 11
1.4.2 Toward a New Diffusion Model.............................................12
1.4.3 My Role as a Participant Observer........................................15
1.5 The Problem and Research Questions.......................................18
1.5.1 Theme 1: User Characteristics and Perceptions............................19
1.5.2 Theme 2: Cultural and Organizational Issues, Norms of Use, Legitimate
1.5.3 Theme 3: Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports..........................20
1.5.4 Theme 4: Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication............20
1.5.5 Theme 5: Individual Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change ...........20
1.5.6 Theme 6: Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change.................20
1.6 Implications of This Study...............................................20
2. Conceptual framework.....................................................22
2.2 Adoption: Empirical Base..............................................24
2.2.1 Preliminary Investigations.......................................... 24
2.2.2 Developmental Research............................................... 28
2.2.3 Theory-Based Evaluation...............................................31
2.2.4 Summary of Empirical Factors..........................................36
2.3 Adoption: Theoretical Base............................................37
2.3.2 The Foundations of Diffusion Theory...................................37
2.3.3 Enhancements by Other Researchers.....................................44
2.3.4 Addressing the Gaps in Diffusion Theory...............................53
2.3.5 Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC).................................54
2.3.6 Organizational Learning and Change....................................60
2.3.7 Summary of Theoretical Factors........................................68
2.4 Relating the Theoretical to the Empirical Base........................70
3.2 Suggested Lines of Inquiry............................................78
3.2.1 Themes 1, 3, and 4....................................................78
3.2.2 Theme 2...............................................................79
3.2.3 Themes 5 and 6........................................................80
3.3 Data Collection Strategy..............................................81
3.4 Six Themes to Be Explored in Depth....................................83
3.4.1 Theme 1: User Characteristics and Perceptions...........................83
3.4.2 Theme 2: Cultural and Organizational Issues, Norms of Use, Legitimate
3.4.3 Theme 3: Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports.........................86
3.4.4 Theme 4: Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication...........87
3.4.5 Theme 5: Individual Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change...........89
3.4.6 Theme 6: Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change................91
3.5 Study Setting and Subjects..............................................92
3.5.1 Survey Sample...........................................................92
3.5.2 Interview Sample........................................................93
3.5.3 Focus Group.............................................................94
3.5.4 Analysis of Electronic Artifacts........................................95
3.6 Data Analysis...........................................................96
3.6.1 Survey Data.............................................................96
3.6.2 In-Depth Interviews and Focus Group.....................................97
3.6.3 Analysis of Electronic Artifacts........................................98
3.7 Strengths and Limitations of the Study.................................103
3.7.1 Unit of Analysis and Its Boundaries....................................104
3.7.2 Lack of Direct Observations............................................105
3.7.3 Ambiguous Data.........................................................105
3.7.4 Non-Exhaustive Collection of Relevant Evidence.........................106
3.7.4 Limitations on Reliability of Coding Open-Ended Comments...............106
4.2.1 1995 Demographic Information..................................108
4.2.2 1997 Demographic Information..................................109
4.3 Theme 1.......................................................110
4.3.1 Research Question 1A..........................................110
4.3.2 Research Question IB..........................................117
4.3.3 Research Question 1C..........................................126
4.4 Theme 2.......................................................137
4.4.1 Research Question 2A..........................................138
4.4.2 Research Question 2B..........................................143
4.5 Theme 3.......................................................151
4.5.1 Research Question 3A..........................................151
4.6 Theme 4.......................................................156
4.6.1 Research Question 4A..........................................157
4.6.2 Research Question 4B..........................................170
4.7 Theme 5.......................................................177
4.7.1 Research Question 5A..........................................178
4.8 Theme 6.......................................................187
4.8.1 Research Question 6A..........................................187
5. Conclusions and Recommendations...................................207
5.2 What is Working and What is Not Working?......................207
5.3 Where Are We Going?...........................................209
5.3.1 Extent of Use.......................................................210
5.3.2 Reasons for Use.....................................................211
5.3.3 Personal Concerns...................................................212
5.3.4 Incentives and Motivation...........................................213
5.3.5 Culturally Appropriate Use..........................................214
5.3.6 Mediating Tools.....................................................217
5.3.7 Preferred Scaffolding...............................................219
5.3.8 Communication Channels..............................................221
5.3.9 Individual and Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change......222
5.3.10 Questions That Remain Unanswered...................................223
A. Purposeful Selection of Interview Participants........................228
B. E-Mail SurveyDivision of Technology and Special Services, 1/95........234
C. E-Mail SurveyDivision of Technology and Special Services, 1/97........ 240
D. Interview and Focus Group Questions...................................246
E. Survey Items About Prior Experience With Internet Tools................252
F. Questionnaire for 1997 Advanced Quantitative Methods Students..........254
1. Introduction to the Problem
The Internet is so vast, and encompasses so many groups and heterogeneous
interests that it is an information ecosystem.
(Aboba, 1993, p. 103).
1.1 Overview and Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to explore a range of factors that influence the use
of the Internet to support teaching and learning within an institution of higher learning.
The context is the University of Colorados (UCD) School of Education (SOE). These
factors include individual user characteristics and perceptions, design and support
features of the universitys network services; social and communication issues;
cultural/organizational characteristics of members of the SOE; and issues of learning,
adoption, and conceptual change. Understanding the impact of these factors will enable
us to form a better understanding of how to support our members as they learn to use
Internet communications and technologies. Members of our learning community ought
to be ableby choiceto do whatever activities they feel need to be done, with
minimal negative effects such as coercion or inequitable access.
The overarching research problem is this: What factors affect the use of the
Internet within a graduate school of education? For this study, the Internet is considered
to be a network of electronic networks connected by Transmission Control
Protocol/Intemet Protocol (TCP/IP) or Point-to-Protocol (PPP). TCP/IP was first
developed by the Department of Defense to link dissimilar computers across many
kinds of networks, including dissimilar Local Area Networks (LANs) (Newton, 1996,
p. 1135). The Internet hosts a set of tools that are available to the School, including
electronic mail (e-mail), Colorado Education On-line (CEO, a FirstClass Bulletin Board
System), and the World Wide Web (also known as the WWW or the Web). These tools
permit our members to communicate with one another and to access and disseminate
information electronically, both locally and globally.
My interest in using the Internet as a learning environment began two years
before I entered the doctoral program and increased ever since. I am fascinated by its
possibilities in expanding the opportunities for research, communication, collaborative
work, and the dissemination of research results beyond the walls of the university. I
have worked as a change agent within the SOE, mentoring my colleagues, participating
in on-line forums, building Web pages, publishing on-line, and stndying the dynamics
of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) and technology integration within
educational institutions. I am deeply aware of the myriads of problems that this entails:
not only problems of access and learning how to use a new technology, but also
problems of dealing with entirely new forms of communication and enculturation into a
global, on-line learning community.
In my research, I found no models specifically addressing Internet adoption by
a higher education organization. People working in the field generally use corporate
models, but these tend to be linear. Elliot Soloway mentioned at the 1997 AERA
conference (Cuban et al., 1997) that corporate models of technology adoption and
diffusion do not port well to educational environments, since the integration of the
Internet into a schools curriculum is part of a more comprehensive process of systemic
Moreover, traditional models of adoption and diffusion are descriptive rather
than prescriptive. They offer us a host of factors that influence the adoption process,
but they do not give us a deep understanding of how these factors relate to one another.
Nor can they give us a feeling for the relative importance of each of these factors as
they interact and moderate the process by which an educational institution adopts a new
technology and customizes it for its own particular situation. Each organization is
different Each social system has its own unique cultural norms, values, beliefs, and
To build a new conceptual framework for the adoption and diffusion of the
Internet within an educational organization, I began by melding the empirical and
theoretical factors that I gleaned from my own research efforts with the UCD SOE and
RMC Research Corporation over the past three years. I gathered and built upon
fundamental ideas and models from various disciplines, including adoption and
diffusion theory, cognitive science, activity theory, systems theory and organizational
change, and theories relating to CSCL and mediated learning environments.
Then, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, I explored how these
factors affect the use of the Internet for information access and dissemination,
communication, teaching, and learning, throughout the SOE. I started with a set of
surveys to identify broad patterns, and then moved to qualitative methods to narrow the
focus of the investigation and to gain greater depth.
Finally, I developed a set of recommendations for the UCD Computer,
Information, and Network Services (CINS) and the SOE to create a set of aids,
supports, and interventions for new and continuing users of the Internet Between the
end of my data collection and analysis activities and the time this dissertation was
finalized, several of these interventions were in the process of being implemented.
1.2 The Internet: Myths, Facts, and Questions
Those who are familiar with Eastern mythology will recognize the fabled
Wish-fillfilling cow: a mythological beast that grants humanity all of its sustenance
and desires. On the other hand, those who are familiar with Western fables will
recognize Pandoras Box: a box that was thought to be full of wondrous gifts, but
that actually contained a swarm of flies and other noxious insects. How shall we
characterize the Internet? What questions should we be asking as we approach the cow
or attempt to open the box?
Soloway and Wallace (1997) give us a sobering touch of reality regarding the
myths and facts surrounding the Web. With limited resources available in the classroom
and the school library, students are turning to the Web to find timely information.
However, they are also finding that they have to be willing to invest healthy doses of
time, effort, and good humor into the search process. They continually run into
problems such as the World Wide Waif, difficulties with hypertext navigation,
keyword searches that dont work, an overwhelming amount of unorganized content,
and inappropriate sites. Moreover, using the Web for student research may perpetuate
the myth that answers to any ill-defined problem can be found on the Web. Are these
problems too much for our new users to handle, especially since technological literacy
is not a prerequisite for entry into our Schools graduate programs?
Collis and her colleagues (1997) identified several recurrent problems using the
Web for computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW) in a higher education setting.
These included problems in maintaining course momentum as students become
immersed in their respective projects; motivating and structuring collaboration and
communication; maintaining group memory (or longitudinal continuity, as defined by
Crook, 1994a); organizing and executing self- and inter-group evaluation; and relating
group activities to the conceptual aspects of the course. Hewitt and Scardamalia (1997)
encountered similar problems with group coherence in CSCW.
Fortunately, these groups of researchers found some operational solutions for
these problems that worked for their particular situations, but they have not developed
generalizable models that can be applied elsewhere. Thus, anyone who contemplates
using Web-based instruction will have to actively research the impact of Internet-based
learning environments on their own student project teams because such courses are
highly situated and dependent on the introduction, implementation, and use of
technology within any given team (Chinowsky & Goodman, 1997). This emphasis on
the local setting is probably desirable, but there is a concomitant need for better, more
comprehensive models as well
Professionals, too, are beginning to run into problems, especially with the new
American Psychological Association (APA) guideline that personal publication of pre-
press manuscripts on the WWW constitutes publishing per se. There are reputable,
peer-reviewed electronic journals (for example, DEOSNEWS, Electronic Journal of
Virtual Culture, CSS Journal) and on-line proceedings publications that are beginning
to compete with paper-based professional journals. Publishing in these journals does,
in fact, constitute professional publishing. But how does this fit in with the
administrations vision and incentive structure for professional publishing by faculty
and doctoral students?
Primarily in the Curriculum, Learning, and Technology (CLT) emphasis area of
the doctoral program, some innovative students and faculty are beginning to create on-
line portfolios and to contribute to our collection of scholarly publications. Some teams
of students have participated in on-line, distributed, case-based instruction
competitions. Others have been active members of on-line forums and discussions such
as the Association for Educational Communications and Technologys (AECT)
ITFORUM, the American Educational Research Associations (AERA) VIRTCON, and
the SOEs Information and Learning Technologies (ILT) on-line forum. All of these
forums encourage scholarly dialogue about problems of common interest to
instructional designers and educational researchers (Sherry & the UCD Internet Task
Force, 1996). But only a few of our members participate in them. What incentives and
support are available for faculty and students who participate in such activities? Are
these measures appropriate for our learning community?
In revisiting the Guidon-Manage expert medical system, Clancey found that
complex, domain-specific computer systems...cannot simply be delivered by one
community of practice (computer science researchers) to another (medical students and
faculty) (1993, p. 9). I wondered whether the seeming paucity of professional on-line
involvement among our faculty and students might be due to a misalignment between
the design of the universitys telecommunications system and its context of use. As
David points out, there are four key requirements for the effective use of technology:
access, professional development, functionality, and technical support. She emphasizes
that the use of technology must have the functionality to support the use for which it is
intended (1994, p. 143). What are the design factors that facilitate or impede adoption
and diffusion of the Internet?
Turkle and Papert (1991) observed students who use a hard approach to
working with computers (the hards prefer abstract thinking, systematic planning, and
a command-line interface) and those who use a soft approach (the softs prefer a
negodational approach, concrete forms of reasoning, and a graphical interface). They
noted that many soft-approach students (primarily women) tend to be turned off by the
traditional approach to computation.
Different people are comfortable with different kinds of human-computer
interfaces (HCIs). Giving students a choice between a command-line interface (in
which the computer is told to do something) and the desktop metaphor (in which icons
can be freely moved around to control the computer) opens up new possibilities to
match the HCI with the individual learners cognitive style.
Having participated in other research activities that deal with educational
telecommunications, I know that the Internet is a dynamic innovation with barriers and
facilitators that change rapidly. For example, CEO attained full Internet connectivity as
of spring, 1998: a major redesign that overcame one of its most serious limitations.
There is one drawback, however: to access the full range of Internet tools and
applications, one must have a TCP/IP or PPP connection.
Though Internet access was freely available to all students, until spring 1998
when all of my data collection activities were completed, support for student accounts
on the Carbon and Ouray servers was rather rudimentary and cheap as compared with
many other university telecommunications systems. Other than having students
purchase services privately from a commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP), there
was no provision for Internet protocols (such as TCP/IP or PPP) through the
university. Thus, it was not possible for students and faculty to link the universitys
network servers with their computers at home or at work and to use graphical browsers
without personally incurring a monthly service fee.
To add to the difficulties that new users faced, in-person, on-site technical
support by experienced laboratory assistants is often not available on a regular basis in
the SOE computer laboratory. E-mailing CINS experts often involves a wait of a day or
two until problems with student accounts or faculty computers are resolved. How can
these difficulties be ameliorated?
1.3 Searching for Answers
From 1990 to 1992, as I worked with the Florida Center for Instructional
Technology, I sought answers to questions such as these. My interest persisted when I
carried out a needs assessment for distance learning training under a grant from the
Pacific Mountain Network (Sherry & Morse, 1995).
In 1994, when I was admitted into the UCD doctoral program, I joined a group
of fellow students who shared my interest in the Internet. Let us take September 1994
as the starting point and look at this study from a historical point of view as it has
evolved over time.
1.3.1 Initial Internet Task Force Efforts
In the fall of 1994, an ad hoc group of students and recent graduates, together
with their academic advisor, formed the UCD Internet Task Force. Our purpose was to
create a networked learner support environment for both the Information and Learning
Technologies (ILT) masters degree program and the Instructional Technology (TT)
thread of the doctoral program. At that time, the IT doctoral program was in the process
of evolving into a broader Curriculum, Learning, and Technology (CLT) emphasis area
that was housed within a new schoolwide doctoral program.
The Internet Task Force had three broad objectives: (a) To support the SOE in
its move to join the Internet culture through a variety of on-line and off-line tools,
support, training, and policy initiatives; (b) to develop ways that the Internet could be
used as knowledge-building tools within graduate classes and seminars; and (c) to
reflect on and conduct research on users needs, support tools, adoption processes,
cultural change, and collaborative learning communities.
The Internet Task Force met regularly since August 1994 and created a number
of performance supports and research products related to educational uses of the
Internet (See Sherry & the UCD Internet Task Force, 1996, for a more complete report
of the Internet Task Force activities and accomplishments.) Our Initial interventions
focused on creating informative trifold brochures, on-line tutorials, and an on-line
In 1995, to address these three objectives, four of our members wrote a paper
that was presented at the AECT In-CIi E95 Conference and that was later published in
the conference proceedings (Wilson, Ryder, McCahan, & Sherry, 1996). In our
investigation, we attempted to carry out four activities: (a) to reflect on the general
problem of the local and Internet cultures; (b) to report on our efforts to support the
integration of the two cultures; (c) to highlight areas of needed research; and (d) to offer
recommendations to designers of learning environments for the successful integration
of the Internet into existing learning cultures.
For our first research project, several of our members carried out a short case
study which involved several activities. We carried out a literature review of factors that
are critical to a users choice to join the Internet community. We conducted a user
survey of faculty and students in the Instructional Technology (FT) department to
determine their levels of use, objectives for use, and obstacles faced in the use of the
Internet as well as their preferred performance and training supports. We interviewed a
group of thirteen students in the instructional technology seminar who were exploring
the Internet, developing home pages, conducting on-line searches, downloading files,
and participating electively in listservs. We followed up the group interview with a
short e-mail questionnaire in the fall of 1995 and collected responses from seven of the
original thirteen interviewees. Finally, we interviewed three faculty members to
determine their role in setting a tone for the departments local culture.
Five factors emerged that seemed to affect peoples choices to engage in the use
of e-mail and the Internet:
1. Clear benefit and value. There needs to be some compelling need for student to
engage in the discomfort attending the learning of new technologies.
2. Developing self-efficacy. Lack of self-efficacy is common when a person both
believes in the value or necessity of learning and using to use some new technology and
simultaneously feels incompetent or unable to leam how to use it
3. Cultural/personal compatibility. Technology occasionally conflicts with peoples
learning styles, self-concepts, and lifestyles.
4. Proper scaffolding. People need a scaffold or support structure in place as they
engage in complex performances outside their normal repertoire of skills.
5. Finding a voice and having something to say. Here, users are more concerned with
the content of their messages and products rather than the technology perse. This is
especially important when dealing with a text based interface where no social/nonverbal
cues are available.
Ryder and Wilson continued the investigation of these and other factors and
presented their results at AERA in 1995, with a special emphasis on the five factors
listed above and the affordances of mediated communication (Ryder & Wilson, 1996).
In particular, participation in virtual learning environments is limited to those who are
literate and who can express themselves via electronic media, who have access to the
technology, and who can filter information that is of value. Part of this involves
conducting a follow-up investigation of these five factors and their relative importance,
now that three years have passed.
1.3.2 SOE Web Page
Our second major research project was carried out throughout 1995 and 1996,
when two of us studied, reflected upon, and documented the collaborative processes of
our design team as we designed the SOE Home Page (Sherry & Myers, 1998). We had
some specific areas we wanted to explore:
1. What are the differences between face-to-face and electronically mediated
2. What processes are occurring in a collaborative design group that is using a mediated
environment for both communication and design?
3. What are the group dynamics that support the design process?
We used three data sources for triangulation: e-mail messages among task force
members, task force meeting notes, and member responses to a written questionnaire.
The results of our work were presented at three professional conferences in 1996
(STC, AERA, and AACE). Four themes emerged from the analysis of the e-mail
messages among all team members: (a) making explicit use of metacognitive strategies,
(b) developing a shared knowledge base, (c) taking responsibility for assigned tasks
and helping teammates do likewise, and (d) generating new ideas and new research
questions. These four themes were found in both the meeting notes and the
questionnaire responses as well.
We also noted, like Berge (1997), Wilson, Lowry, Koneman and Osman-
Jouchoux (1994), and Fishman (1997) that there is a difference between the types of
dialogue that occurred in mediated conversations as compared with face-to-face
conversations. Design conversation occurred more frequently in face-to-face meetings
than in electronic discourse. On the one hand, with nonverbal cues, body language, and
other social context cues missing in text-based e-mail conversations, participants could
concentrate on the content of the message rather than the presenter. On the other hand,
in negotiation of meaning and conflict resolution, we found that our face-to-face
meetings were more productive.
Berge explains that written communication may be more reflective than spoken
interaction, and may involve deeper cognitive processing (1997, p. 10). This can lead
to written communication apprehension, a factor that negatively influenced student use
of and attitudes toward computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools (Fishman,
1997, p. 8). Since finding a voice and having something to say (or mediated writing
proficiency) emerged as a factor in the 1995 survey, it was important to follow up this
theme in the 1997 survey and the subsequent interviews.
1.3.3 Recurring Questions
Nearly four years have passed since our initial efforts began. Some of our
doctoral labs and seminars have begun to use CEO conferencing and the address book
feature of the PINE e-mail system to carry on asynchronous, open conversations about
topics directly relevant to the curriculum being studied. The Internet Task Force has
worked collaboratively on shared documents that reflect our current academic programs
and products. We reorganized the SOE Home Page to reflect the new requirements of
the doctoral program and printed trifold brochures advertising the existence of the home
page. We mentored students and staff through the process of getting connected, using
Netscape, and publishing on-line documents. Throughout all of our efforts, there still
remained a growing list of questions that were left unanswered. Is the Internet
underutilized? If so, why? How can we help new and continuing users to use it in ways
that they feel will serve their intended purposes?
I was privileged to be a guest speaker on Baileys (1997) Net Forum in which
her entire class discussed Web-based instruction on-line for two hours. Collis,
Andemach, and VanDiepen (1997) developed a web-based environment for group
work in higher education. Montgomerie and Harapnuik (1997) developed and delivered
an award-winning on-line credit course for adult learners. Wolcott and Robertson
(1997) have their theater doctoral students develop collaborative, hypertext plans and
proposals for innovative theater presentations. Might some of these activities be
appropriate for our own SOE? Or are there important social, cultural, and organizational
factors operating within our School that would preclude this?
At RMC Research Corporation, my colleagues and I have explored similar
questions, presented our findings at professional meetings, published journal articles,
created staff development workshops, built Web sites, recommended interventions to
funding agencies, and gained a reputation as effective technology implementation and
integration experts. However, before I might attempt to recommend any interventions
to either CINS or the UCD SOE, I needed to develop a more comprehensive model of
the adoption process and the cultural changes that are taking place as our own on-line
learning communities begin to take shape and develop their own norms and
conventions of use, both within separate programs and within the SOE as a whole.
1.4 Developing a Conceptual Framework
In researching the adoption of telecommunications by educational organizations,
I started by using corporate models such as Rogers (1995) and Hall and Hord (1987). I
recognized their limitations, namely: (a) they consider adoption as a social process seen
through the eyes of the individual user rather than as a systemic process, and (b) they
consider this process as fairly linear rather than involving complex feedback loops.
Thus, I started looking elsewhere in the literature to fill the gaps in their models and
begin to build a unique model of my own. The conceptual structures I worked with,
and the literature that I searched to build them, are documented in two of my major
publications (Sherry, 1997a; Sherry, Lawyer-Brook, & Black, 1997).
1.4.1 Evaluation of the Boulder Valley Internet Project
In the Evaluation of the Boulder Valley Internet Project (B VIP) (Sherry,
Lawyer-Brook, & Black, 1997), I developed a theoretical model that guided me in my
efforts to collect, analyze, interpret, and report a very large amount of data gathered
from several data sources. These included a district-wide e-mail survey, in-depth
interviews, focus groups, a curriculum work group, an embedded case study at an
elementary school, and documentation gathered throughout the implementation phase of
the project I interpreted the results of this evaluation were in relation to several
theoretical models of the innovation adoption process within complex educational
Clearly, there are major differences between the BVIP and the SOE. The BVIP
took place in a K-12 school district was funded by outside organizations (National
Science Foundation and the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Project), and was a
collaborative venture between the University of Colorado and the Boulder Valley
School District (BVSD). Moreover, the main impetus of the BVIP was to develop a
training program for teachers and administrators who wished to use the Internet for
The supportive actions of the UCD Internet Task Force, in contrast, were
strictly internal, had very limited funding, and did not include a formal training
component Classes and workshops in the use and applications of Internet
communication tools are offered by the SOE for credit or by CINS as a free service for
I do feel, however, that the model that I developed for the BVIP can in some
measure be applied to the SOE. Throughout the literature, whether Internet diffusion
initiatives have taken place in K-12 or higher educational settings, whether their
funding has been internal or external, and whether students received formal training in
Internet-specific classes or informal mentoring within classes that used Internet tools,
the same clusters of factors keep reappearing. These are: (a) technological factors
(design features of the innovation such as access, functionality, interface and design,
network response time, capacity, and reliability); (b) individual factors (user
characteristics and user perceptions); and (c) organizational factors (including social and
cultural considerations, training, maintenance, and support).
I found, like Ryder and Wilson (1996) that the technological barriers were the
easiest ones to solve. Barriers that are rooted in culture, gender, lifestyles, learning
styles, paradigms, and comfort zones, in contrast, provide rich opportunities for further
research, theory development, and guidance for practice. Moreover, participation in on-
line conferences can facilitate individual conceptual change through dialogue, reflection,
negotiation of meaning, and transformation of perspectives in rather different ways
from face-to-face dialogue. My interest in these issues drove this investigation.
1.4.2 Toward a New Diffusion Model
After I had finished the final report for the BVIP, I wrote a paper (Sherry,
1997a) and gave a presentation at the AECT In-CITE97 conference. I described the
three ways in which the BVIP deviated from Rogers (1994) Diffusion of Innovations
model: (a) the innovation (the Internet) was dynamic, not static; (b) the organization
was decentralized, not centralized; and (c) client/change agent empathy contributed to
horizontal diffusion but did not facilitate vertical diffusion.
hi my informal conversations with faculty and students in the SOE over the past
three years, I saw that these same trends also characterize our own learning community.
There is no way to separate the diffusion of the Internet from the evolution of the
technology itself. As a teacher remarked, its like flying the plane while were still
Our School has many different programs that are semi-autonomous, and that
may even have separate cultural norms as well as separate requirements. Diffusion of
innovations is strongly dependent on channels of communication (Carlson, 1970), and
tends to take place among closely linked groups, classes, or programs, rather than
throughout an organization as a whole. These are systemic issues that bear further
Moreover, speaking of a learning community or a learning organization
tends to meld learning with adoption. In the B VIP evaluation, I saw that these are very
difficult to separate; they feed into each other. Everson states that learning is change and
defines a learning organization as an organization skilled at creating, acquiring and
transferring knowledge and at modifying its original assumptions, purposes and
behaviors to reflect new knowledge and insights (1997, p 2).
Revisiting the B VIP data, I began to understand that there was an important
interaction between the adoption/diffusion process and the learning process itself. In the
case of the BVTP, teacher-trainees who wished to integrate the Internet into their
classroom activities started out as learners, then adopters, then co-learners and co-
explorers with their students, and finally, as reaffirmers or disconfirmers of the
adoption process. I have recently written a paper (Sherry, 1998) that describes this
cyclical leaming/adoption trajectory in detail.
In the SOE, however, our students are not all teacher-trainees, nor will all of
them be in a position of co-learning and co-exploring with a cadre of their own
students, so this cyclical model may not necessarily apply to our SchooL It did,
however, identify a negative feedback loop that was taking place within the BVIP. The
B VIP was an innovative subsystem within a larger community that was espousing
increasingly conservative norms and values. Perhaps negative feedback loops may exist
within the SOE as well, especially if newly acquired skills lead to increased job
responsibilities without concomitant incentives or rewards.
Peled, Peled, and Alexander (1994) looked at technological interventions from
an ecological approach that considers the system as a whole, couched within its local
environment and context This is much like the approach that Egan (1985) used for his
investigation of change agent skills in human service organizations. The level of
coupling within individual system components (Morrison & Goldberg, 1996) becomes
important from this perspective. The more tightly coupled the spheres of influence of
local culture, policy makers, school, classroom, and teacher/student become, the easier
it is to diffuse innovations throughout the system, but the less adaptable the individual
components of the system become to local environmental stimuli and changes.
Morison (1984) emphasized just how hard it is to introduce a new innovation
into a tightly coupled system with a well-defined culture. Martin and Zlotolow (1997)
explained that this is because of three separate factors: (a) the breadth of the proposed
change effort, (b) the systems readiness for change, and (c) the systems capacity for
In the BVIP evaluation, I clustered all of the organizational factors together.
Upon further investigation into the literature, however, I found that there are actually
three group processes going on, namely, social processes, systems processes, and
cultural processes of organizational learning and growth.
The process of change and diffusion begins with individuals characteristics and
perceptions, coupled with the cultural norms and legitimate activities of the learning
organization of which they are a part It progresses through various processes of
dealing with the design of the innovation, learning how to use its associated tools,
utilizing the communication channels of the organization, and making effective use of
both the impersonal and the personal support structure of the organization. Finally it
ends with cognitive restructuring and transformation of perspectives among those
individuals and the learning groups of which they are a part This may lead to
reaffirmation of the adoption decision, with the adopter influencing other colleagues
and students to adopt it or it may lead to reluctant use or outright rejection of the
innovation. This is my new technology adoption and diffusion model (Sherry, 1998).
Throughout this cycle, learning, adoption, and change are continually mediated
by the design and the support structure of the environment in which these activities take
place. Moreover, they are highly influenced by the communication channels that join
people within the organization. This is why both Rogers and Hall stress the importance
of building personal, supportive relationships between change agents and the members
of the systems that they wish to change.
Organizational systems are cultures. The individuals who comprise them share
beliefs, values, meanings, assumptions, norms, and a common language or set of
representations. They have their own definitions of legitimate activities within their
sociocultural system. A proper study must focus on the organization in which the
individuals are situated, not just on the individuals per se; it cannot ignore the social
roles, norms, and dynamics of group interaction.
With the work of Rogers, Hall, and my own empirical studies as a starting
point, I investigated a whole spectrum of factors that influences the adoption and
diffusion of innovations within a sociocultural system. This large set of factors can be
collapsed into six overarching themes as presented in Table 1.1.
Themes to Be Explored in Chapter Two
Theme Cluster of Factors
1 User Characteristics and Perceptions
2 Cultural and Organizational Issues, Norms of Use, Legitimate Activities
3 Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports
4 Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication
5 Individual Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change
6 Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change
1.4.3 My Role as a Participant Observer
Throughout my work with the UCD Internet Task Force and my professional
research activities at RMC Research Corporation, I have become increasingly aware
that this very complex and vital issue of Internet diffusion is limited to neither the SOE
nor to those school districts that are attempting to bring their teachers and classes on-
line. Rather, it is rapidly becoming germane to all learning organizations.
As a legitimate peripheral participant in the global learning community, I have
benefited greatly by on-line discussions with faculty members and students at other
universities by participating in listservs and on-line forums and by discussing works-
in-progress with experts in my areas of research interest. Moreover, as an active change
agent exercising leadership within the SOE via the Internet Task Force, I cannot truly
think of myself as an impartial outside observer. Rather, I am an involved participant
observer, a member of the very activity system or learning organization that I am trying
to change. I consider myself a developmental researcher (Richey & Nelson, 1996), one
who eschews the traditional divide between the researcher and the practitioner. I am
attempting to systematically develop new knowledge with the ultimate aim of improving
the very learning environment that I am studying and providing help to others with
My process of systematically producing knowledge begins with active
participation in the cultures that I am trying to understand. This consists of identifying
and naming critical factors that emerge from previous empirical research, and then
developing models and theories that explain how and why relationships occur among
these factors (Krathwohl, 1993). This is a basically objectivist stance that Hall, and to a
lesser extent, Rogers, take in their own research. The process of labeling factors and
identifying interactions among them, however, does not necessarily provide me with a
deep understanding of the subtle internal, social, and cultural processes that are
occurring as my colleagues in the SOE struggle to leam how to use the network and to
find out what constitutes its acceptable use. These processes can only be revealed
through in-depth interviews with users who may not necessarily be innovators or early
adopters as I am, but who may have very valid reasons for not jumping on the
In my epistemology paper (Sherry, 1997b) I argue for converging lines of
inquiry that meld both qualitative and quantitative methods, depending on the problem
to be explored, the context in which the inquiry takes place, and the purpose of inquiry.
Here, the problem to be explored is to find out what factors contribute to the diffusion
of the Internet within an institution of higher education. The context is our own SOE: a
nonresident educational institution with students, faculty, and staff who have Internet
access, who are on-line, who connect from a variety of locations, and who have a
variety of different reasons for using Internet tools (Sherry, 1995; Sherry, 1997c). The
purpose of inquiry is to determine what interventions might be favored by my
colleagues to help them use the Internet as a tool for teaching, learning, and
collaborating with others.
This is an example of a case where Miles and Huberman suggest that it is
important to know when it is useful to count and when it is difficult or inappropriate to
count at all (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 40). Surveying a large, stratified sample of
participants is an efficient means of adding power and sensitivity to my own individual
judgment as I attempt to detect and describe patterns and themes that emerge from a
large set of observations. On the other hand, qualitative methodsespecially in-depth
interviews with a small sample of participants, purposefully selected to increase the
variability in individual user characteristics and perceptionscan strengthen a
quantitative study by facilitating conceptual development; by allowing me to probe more
deeply into interesting, emerging themes; and by helping me to interpret and clarify my
Thus, this study is a unique mix of exploratory research and an attempt to
suggest suitable interventions to be developed by those who have the power to make
decisions and allocate resources. On the one hand, survey methods are superior for
finding out how individual user characteristics and perceptions; together with the
design, tools, and supports with which they work; impact our members patterns of use
of the Internet. On the other hand, qualitative methods are more appropriate for
exploring the impact that an innovation has (or does not have) on the individual
members of the system. Here, my colleagues struggles, successes, and horror stories
shed light on the social, cultural, organizational, and conceptual change issues they face
as the SOE begins to integrate the Internet into teaching and learning.
Though I am a participant observer, I must not let my own prejudices and
preconceived notions color the interpretations of my findings. For example, I cannot
assume a priori that Internet use is good in and of itself. It needs to fit with the culture
and lifestyles of the individuals who make up the community of which I am a part
Some individuals may pride themselves in being knowledgeable about technology and
making use of it; others may view the use of mediated communication as somewhat
suspect, a valuing of technique over people and relationships.
Clearly, no scaffolding or intervention is going to assist people to do something
that they feel has no value; that may be incompatible with their lifestyle or personal
philosophy; or that may cause them to lose face if they feel a loss of self-efficacy. For
example, if those who promote and give tenure to the faculty do not value on-line
publications, then what incentive is there for professors to create them? If my
colleagues feel they have perfectly adequate communication with their peers via CEO
conferences, then what impetus is there to expand their communication links to the
global Intranet community?
The kinds of interventions that I wish to suggest will be empowering tools
offered to my colleagues who will still be in control of their own choices. Only through
a deep and empathetic understanding of these individuals perspectives will I be able to
attain my end of identifying and suggesting worthwhile interventions that will benefit
the entire community of which I am an integral part
1.5 The Problem and Research Questions
The general problem is this: What factors affect the use of Internet
communications within a graduate school of education? To suggest potential
interventions to those who have both the decision-making power and the resources to
implement them, I explore the reasons why our colleagues are (or are not) using the
Internet and what might stand in their way. Then, I concentrate on developing local,
practical knowledge so that I can find out what aids and supports, design of the
learning environment, incentives, and cultural factors might empower them to use the
network as they see fit.
This is a case study of our learning communitythe UCD SOE. It uses
converging lines of inquiry like those described by Yin (1994). The data collection
methods include: (a) a factor analysis of the 1995 and 1997 surveys of the SOE
regarding e-mail and Internet use; (b) individual interviews with faculty, staff and
students; (c) a focus group with students in the School Psychology program who were
interested in learning how to use Internet tools; (d) an investigation of the electronic
conference for the Spring 1997 Advanced Quantitative Methods seminar; and (e) an
examination of electronic artifacts such as on-line doctoral portfolios, student and
faculty Web pages, and on-line scholarly publications. Since case study results
generalize to theory and propositions rather than to other cases, I hope that the results
of this study may apply to other learning organizations and institutions of higher
education as well.
Three categories of questions are addressed in this study: (a) questions that can
be straightforwardly addressed using surveys, interviews, and investigations of
electronic artifacts and on-line conferences; (b) nice to know questions that deal with
the cultural norms of the SOE as a learning organization; and (c) questions that are more
difficult to answer, that address individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change,
mediated by the learning environment and influenced by other members of the
community. There are ten research questions, grouped by the themes that will be
developed in Chapter Two. The methods for addressing these ten questions will be
discussed in Chapter Three.
1.5.1 Theme 1: User Characteristics and Perceptions
Question 1 A. To what extent is the Internet used by the SOE?
Question IB. For what reasons is the Internet used by the SOE?
Question 1C. What challenges to the use of the Internet are perceived as most
1.5.2 Theme 2: Cultural and Organizational Issues, Norms of Use,
Question 2A. How does the incentive structure of the SOE influence the types and
levels of use of the Internet?
Question 2B. What on-line activities are consonant with the administrations vision of
disciplined inquiry, professional engagement, and professional leadership and
commitment by faculty and graduate students?
1.5.3 Theme 3: Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports
Question 3A. What improvements to the University and the SOE networks human-
computer interface (HCI) design and available Internet tools are suggested by new and
1.5.4 Theme 4: Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication
Question 4A. What changes to the University and the SOEs communication and
support structure are thought to be most helpful to overcome barriers and support
Question 4B. How does the way that SOE members are joined to communication
channels and other individuals influence their use of the Internet?
1.5.5 Theme 5: Individual Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change
Question 5 A. How do activities involving the use of Internet tools impact individual
learning, adoption, and conceptual change?
1.5.6 Theme 6: Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change
Question 6A. How does individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change influence
the other members of the community to which these individuals are culturally linked?
1.6 Implications of This Study
The implications of this study are to address a practical need: to assist both the
SOE and CINS in the process of developing suitable scaffolding for both new and
continuing users. It is an issue that demands attention, an issue I need to understand in
order to provide support and service to those who need it This is in consonance with
the philosophy of the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Innovation,
which states that: (a) learning opportunities should lead to effective practice; and (b)
learning should be applied and focused on difficult problems of practice.
The Internet Task Force had initially undertaken this task, but many of our
members have graduated. Thus, in June 1998, the task force dissolved. The ILT
faculty simply do not have time to educate the entire SOE and to give its members the
one-on-one comfort and support that Hall (1987) stresses is so important for new
users. Thus, I want to know that this concluding study will be instrumental in making
a difference within this learning institution. The University Webmaster has requested
the results of this dissertation so that CINS can continue to develop interventions that
can be generalized to address the needs the various schools and colleges throughout the
The study results in a set of recommendations. Areas to be investigated span the
spectrum from (a) individual user characteristics and perceptions, to (b) technological
features such as access and functionality, to (c) organizational features such as training,
technical support, and communication channels, and finally, to (d) pedagogical factors
such as the use of electronic conferences to enhance classroom discussions and the
sharing of promising practices that use the Internet to support teaching and learning.
My findings should have value not only for our school and university, but they may
also generalize to other educational organizations.
Based on previous findings by Wilson and his colleagues (1996), I am
particularly interested in investigating personal/compatibility issues. Moreover, based
on Elmores research (1996), I feel that the impact of interactive technologies on core
pedagogical strategies may be one of the most important compatibility issues. Elmore
notes that, if a technology supports the status quo and enables teachers to carry out their
instructional activities more efficiently (such as the use of Xerox machines and
overhead projectors), then that technology is likely to be accepted. However, if it
impacts the basic instructional strategies that teachers use in the classroom, and
involves a major shift in both philosophy and pedagogy, then there is likely to be a
good deal of resistance to it As Bums (1998) put it, many staff members do not see a
computer as an extension of their work activities but as an alien object taking up desk
space. Thus, a whole range of personal/cultural compatibility factors may need to be
considered by others who are attempting to integrate the Internet into teaching and
2. Conceptual Framework
I began the process of building a suitable conceptual framework for this study
by gathering the empirical factors from research efforts conducted by the UCD Internet
Task Force and my colleagues at RMC Research Corporation, starting in 1994. Next, I
summarized important ideas from three disciplines: adoption theory, systems and
organizational change theory, and computer-mediated environments, and linked them
with parallel constructs from cognitive science, collaborative learning, situated
cognition, and activity theory. Then, I compared the empirical with the theoretical
factors to test for inclusiveness. This process is illustrated in Figure 2.1.
Finally, I grouped all of these factors into six naturally emerging clusters that
influence the diffusion of the Internet within the School. These clusters will act as a
starting point for formulating a new model of adoption of telecommunications by
educational institutions. Like its origins, the adoption theories of Rogers and Hall, this
model is principally descriptive in nature. Thus, a good deal of data could be collected,
organized, and reported by using it as a basic framework.
A thorough investigation of the adoption process, however, encompasses more
than simply listing and labeling factors. It requires a deep understanding of the complex
internal, social, and cultural processes that occur over time as new users leam about the
properties and affordances of the Internet; discover how to use it in ways they find
useful; are (or are not) rewarded in new ways for their efforts; and become able to
communicate promptly and clearly with the faculty, administration, and university
network support people about the problems they are encountering.
I found it necessary to start with a fairly objectivist framework that lists factors
and supports quantitative methods such as the 1995 and 1997 e-mail usage surveys
among members of the SOE. This is what I will present in this chapter. However, in
the data collection activities, I moved beyond surveys to a case study approach with
qualitative methods and converging lines of inquiry, just as I did with my evaluation of
the Boulder Valley Internet Project (BVIP). My aim in this chapter is to articulate the
individual conceptual changes and group processes of members of the SOE as they
leam the basics of mediated communication, deal with their concerns and learning
anxieties, develop expertise, adopt, and eventually reaffirm or reject the use of the
Internet for teaching and learning.
Toward a New Model of Adoption
2.2 Adoption: Empirical Base
2.2.1 Preliminary Investigations
The spring of 1995 marked the first phase of my research concerning the needs,
support tools, adoption processes, cultural changes, and formation of collaborative
learning communities as members of the SOE began to be introduced to the Internet as a
tool for teaching and learning. I worked as a collaborative member of the UCD Internet
Task Force, whose activities I have already described in Chapter 1.
For my part, I designed and distributed a survey to a sample of 73 faculty and
students in the Technology and Special Services (TSS) Division. Responses were
voluntary and anonymous. Participants were asked about their status in the division,
access to technology that would support the use of Internet tools, patterns of use,
reasons for use, and challenges to use of the Internet. Respondents were also asked to
rank order eight proposed supports for training and performance using e-mail and the
Web. An analysis of the collected data is on-line (Sherry, 1997c). I reported the 1995
survey results in the TSS Division Newsletter (Sherry, 1995).
Despite the reported high levels of access to the technology at home and at
work, and the availability of free e-mail accounts through the university, the relative
frequency of use in 1995 was low. A factor analysis of the reasons for use, with
Varimax rotation, resulted in four factors: (a) share and disseminate information and
communicate (41.5% of variance), (b) find and organize information (11.7% of
variance), (c) collaborate (8.7% of variance), and (d) consult with your advisor (7.8%
When the responses to the eleven challenges to Internet use items were
polarized, they were re-interpreted as success facilitators. These grouped into three
factors: (a) clear benefit and value (32.5% of variance), (b) self-efficacy (17.2% of
variance), and (c) finding a voice and having something to say (10.4% of variance).
These were three of the five factors that emerged from Wilson and Ryders group
interviews with students from the same population and from McCahans in-depth
interviews with faculty members. The five factors reported in Wilson, Ryder,
McCahan, and Sherry (1996) were: (a) clear benefit and value, (b) self-efficacy, (c)
finding a voice and having something to say, (d) personal/cultural compatibility, and (e)
The first two factors, namely, (a) clear benefit and value and (b) self-efficacy,
were identified by Bandura (1982) under his theory of self-efficacy as a mediator of
performance and achievement Driscoll (1994) notes that learners can be sure that
certain activities will produce a particular set of outcomes...but, if learners harbor
serious doubts as to whether they can perform those required activities, they will not
put forth the effort (p. 301).
I renamed the third factor, finding a voice and having something to say, as
mediated writing proficiency. Berge (1997) notes that students with good mediated
writing proficiency are able to deal with the lack of social context cues associated with
both a text based interface and the inherent time lag in asynchronous computer
conferencing. E-mail conferencing is well suited for thoughtful, shy, or hesitant
conversationalists who prefer to consider and carefully frame their answers and
responses before presentation. Berge notes that the very act of assembling ones
thoughts and articulating them in writing for a conference audience appears to involve
deeper cognitive processing (1997, p. 10).
This third factor was also identified and explored by Fishman (1997) as written
communication apprehension. Not only must people be confident writers; they must
also feel comfortable writing to a public audience. Fishman found an interesting
gradation in the correlation between written communication apprehension and the
amount of privacy afforded by three CMC tools, namely; e-mail (low correlation); the
Collaboratory Notebook, a semi-private software platform in which students could
share their project work asynchronously (moderate correlation); and Usenet
newsgroups, the most public of the CMC tools used by his students (high correlation).
Thus, mediated writing proficiency becomes an important factor that enables a person
to find a voice and express his or her thoughts to others using a text-based interface.
The fourth and fifth factors that emerged from Wilson and his colleagues
interviews were (d) cultural/personal compatibility between technology and peoples
learning styles, self-concepts, and lifestyles; and (e) proper scaffolding. Cultural
compatibility includes school policies and norms of use. Proper scaffolding refers to a
support structure that includes a non-judgmental, social support system, one-on-one
mentoring relationships, and removal of technical hurdles to the use of the innovation.
Cultural/personal compatibility was identified by Rogers (1995) as the degree
to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past
experiences, and needs of potential adopters (p. 15), and represents an important
perception on the part of new adopters. This is important because an innovation that is
compatible with the norms and values of a social system will be adopted more rapidly
than one that is not The following response by a student to the 1995 survey is an
example of a cultural/personal compatibility concern: Updating of your password is
too cumbersome. Mine expired and Fve been told I need to go down to campus to
renew. Doesnt that go against a major philosophy of e-mail? Seems to me it does.
Although personal concerns are highly influenced by cultural concerns, it makes sense
to consider each of these separately for the purposes of the present analysis.
Hall and Hord note that as individuals evolve from non-users to expert users of
a new innovation, they go through a series of six stages of concern (1987, p. 60). Once
they have gathered sufficient information about the general characteristics, effects, and
requirements of use, they move on to the stages of personal concern and management
concern. Whereas personal concerns are characterized by uncertainty about the
demands of the innovation and their adequacy to meet them, management concerns are
characterized by concentration on the tasks of organizing, managing, scheduling, and
finding time to use the innovation.
Proper scaffolding is crucial in the personal-concerns stage of adoption when
facilitators should visit more often with potential adopters on a one-to-one basis to offer
assistance and encouragement Scaffolding is also important at the management-
concerns stage of adoption when it is important to provide how to do if workshops
that address the constantly changing topics of management concerns as they arise (Hall
& Hord, 1987, p. 72).
The following suggestions by survey respondents demonstrate the spectrum of
courses and workshops that might be considered as future interventions:
Either a 1-credit class on telecommunications that covers the Internet,
commercial accounts, and UCD networks thats required for everyone; or
adequate time within a course to really understand what youre doing so you
dont have to fly by the seat of your pants, only knowing the very basic stuff to
Make it part of coursesoffer more 1-2 hour training sessionsfreenot for
Make it a class requirement in the department so its part of a class assignment
One class session devoted to either learning e-mail for the first time, or
extending knowledge of e-mail into the subject area being taught that semester,
Le., discussion groups to join, libraries to access.
I am, for the most part self-taught I would like at least one session where I can
get a few questions answered.
I took the IT class in telecommunications from [one of the professors in the IT
division] and I think it is one of the most useful classes Ive had at UCD. I
think everyone should take it and learn how to surf the Internet Its the future,
by God, and everyone should know how to use it
The Internet Task Force originally considered implementing or recommending
several types of supports and aids. These comprised (a) paper-based job aids
(brochures, booklets, tutorials); (b) on-line support (on-line tutorials specific to the
UCD network); (c) interactive computer demonstrations; (d) formal classes; (e) one- to
two-hour workshops; and (f) individual, face-to-face mentoring by graduate assistants.
Since these supports comprise both impersonal and personal scaffolding, I broke
proper scaffolding into two separate factors, namely, impersonal scaffolding (job
aids) and personal scaffolding (modeling and coaching).
Based on the responses of our participants, the Internet Task Force decided to
drop the idea of impersonal job aids and concentrate on individual mentoring,
workshops, in-class demonstrations, and responses to individual students questions
via e-mail. We also made a presentation to the Dean and the TSS Division Chairperson
to encourage the development of supportive organizational arrangements that could
underwrite the efforts of our team, including support for a prototype SOE Web Page,
better access to e-mail, and more instruction and assistance for new users.
The following year, the Dean funded a graduate assistant position for individual
mentoring of faculty and staff members to be shared on an hourly basis by our team
members. Concurrently, CINS started offering 1- to 2- hour free, non-credit
workshops in Internet basics, and the SOE created new courses in telecommunications
and Web authoring.
In summary, the adoption factors that emerged from the initial research efforts
by Internet Task Force members are presented in Table 2.1.
Empirical Factors Emerging from Preliminary Investigations
1 clear benefit and value
3 mediated writing proficiency
4 personal compatibility
5 cultural compatibility, including school policies and norms of use
6 impersonal scaffolding (job aids)
7 personal scaffolding (modeling, coaching)
2.2.2 Developmental Research
At about the same time as we were implementing our initial supportive
interventions, the Internet Task Force was also actively involved in building a Web
page for the SOE. This gave one of my colleagues and me a good opportunity to
conduct a developmental research study (Seels & Richey, 1994) on the process of
collaboratively designing a mediated learning environment Our investigations enabled
us to study variables associated with group dynamics as well as individual,
organizational, and technological factors. We developed a process model that is
appropriate for groups of designers working in either academic or corporate
environments (Sherry & Myers, 1998). Critical features of our model were (a)
reflection-in-action and metacognition, (b) knowledge development, (c) working on an
authentic task, and (d) generating research questions as a result of our design efforts.
We studied, reflected upon, and documented the collaborative process as we
participated in both face-to-face meetings and e-mail discussions in an attempt to work
on an authentic task. We achieved triangulation by saving meeting notes, e-mail
messages, and responses to a closure questionnaire by group members.
The conceptual framework for our research was based on the work of many
authors, primarily Ann Brown (1994). Browns process of building a community of
learners consists of five important constructs, all of which were present in our own
activities. These five constructs were (a) metacognition, strengthened by intentional
learning and reflection; (b) multiple zones of proximal development and irregularly
distributed expertise; (c) legitimization and negotiation of differences; (d) a community
of discourse; and (e) a community of practice.
Throughout the design process, our teams goal of completing the design,
development, and implementation of the SOE Home Page was enhanced by our
commitment to reflective practice and metacognition. For our purposes, we defined
metacognition as conscious reflection upon, and monitoring of, our own cognitive
states and processes.
Because expertise was irregularly distributed throughout the team, we worked
in pairs or small groups, modeling and sharing our knowledge and skills in
uploading/downloading files to the server, mastering UNIX commands, designing and
authoring Web pages in HTML, and so forth. One of the team members also created an
on-line job aid called Makepage, which enabled team members to create Web pages
automatically. A major advantage of this distributed expertise, shared in jigsaw fashion,
was that the group as a whole benefited from the increased range of expertise and the
combined knowledge of the team members who gradually acquired representational
proficiency as they simultaneously learned and worked in a mediated learning
Our continuing conversations, both face-to-face and via e-mail, enabled us to
identify individual strengths and weaknesses and to create a good match between
individual skills and necessary tasks. Then, individual team members proceeded to
develop the requisite skills and common knowledge base to take ownership of their
respective tasks and to participate in the groups creative efforts. Lave & Wenger
(1996) refer to this as legitimate peripheral participation.
Although we were novice designers, we functioned more as an expert team
because of the distributed expertise and multiple perspectives of individual team
members. Where skills were lacking, team members with greater expertise coached
novices, built close relationships with them, provided scaffolding, and mentored them
through the learning process, using the strategies of cognitive apprenticeship (Collins,
Brown, & Newman, 1989). Where tasks were intertwined, team members worked as
pairs, either sharing or linking related elements. Novices began to take on more
independent activities. Fading occurred as the experts had to answer fewer and fewer
elementary questions and as the novices began to assume more expert roles.
We found that it was important for team members to co-construct a common
conceptual ground (Pea, 1994). We needed to establish a common understanding and
vision of the final product and to share visual representations of the partially developed
structure of the product as it evolved, using a class account on the Carbon server that
supported Web authoring activities. By using the PINE e-mail system, individual team
members could e-mail the group or individuals with questions, responses, suggestions
for revision, new perspectives on design, ideas for changing the types of scaffolding
available to group members as our expertise continued to grow and develop.
As with any design effort, this was an iterative process, subject to many false
starts and revisions. Here, Bereiters (1994) concept of progressive discourse became
important To continue to participate in a dialogue, we often needed to suspend our
original assumptions and preconceived notions and to subject our ideas to examination
by the entire group, whether via e-mail or in face-to-face meetings. At times, we arrived
at a mutually agreeable solution by re-thinking our original premises, negotiating
meaning among group members, appropriating meaning from the group, restructuring
our ideas, shifting our perspectives, and developing a unique synthesis of two alternate
points of view (Brown & Palincsar, 1989; Pea, 1993). Our design team had an
evolving conceptual model or shared meaning scheme of what we wanted the final
product to look like, and we continually updated it If an individual product failed to
meet the agreed-upon criteria, individuals began to make adjustments without having to
be told to do so by the group.
By capitalizing on varieties of talent, the group setting facilitated learning,
adoption and use of the requisite Internet tools, and conceptual change. Our team self-
organized in a way that capitalized on the strengths of individuals with dispersed
knowledge. Members began to share leadership and discourse activities that are
normally reserved for a mentor or manager, while the mentor became a full participant
in the design process. Our developmental research enabled us to move from a purely
descriptive model to a more process-oriented model that combined learning, adoption,
collaborative design, and conceptual change by participatory observation of our
interactions with other members of the design team. In summary, the new adoption
factors that emerged from our developmental research are presented in Table 2.2.
Empirical Factors Emerging from Developmental Research
8 reflection and metacognition
9 negotiation of meaning
10 communication and dialogue
11 building individual mentoring relationships
12 appropriation of meaning from the group
13 development of shared meaning schemes
14 development of expertise
15 general representational proficiency
16 perspective transformations and paradigm shifts
17 shared tools and mediated representations
iS legitimate peripheral participation
2.2.3 Theory-Based Evaluation
Because of my interest in research, I was hired as a research assistant by RMC
Research Corporation to evaluate the BVIP (Sherry, Lawyer-Brook & Black, 1997;
Sherry, 1997a). Throughout the evaluation I found that there were major differences
between Rogers theory and the reality of the BVIP, and that diffusing the Internet
throughout a large school district could not be fully described by the Rogers model.
First, the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) was a decentralized
institution, characterized by site-based managementa very different organizational
structure from Rogers centralized management concept Second, an innovation is
generally considered to be a relatively stable technology, whereas the dynamic,
evolving character of the Internet is anything but stable. And third, although both
Rogers (1995) and Hall and Hord (1987) note that client-change agent empathy
contributes to horizontal diffusion of die innovation throughout an organization, we
observed that the use of the peer trainer-of-trainers model limited diffusion horizontally
to teachers, media specialists, and technology coordinators. In the BVIP, the use of the
Internet did not diffuse vertically to the administration or the policy-making bodies.
To build a new analytical framework for the BVIP evaluation, we started with
the traditional Rogers (1995) model. The first module of our new model emphasized
individual user perceptions. Next, we added an organizational factor module. This
incorporated factors derived from several other investigations, namely: (a) Farquhar
and Surrys (1994) Adoption Analysis Tool; (b) some of the organizational factors
from Gross, Giacquinta, and Bernsteins (1970) and Teasleys (1996) studies on the
failure to implement a major organizational innovation; and (c) the explanatory
framework for the varying rates of adoption of educational innovations by sociometric
pairs developed by Carlson (1970).
To these individual and organizational factors, we added a third module. This
comprised a set of empirically-derived technological factors: (a) access and availability;
(b) network response time; (c) human-computer interface (HCI), including design
factors; (d) reliability; and (e) system capacity. Important technological factors were
identified by the original BVIP evaluators (Wolf & Black, 1993), by several large-scale
studies on the adoption of telecommunications in school settings (Honey & Henriquez,
1993; Levin, 1995; U.S. Department of Education, 1996), and by our own data
Throughout the duration of the BVIP evaluation, we found ourselves
addressing many of Rogers concerns and reflecting on his findings. We were also able
to investigate some new aspects of the adoption and diffusion process such as its
spread within a decentralized system and the re-invention process that was taking place
among new users as the innovation (in our case, the Internet) continued to evolve.
We collected data from surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, a work
group, examination of system logs and artifacts, observations, and an embedded case
study of a technologically advanced elementary school As a result, we dropped factors
that did not appear in our model and added others that emerged from our data collection
activities. For example, since the B VIP dealt specifically with training classroom
teachers to use the Internet and integrate it into their curriculum, we added a fourth
module that comprised teaching and learning factors specific to the BVSD. Many of the
factors that appeared in the preliminary investigations by Wilson, Ryder, McCahan,
and Sherry (1996) and the developmental research by Sherry and Myers (1998) also
appeared in the B VIP evaluation, so I will not repeat them here.
First of all, B VIP teachers who were learning how to use the district network
were primarily in Hall and Hords informational, personal, or management concern
stages. They were actively seeking information about the general characteristics,
effects, and requirements for use of the network, as well as the context in which they
would be using it Their activities took place either at home, searching the Web for
suitable activities and resources for their classes, or at school, working with their
students who were engaged in either their individual research projects or designing
Web pages for whole-class projects.
Besides the formal training offered by the BVIP, teachers reported that two
types of support were particularly useful: (a) impersonal scaffolding that included job
aids such as documentation, checklists, and troubleshooting guides; and (b) personal
scaffolding or mentoring, either individually or in open labs. Open labs were
particularly useful, since teachers could have their individual questions answered by
trained technical support people.
Those who had been trained on gopher, Archie, Veronica, and ftp, and now
had Netscape installed on their classroom computers, perceived the Internet as easy to
use. Many teachers reported that e-mail communications enabled them to contact their
colleagues at convenient times and places, primarily from home, to share promising
practices and new strategies for using the Internet in their classrooms. Innovative
teachers considered the system trialable and were constantly exploring, testing, and
trying out new ideas. However, the affordances of the Internetits opportunities for
actionwere less clear. We observed examples of incompatibility with teachers needs
and wants, diminution of observable benefits, and lack of relative advantage as
compared with traditional classroom practices, especially for those teachers who had
given up searching the Web for resources after finding no information that they could
actually incorporate into their curriculum.
B VIP teachers were also concerned because the key policy makers were
espousing a back to the basics approach to curriculum at the very time that they, as
teachers, were using constructivist strategies to promote a more student-centered vision
of learning. This clash of visions led to a great deal of turmoil and indecision by
teachers who were just beginning to leam how to use the Internet, to connect to the
B VIP network, and to consider ways to use the Internet to enrich and enhance their
classroom activities (Sherry, in press). There were no incentives in place, nor was there
any clear payoff for using the network. Planning time was being cut due to decreased
district funding. B VIP peer training sessions were not considered mainstream
professional development Concurrently, the district policy makers were trying to
persuade the individual schools to re-integrate the in-building technology support
personnel back to the traditional classroom.
What we observed was similar to Scheins (1996b) lack of alignment of sub-
cultures within a learning organization, where the visions of the corporate folk were not
aligned with those of the ordinary folk. Unfortunately for many teachers, the cognitive
dissonance between their constructivist visions of learning and the policy makers
vision of standards-based instruction often led to rejection of the innovation, rather than
renewal, reaffirmation, or reinvention. This is consonant with the view of Steven
Hodas (1993). Writing in the Education Policy Analysis Archives, Hodas notes that
failures of technology generally result from a mismatch between the values of the
school organization and the payoff from using the technology (Hodas, 1993, p. 1).
In an insightful article in the Harvard Educational Review, Elmore (1996)
reinforced our perceptions of the difference in visions between the change agents and
teachers within school districts that were in the process of implementing educational
innovations and its effect on the diffusion process. If the teachers considered the
innovation to be a tool that made their work easier and more efficient, then they were
likely to adopt it However, if adoption of the innovation meant that they had to change
the core of their instructional processesespecially without an observable incentive
structure to reward their effortsthen in all likelihood, the innovation would not be
adopted. In a personal communication (October 27, 1997), Dr. Peggy Bailey, Faculty
Chair of the Department of Instructional Technology at Northern Illinois University,
reiterated Elmores sentiments: We need to find as many ways as possible to reward
and endorse on-line research, learning, and collaborations.
I found all of the empirical factors in the BVIP evaluation that emerged from my
two previous research endeavors, plus eight more. The new factors are presented in
Empirical Factors Emerging from Theory-Based Evaluation
19 seeking information and knowledge
20 human-computer interface (HCI), including design factors
21 incentive structure
22 persuasion by others
23 users perceptions of the system
24 affordances of the system
25 administrative vision or overarching aim
26 refocusing (reaffirmation, rejection, or re-invention)
2.2.4. Summary of Empirical Factors
Overall, a total of 26 empirical factors were gleaned from these three major
research endeavors. Table 2.4 summarizes all of these empirical factors.
Summary of Empirical Factors
clear benefit and value
mediated writing proficiency
cultural compatibility, including school policies and norms of use
impersonal scaffolding (job aids)
personal scaffolding (modeling, coaching)
reflection and metacognition
negotiation of meaning
communication and dialogue
building individual mentoring relationships
appropriation of meaning from the group
development of shared meaning schemes
development of expertise
general representational proficiency
perspective transformations and paradigm shifts
shared tools and mediated representations
legitimate peripheral participation
seeking information and knowledge
human-computer interface (HCI), including design factors
persuasion by others
users perceptions of the system
affordances of the system
administrative vision or overarching aim
refocusing (reaffirmation, rejection, or re-invention)
2.3 Adoption: Theoretical Base
There are many schools of thought that can be used to construct a theoretical
framework for the adoption and diffusion of the Internet throughout the SOE. Among
the most important are: (a) diffusion theory; (b) human performance technology; (c)
transformational learning; (d) collaborative learning; (e) situated cognition; (f)
computer-mediated communication (CMC); and (g) organizational learning and change.
Upon reviewing the literature in each of these disciplines, I found that all 26 of
the empirical factors revealed by my three previous investigations were best covered by
a combination of just three schools of thought, namely: (a) diffusion theory; (b) CMC;
and (c) organizational learning and change theory. To add richness to the diffusion
theory base, I will add insights from the situated cognitionists and the learning theorists
before launching into the basic tenets of the CMC experts and the organizational
learning and change theorists.
2.3.2 The Foundations of Diffusion Theory
Rogers (1995) and Hall and Hord (1987) were the pioneers who mapped out
the problem space of adoption and diffusion theory. Both of their models were
developed in a fairly objectivist manner using quantitative methods for analyzing and
presenting their data, in contrast to the constructivist paradigms of learning and change
that are prevalent today and the qualitative methodologies that they support.
Neither Rogers nor Hall and Hord take a situated view of the change process
such as that espoused by Suchman (1987). On the one hand, Suchman claims that the
coherence of situated actions is tied in essential ways not to individual predispositions
or conventional rules but to local interactions contingent on the actors particular
circumstances (Suchman, 1987, pp. 27-28). On the other hand, the diffusion theorists
see the adoption process as a fairly predictable, linear, rational sequence with
information-seeking preceding intentional action, followed by evaluation, followed by
reaffirmation, rejection, or readjustment
Overall, these diffusion theories are good examples of the information
processing model of human learningrational, minimally situated, mechanical, and
planfulwhereas in Suchmans life-world perspective, learning is
phenomenological, contextual, and experiential; and interpretations of events determine
the meanings of actions. It is important to be fully aware of the underlying assumptions
of the diffusion theorists while laying the foundation for this study. It is also important
to be aware of gaps in their theory bases that need to be fleshed out by incorporating
insights from some of the more recent constructivist theorists.
18.104.22.168 Everett Rogers
Everett Rogers (1995) states that a study undertaken by Ryan and Gross at
Iowa State University in 1943, using interviews, marked the beginning of diffusion
research. Since then, other researchers have studied the diffusion of innovations,
primarily in rural areas, such as water purification, birth control, genetically engineered
seeds, and the like. In his book, Diffusion of Innovations, first published in 1960 and
now in its fourth edition, Rogers summarizes four important aspects of his diffusion
First, potential adopters judge an innovation based on their perceptions
regarding five attributes of the innovation (Rogers, 1995, 15-16). These perceptions
1. Relative advantagethe degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the
idea that it supersedes.
2. Compatibilitythe degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent
with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.
3. Complexitythe degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to
understand and use.
4. Trialabilitythe degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a
5. Observabilitythe degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.
Second, the innovation-decision process comprises a series of stages through
which potential adopters pass as they move from seeking information about the
innovation, to making a decision to adopt or reject, and finally, to confirmation of their
adoption decision (Rogers, 1995,20). These stages are:
1. Knowledgean individual learns of the innovations existence and gains some
understanding of how it functions.
2. Persuasionan individual forms a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the
3. Decisionan individual engages in activities that lead to a choice to adopt and make
full use of the innovation or to reject the innovation.
4. Implementationan individual puts an innovation to use.
5. Confirmationan individual seeks reinforcement of an innovation-decision that has
already been made.
Third, diffusion of innovations is inherently a social process. Rogers defines a
social system as a set of interrelated units [or individuals] that are engaged in joint
problem-solving to accomplish a common goal (p. 23). Some members of a social
system are relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than others, leading to five adopter
categories, namely: innovators, early adopters, early majority, later majority, and
laggards (Rogers, 1995, 22).
Fourth, the rate of adoption (the relative speed with which an innovation is
adopted by members of a social system) follows an S-shaped curve. At the beginning
of the process, the innovators who represent a small minority of the population adopt
the innovation. Later, as change agents become active, the diffusion curve begins to
climb. Finally, the curve reaches an asymptote as fewer and fewer later adopters
Personally, I take issue with both the term laggards and Rogers simplistic
labeling of people along a single dimension characterized by the speed with which they
adopt an innovation. Those who are reluctant to adopt a new technology (whom I
prefer to call resisters) may have very valid reasons that they can generally explicate,
given the chance to do so.
Rogers also describes three different types of innovation decisions. These are:
(a) an optional innovation decision which represents an intentional decision by an
individual, independent of the decisions of the other members of the system; (b) a
collective innovation decision, in which the choice to adopt or reject is made by
consensus among members of the social system; and (c) an authority innovation
decision, which is a choice made by relatively few individuals in the system who have
the power, status, or technical expertise to persuade members of the system to adopt the
This is an important distinction. Rogers observes that the fastest rate of
adoption of innovations results from authority decisions, though these decisions may
later be circumvented during the implementation process (Rogers, 1995, p. 29).
In this brief summary of Rogers four important theories, several empirical
adoption factors emerge, which include but are not limited to the users perceptions of
the innovation. This marks the starting point in building a theoretical framework. These
factors are presented in Table 2.5.
Theoretical Factors Emerging from the Rogers Model
1 users perceptions of the innovation
2 clear benefit and value
3 personal compatibility
4 cultural compatibility, including school policies and norms of use
5 seeking information and knowledge
6 persuasion by others
7 intentional decision
$ intentional action
9 refocusing (reaffirmation, rejection, or re-invention)
2.3.2 2 Gene Hall
Another prominent figure in diffusion theory is Gene Hall. Hall and Hords
Concems-Based Adoption Model (CB AM) is actually a theory of systemic change
rather than a theory of diffusion of innovations. In their classic work, Hall and Hord
(1987) described three empirically derived aspects of adoption which they named stages
of concern, levels of use, and innovation configurations. Facilitators and change agents
could be more effective if they considered the concerns of the new adopters.
Concern theory emerged in the late 1960s from the work of Frances Fuller and
her colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin. Fuller studied the problems and
satisfactions of teachers at various points in their careers and identified four clusters of
concerns: unrelated, self, task, and impact. These clusters of concerns changed in a
predictable fashion as teachers became increasingly experienced in their work. Hall and
Hord extended Fullers work to encompass six stages of concern about an innovation,
starting from ground zerolittle concern or involvement with the innovation (Hall &
Hord, 1987, p. 60). These six stages are defined as follows:
0. Little concern or awareness.
1. Informationalseeking more details about the innovation, its effects, and its
requirements for use.
2. Personaluncertainty about ones adequacy to meet the demands of the innovation.
3. Managementfocusing on the processes, tasks, and activities involved in using the
4. Consequencefocusing on the impact and relevance of the innovation on peers and
5. Collaborationcoordinating and cooperating with others regarding the use of the
6. Refocusingfocusing on the possibilities of major changes or alternatives to the
existing form of the innovation.
Second, there is a pattern to users behaviors as they develop expertise in the
use of the innovation. There are eight levels of use that can be identified and
distinguished (Hall & Hord, 1987, p. 84). These are defined as follows:
0. Nonuseno involvement with the innovation.
1. Orientationexploring its value and its demands upon the user and the social
2. Preparationpreparing to use the innovation for the first time.
3. Mechanical useengaging in a stepwise, disjointed attempt to master the tasks and
activities necessary to use the innovation.
4a. Routine usestable use with little thought given to improving the innovation or its
4b. Refinementvarying the use of the innovation to increase its impact on students
5. Integrationcombining ones efforts with related efforts of colleagues to achieve a
collective impact on students and colleagues.
6. Renewalre-evaluating the quality of use of the innovation, seeking modifications
and new developments to increase its impact
Finally, Hall and Hord deal directly with the characteristics of the innovation as
perceived by the user, drawing upon the work of Everett Rogers. In essence, any
innovation has variations and components, not all of which are necessarily utilized. The
type of use depends on the type of activities that the user would like it to support (See
Engestrom, 1996.) The emphasis on the use of a tool to support intentional activity is
consonant with Allen and Ottos (1996) treatment of the affordances (action potentials)
of a mediated environment which lead to its effectivities (modes of effective use) as
perceived by the potential adopter.
Hall and Hord, however, take a different approach. In their view, the
innovation can be configured and used in several ways (Hall & Hord, 1987,121, 138).
These configurations span a spectrum from (a) ideally, just as the developer intended;
(b) varied within limits corresponding to legitimate or acceptable use; (c) drastically
mutated in a manner that is radically different from the original concept; to (d)
unacceptable. Though the innovation configuration aspect of the CB AM was based on
empirical observations, it presupposes an intentional design decision on the part of the
developer that reflects the philosophical basis and underlying assumptions of the
innovations types of use (Hall & Hord, 1987, p. 112).
For the Internet, nothing could be further from the truth! Nobody designed the
Internet, and nobody controls it. Each individual user is free to use the Internet as
he/she deems appropriate to support his/her intended actions.
Hall and Hord give a thorough treatment to the change facilitators style and the
types of interventions that may be appropriate at various stages in the adoption process,
under various circumstances. For example, a change agent can engage in any of the
following activities: (a) take the lead and involve others in identifying future goals and
priorities for the school; (b) establish, clarify, and model norms for the school; (c) give
teachers specific expectations and steps regarding use of the innovation; (d) seek ideas,
feedback, and reactions from the adopting teachers; (e) anticipate the need for assistance
and resources and provide them as needed; (f) maintain direct contact and
communication with individual teachers and students; and (g) respond to them with care
and concern, coaching and helping them as appropriate. (Hall & Hord, 1987,234-
In this profile of the change initiator, the social aspects of adoption begin to
emerge, in contrast with the purely individual aspects that are emphasized in the Rogers
model. Hall and Hord also deal extensively with developing supportive organizational
arrangements and incentives, tactics and strategies such as working with each
individual user and holding ongoing training sessions throughout the course of the
implementation effort, and providing comfort and caring sessions.
From the work of Hall and Hord, I added thirteen new adoption factors to my
list These are presented in Table 2.6.
Theoretical Factors Emerging from the Concems-Based Adoption Model
11 development of expertise
12 legitimate peripheral participation
13 affordances of the innovation
14 administrative vision or overarching aim
15 incentive structure
16 communication and dialogue
17 negotiation of meaning
18 appropriation of meaning from the group
19 development of shared meaning schemes
20 personal scaffolding (modeling, coaching)
21 impersonal scaffolding (job aids);
22 building individual mentoring relationships
2.3.3 Enhancements by Other Researchers
22.214.171.124 Adoption Analysis
Farquhar and Surry (1997) point out that there is no single, unified theory of
diffusion. Rather, there are two schools of thought about technology: determinism and
instrumentalism. The determinists see technology as either an uplifting or a destructive,
autonomous force that drives social change. The determinists basic logic is that
technological superiority of the innovation over the status quo is the primary condition
necessary for diffusion. The instrumentalists, on the other hand, view technology as a
tool, largely under human control, that can be used for either positive or negative
purposes. Whereas the determinists see technology as a powerful force for change, the
instrumentalists see social conditions as the primary drivers of change. Surry notes
that, although Rogers is the founder of general diffusion theory, Hall is one of the
primary proponents of adopter-based, instrumentalist theory. This is because Hall
seeks to understand the social context in which the innovation will be used and the
social function that it will serve.
Farquhar and Surry (1994) developed an Adoption Analysis Tool that can be
used to examine the factors that can inhibit or enhance the adoption of a technological
innovation. These factors fall into two major categories: (a) individual factors, which
comprise all of the skills, attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge possessed by the
individual potential adopters; and (b) organizational factors, which are all of the
hardware, knowledge, attitudes, and skills that exist within the adopting organization.
Individual factors can be further subdivided into individual user characteristics
and individual perceived attributes. Individual user characteristics include (a)
motivation, (b) anxiety, (c) knowledge base, (d) prior experience, and (e) skill level.
Individual perceived attributes are the same five characteristics of an innovation as
described by Rogers, namely, (a) compatibility, (b) complexity, (c) observability, (d)
relative advantage, and (e) trialability (Farquhar & Surry, 1994, p. 21).
The breakthrough that Farquhar and Surry made was to consider organizational
factors as separate variables that affect the adoption of the innovation within the social
system, namely: physical environment factors and support environment factors. In
contrast, Hall and Rogers tended to view the adoption process through the eyes of the
individual adoptersthe people who will be affected by the change.
Like individual factors, Faiquhar and Surry subdivided organizational factors
into two groups: physical organizational factors and support environment factors. The
physical organizational factors at the point of dissemination of the innovation were (a)
patterns of use, (b) reasons for use, (c) classroom facilities, (d) student-user
characteristics, and (e) administrator characteristics. Factors of particular interest in the
SOE are reasons for use and patterns of use. The support environment factors
comprised all of the resources and services needed to install and maintain an
instructional product, namely, (a) production services, (b) storage and delivery
services, (c) dissemination resources, and (d) support resources (Farquhar & Surry,
1994, p. 21). In the context of the SOE, support environment factors include
scaffolding, school policies and norms of use (which are associated with cultural
compatibility concerns), administrative vision or overarching aim, persuasion and
incentive structure, and communication channels.
Thus, Farquhar and Surry shifted the perspective from that of the individual
user within an adopting organization to a broader approach that includes both user and
organizational perspectivesperspectives that are intimately linked within a
comprehensive social system. In so doing, they began to merge the older diffusion
theories of Hall and Rogers with those of the organizational learning and systemic
change proponents, such as Schein (1995, 1996a, 1997b) and Senge (1990).
126.96.36.199 Bandura: Efficacy x Value
In contrast with Farquhar and Surrys treatment of both individual and
organizational factors, Bandura limited his investigations to individual factors. His
research addressed his subjects perceptions of self-efficacy, which, in turn, influenced
their thought patterns, actions, and emotional arousal. Thus, Bandura linked cognitive,
social, and behavioral skills into an efficacy-value theory that built a bridge between the
behaviorist and the cognitivist philosophies of learning.
Self-efficacy is defined as peoples judgments of their capabilities to organize
and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances
(Bandura, 1986, p. 391). To Bandura, perceived self-efficacy is concerned with
judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with
prospective situations (Bandura, 1982, p. 122). This is an important component of
motivationone of the individual user characteristics identified by Farquhar and Surry.
To Bandura, self-efficacy is a state, not a trait: self-referent thought is indexed in terms
of particularized self-percepts of efficacy that can vary across activities and situational
circumstances rather than as a global disposition (Bandura, 1982, p. 124).
Self-efficacy can be compromised when the individuals feel that they fail to gain
expected rewarding outcomes, especially when those outcomes are highly valued
(Bandura, 1982, p. 141). It can also be compromised when the individuals feel that
they lack personal control over their situation. Rather than seeking personal control,
they seek their security in proxy controlwherein they can exert some influence over
those who wield influence and power (Bandura, 1982, p. 142). The price of proxy
control is the restriction of ones own efficacy, because the individuals then place their
security on the competency, availability, and favors of others.
Pintrich and Schunk (1996) describe a similar linkage between individual
motives, probability of success, and incentive value in the expectancy-value theory that
was previously developed by Atkinson, Tolman, and Lewin. If the individuals motive
for success were high, then he/she would most likely engage in achievement tasks; but
if the individuals motive to avoid failure were high, then he/she would tend to avoid
achievement tasks. The expectancy (or probability) of success was measured
empirically, using tasks of varying difficulty. The incentive value of success was
initially defined as an affective variable, namely pride in accomplishment It was then
generalized to a belief about the attainment value, importance, or interest in a task
(Pintrich & Schunk, 1996, pp. 70-74). Achievement behavior was predicted by the
product of expectancy and task value, where the expectancy construct could be thought
of as am I able to do this task? and the value construct could be worded as why
should I do this task?
In my own research, I was particularly interested in determining participants
perceived level of self-efficacy because I considered self-efficacy to be the opposite of
computer anxiety, as described by Berge (1997). My aim was to find suitable
interventions to decrease computer anxiety. One student who responded to the 1995
survey suggested an intervention that could potentially deal with this effect;
Do [this e-mail] training as an orientation component for new students. Then
they dont have time to be intimidated by techno gurus or anything. Theyll
already have the confidence to use it
Though the motivation theorists, and Bandura in particular, add no new factors
to those found in the framework begun by Rogers and Hall, they do underscore the
importance of two empirical factors found in our previous research: (a) clear benefit and
value and (b) self-efficacy.
188.8.131.52 Dialogue and progressive discourse
Adoption of an innovation takes place within a social system, and social
systems share cultural norms and mores. Thus, it is important to explore the role of
conversation among members of that social systemnot only in the early, information-
seeking and personal concerns stages, but also in the later, collaborative phases. With
the current emphasis on cognitive apprenticeships in school (Brown, Collins, &
Duguid, 1989; Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989) and on communities of learners
(Brown & Campione, 1996; in press), researchers are now expanding the study of
cognition and conceptual change beyond the individual mind. This includes learning
that is built up by electronic conversations (Le., CMC) among members of peer
groups, local learning communities, communities of practice, and broader cultural
CMC enables individuals not only to share distributed representations (Allen &
Otto, 1996; Crook, 1994a) but also to use distributed cognition (Norman, 1993;
Fischer, 1995) to overcome the limitations of the individual, unaided, human mind. Pea
describes two types of conversation that take place among members of a learning
community. These are (a) ritual communication, with its emphasis on participation,
sharing, taking part, fellowship, and continuous interaction among members that
maintain the social order, and (b) transmission of messages to the learner that takes
place orally, via written text, and now, via the Internet When learners participate in
inquiries at the frontiers of knowledge in a field, with mature communities of practice,
they endorse a view of communication for learning that I describe as transformative
(Pea, 1994, p. 298). This results in generative learning and expansion of the ways of
Scardamalia and Bereiter (1996) studied generative learning students who were
electronically linked through Canadas Knowledge Society network and who shared
Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE) databases. These
students became actively involved in building and richly linking electronic databases,
pointing out discrepant information, contributing new information or ideas, considering
ideas from different perspectives, and forming important new working relationships
and study groups. Likewise, Newman and his colleagues (1989) observed that Local
Area Networking (LAN) technology could be used successfully to coordinate small
group investigations by science students. Information shared via the LAN provided a
framework that could be utilized in class discussions to synthesize the contributions of
these small groups.
Yakimovicz and Murphy (1995) studied the group dynamics of CMC among
adult learners who collaborated on projects and participated in discussions as part of a
distance education course. Two themes emerged: (a) process management and (b)
meaning making. The learning group developed processes that enhanced their ability to
work in a new, technology-based medium. They also engaged in meaning making
concerning their experiences with problems they had encountered, coupled with
reflection on individual and collaborative work toward solving those problems.
Herrmann (1995) carried out a three-year ethnographic study of a 400-member,
international group of academics who communicated with each other on listservs. She
found that three recurrent patterns of communicative activity emerged: (a) academic, or
knowledge-sharing conversations; (b) administrative, or process management
conversations; and (c) community-building conversations that included encouragement,
warm and playful remarks, and expressions of gratitude. Herrmans academic and
community-building conversations are very similar to Peas information transmission
and ritual views of communication.
Regarding meaning making conversations, Pea (1993) explained how people
use conversational space to collaboratively construct their common ground of
experiences, meanings, and understandings. Norms arise from these shared beliefs,
which structure die joint activities that are carded out within a sociocultural group. Pea
built his theoretical foundation on the work of Vygotsky and the activity theorists such
as Leontev (1981), Tikhomirov (1981), Engestrom (1996), and Wells (1996). These
activity theorists believe that individuals internalize symbolic representations that first
take place externally in social relations among the individuals peers and colleagues.
Meaning making occurs through successive turns of talk and action. In this
two-way transformative communication process, members of the group progressively
create, share, negotiate, interpret, and appropriate one anothers symbolic actions. By
internalizing these social interactions and processes, they transform their own meaning
schemes. When this conversational space is mediated via electronic messaging or
conferencing, the communication tool or network becomes an integral part of the
system in which the dialogue takes place. A key point in Soviet psychology, attributed
to Vygotsky, is the emphasis on the use of tools in the development of human mental
processes. "The tool is not simply added on to human activity: rather, it transforms if
(Tikhomirov, 1981, p 270).
Engestrom (1990) expands Vygotskys notion to conceptualize human activity
as an interdependent system that ties the individual to the larger cultural context:
Collective activity is realized through individual actions, but it is not reducible to a sum
total of those actions (Engestrom, 1996, p. 262). In Engestroms conceptual
framework, (a) the individual or subject, together with (b) the problem to be solved or
object of activity, and (c) the tools or artifacts that mediate the activity, represent three
components of an activity system. These three elements cannot be viewed in isolation.
Nor is the outcome of the groups activities simply the sum of individual actions.
Rather, these elements are intimately connected with the social system of which the
individual is a part, namely: (d) the community of people who are concerned with the
same problem; (e) the division of labor (or legitimate activities) among community
members; and (f) the norms, rules, or conventions that govern legitimate, sanctioned,
or appropriate activities.
In his treatment of activity theory and constructivist learning environments,
Jonassen (1998) notes that, if one changes any element in an activity system, the other
elements are affected as well, in a ripple effect. Hewitt and Scardamalia (1997) also
The system as a whole is dynamic and continually evolves. For example,
changes in the design of a tool may influence a subjects orientation toward an
object, which in turn may influence the cultural practices of the community. Or,
changes to cultural practice may inspire the creation or reworking of a tool
(Hewitt, Scardamalia, & Webb, 1997, p. 4).
Pea considers communication, learning, and activity to be intimately linked, in
the same way as Lave and Wenger (1996) consider learning to take place through
legitimate peripheral participation in a community of practice. As a result, the learners
appropriation of culturally devised tools comes about through involvement in
culturally organized activities in which the tool plays a role (Pea, 1993, p. 269).
Expertise is developed dynamically through continuing participation in communal
discourse, not just through the individuals possession of a knowledge base and a set
of problem-solving skills. This is very similar to Crooks (1994a) concept of
longitudinal continuitya shared, mediated resource of knowledge, experiences,
understandings, beliefs, values, and assumptionsdispersed in time and place, that
forms the glue that holds a community of learners together.
Likewise, Bereiter (1994) believes that meaning-making and new conceptual
structures arise through a dialectic process in which members of a learning community
negotiate contradictions and begin to synthesize opposing viewpoints into a more
encompassing scheme. This process, called progressive discourse, only works if the
members have four commitments. These commitments are: (a) to work toward common
understanding satisfactory to all, (b) to frame questions and propositions in ways that
allow evidence to be brought to bear on them, (c) to expand the body of collectively
valid propositions, and (d) to allow any members beliefs to be subjected to criticism if
it will advance the discourse.
What I observed within our design team as we collaboratively built the SOE
Web Page was exactly what these researchers have described here. Our team used both
e-mail and face-to-face meetings for several classes of activities: (a) to carry out a
process of progressive discourse, (b) to negotiate meaning, (c) to develop shared
meaning schemes, (d) to appropriate meaning from the group using a commonly
agreed-upon language and set of definitions, and (e) to build a sense of community and
shared vision. We furthered the development each team members expertise by sharing
a common base of knowledge, tools, and symbolic representations that were explicitly
mediated by oar collaborative design environment-oar class account on die
universitys server. Moreover, our teams efforts to leam new skills, to adopt the new
technology, and to participate in a legitimate design activity were fundamentally
inseparable activities. It became clear to us that adoption was not a one-time event
undertaken by an individual within a social system. Rather, it was an ongoing process
that was intimately linked with the processes of dialogue, learning, and polishing skills
within a learning community.
Pea, Crook, Bereiter, and the activity theorists not only emphasize the
importance of communication and dialogue in the process of learning, developing
skills, and adopting a new technology but also add another factor to the growing
conceptual framework initially established by Hall and Rogers: namely, shared tools
and mediated representations. The use of shared electronic tools and mediated
representations supports distributed learning within a learning group. This is a critical
aspect of the use of the Internet in the SOE.
184.108.40.206 Situated Cognition
Like the activity theorists, Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) emphasize the
link between knowing and doing, stating that knowledge cannot be treated as an
integral, self-sufficient substance, theoretically independent of the situations in which it
is learned and used. Important work in developing a cognitive and situated approach to
learning was carried out by Collins, Brown, and Newman (1989) in their seminal paper
on cognitive apprenticeship. Cognitive apprenticeship goes beyond the traditional
apprenticeship model and situates both learning and activity within a social and
functional context. The ideal learning environment consists of four dimensions: (a) the
content taught, (b) the teaching methods employed, (c) the sequencing of the learning
activities, and (d) the sociology of learning.
There are six teaching methods that characterize cognitive apprenticeship
(Collins Brown, & Newman, 1989, pp. 481-483): (a) modeling, (b) coaching, (c)
scaffolding, (d) articulation of knowledge, (e) reflection, and (f) independent
exploration. These six methods incorporate some of the important facets of cognitive
science, especially shared metacognitive or reflective activity, the development of
mental models, problem-solving within a domain, and the active cultivation of
intermediate states of competence as novices progressively develop expertise.
The Internet Task force concentrated on the first three of these teaching methods
when we dealt with novice students, but we began to emphasize the last three methods
within the design team as our expertise increased. Hall and Rogers, too, concentrate on
the first three methods for scaffolding new users, but they do not treat articulation,
reflection and metacognition, or exploration in any detail
Like Collins, Brown, and Newman, and like the activity theorists, Lave and
Wenger place their emphasis on the whole person and view the agent, the activity, and
the community of learners as mutually constitutive. Mastery does not strictly reside in
the expert, but rather, in the organization of the community of practice of which the
master is part (Lave & Wenger, 1996, p. 94). They consider learning to be the
development of portable, interactive skills of acting, performing tasks, and solving
problems within a given domain. Moreover, like Pea, they do not distinguish between
talking about the world and acting in the worldverbal communication supports both.
A key concept in their model of legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) is that
Given a relational understanding of person, world, and activity, participation, at
the core of our theory of learning, can be neither fully internalized as knowledge
structures nor fully externalized as instrumental artifacts or overarching activity
structures. Participation is always based on situated negotiation and
renegotiation of meaning in the world. (Lave & Wenger, 1996, p. 51).
Mezirow, an expert on adult learning, shares with Pea the understanding that
social reality is shared, sustained, and continuously negotiated through communication.
As adults leam and grow, they discover a need to acquire new perspectives so they may
gain a more complete understanding of changing events and a higher degree of control
over their lives. They leam to negotiate meanings, purposes, and values critically,
reflectively, and rationally, rather than passively accepting the social realities that are
defined by others (Mezirow, 1991, p. 3).
To engage in transformative learning, individuals must suspend their beliefs and
assumptions in order to assess an experience from outside their usual frame of
reference. Though this is vital for progressive discourse, it can be a disorienting
process. The individual begins by perceiving a cognitive dissonance or dilemma. The
process advances toward constructing a more inclusive, integrated way of interpreting
reality in which the individual scans and perceives the situation more broadly, and tries
to construct new meaning out of iL This is followed by an intuitive insight that leads to
new perceptions, followed by release of anxiety, and finally, by the integration of the
new solution into the individuals own worldview.
Whereas Pea simply refers to transformation, Mezirow distinguishes between
two fundamentally different levels of activity, both of which take place in intentional
learning communities, namely: (a) transformation of meaning schemestransforming
old assumptions, old interpretations of experience; and (b) perspective
transformationa paradigm shift; a total transformation of world-view that provides
greater adaptability to ones environment and the situation in which one lives and acts.
This is also consonant with Liebermans (1996) view.
By couching the concepts of learning, developing expertise, and solving
problems within a community of practice, the activity theorists, situated cognitionists,
and experts in dialogue add three more factors to my growing theoretical framework of
learning and adoption. These are presented in Table 2.7.
Theoretical Factors Found bv Other Researchers
23 reflection and metacognition
24 perspective transformations and paradigm shifts
25 shared tools and mediated representations
2.3.4 Addressing the Gaps in Diffusion Theory
At this point, let us assess the development of my conceptual framework.
1. From my own empirical research, I identified 26 disparate factors that either
facilitated or served as barriers to the adoption process.
2. From the initial work of Rogers, Hall, and other researchers, I identified 23 of those
same empirical factors in their theory bases and added two more theoretical factors: (a)
intentional decision and (b) intentional action, making a total of 25.
3. The enhanced model that I am developing emphasizes three important aspects of
diffusion: (a) social and cultural conditions as mediators of activity, leading to adoption
and change; (b) dialogue and communication among members of a learning community
as a way of negotiating and appropriating meaning; and (c) the transformation of
individuals meaning schemes and meaning perspectives that are crucial to the decision
to adopt an innovation and, eventually, to reaffirm that adoption decision.
4. Three empirical factors are not accounted for in the theoretical framework so far,
namely: (a) human-computer interface (HCI); (b) general representational proficiency;
and (c) mediated writing proficiency, or finding a voice and having something to say
in an electronic forum. The adoption theorists or cognitive psychologists do not address
these; rather, the CMC experts cover them.
5. The cultural aspects of organizational learning and the systemic aspects of
organizational changetwo important areas of current researchhave not been
covered at all. This is a change in perspective, not a search for new variables.
I will now address these gaps in order to come up with a broader framework.
2.3.5 Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC)
Rogers (1995) touches on the adoption of interactive technologies as a specific
type of innovation with special characteristics, but does not analyze this issue in detail.
To Rogers, an innovation is a single construct, a thing, a technology to be adopted,
that never changes except through re-invention by groups of adopters to suit their
particular context. In contrast, the Internet is the epitome of a rapidly evolving,
dynamic, interactive technology.
Rogers does mention that the rate of adoption of interactive media such as
telecommunications tends to display a certain distinctive quality called the critical
massthe point at which a sufficient number of individuals have adopted an innovation
so that the innovations further rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining. The presence
of an interactive innovation leads to a certain degree of interdependence among the
adoption decisions of the members of the social system (Rogers, 1995, p. 313) since it
enhances the efficiency of their communication channels. At the same time, computer-
related innovations create uncertainly among members of the social system, which, in
turn, often leads to resistance to the technology (Rogers, 1995, p. 397). This issue
deserves further exploration.
220.127.116.11 Interactive Media
To deal with the various qualities of interactive media, we must return to the
definition and nuances of the word media. Simply put, a medium is an environment
that can support an external, symbolic representation of an idea or concept and can,
therefore, support communication between individuals. Horton (1994), a corporate
training consultant, describes the process thusly. An individual first encodes an idea or
internal representation into an image and then represents it in an external mediumin
words, pictures, or sounds; on paper, film, or screen; in a static or dynamic medium; in
a passive or interactive medium. The external representationsituated with other text,
sounds, graphics, and stimuli in the environment, and mixed with various memories,
associations, emotions, and inferencesprovokes an idea in the recipients mind.
Since interpretation depends on context, individuals who wish to make good use of
mediated environments must develop a skill that I will refer to as general
representational proficiencystrategies and techniques for presenting, encoding, and
decoding information efficiently. To Horton, this means using good design principles
and combining multiple media to reduce the effort required by the recipient to decode
and interpret the information being communicated.
Shneiderman remarks, harnessing the computers power is a task for designers
who understand the technology and are sensitive to human capacities and needs (1992,
p. 2). Kozma, too, encourages us to forge a relationship between media and learning,
between information and processes in the mind and those in the environment This, in
turn, requires us to define media in ways that are compatible with the cognitive and
social process by which individuals construct knowledge. We must design
interventions in ways that embed media in these processes (Kozma, 1994, p. 8). On
the one hand, this can lead us into the fields of media selection and message design,
which I shall not explore here. On the other hand, it opens the door to an examination
of the affordances and constraints of interactive mediaespecially the Internet
An affordance is the action potential of a particular object or item in an
individuals environmentthe range of possible uses that the person sees for that item.
Researchers (Norman, 1993; Allen & Otto, 1996) have used the idea of affordances to
explain situated interactions with a computer interface. Citing Gibson (1979), Allen and
Otto extend Gibsons work on visual perception to their own research on mediated
Perhaps the most widely adopted of Gibsons (1979) contributions to the
descriptive language of ecological psychology are his concepts of affordances
(roughly, opportunities for action) and effectivities (roughly, capabilities for
action). (Alien & Otto, 1996, p. 201.)
As mediated perception extends and substitutes for direct perception, so do the
affordance properties of mediated environments extend and substitute for the
affordance properties of real environments. (Allen & Otto, 1996, p. 217).
To Allen, a mediated environment is more than an intervening substance or
channel through which signals flow, as in the traditional information-processing theory
of learning. It permits an individual to carry out specific activities, namely: (a) to
engage in intentional, exploratory action and active perception; (b) to construct external
representations of the world that can be manipulated in ways that complement internal
representation; and (c) to make an intentional decision to use this information for
influencing or controlling that environment This tight coupling between the individual
and the environment has two advantages. First, the individuals internal cognitive
loading is decreased if he/she can offload the work of information storage and
processing to the environment itself. Second, it permits mediated representations to be
shared among a community of learners.
Allen makes a clear connection between higher order learning and general
representational proficiency. When people invest their cognitive resources in offloading
representations to the environment instead of storing them as internal representations,
this is an efficient process. It allows individuals to store information externally at no
direct biological cost Later, they can expend small amounts of energy to retrieve large
amounts of information.
With affordances come constraintsthey are inseparable. The biological cost to
perceive, acquire, and retrieve information from the environment must be less than the
time and energy that the individual might spend in memorizing that same information
(Allen & Otto, 1996, p. 202). Thus, one would expect people who consider this
biological cost as minimal to leverage relatively small amounts of energy to exploit large
amounts of information electronically. In contrast, those who consider the cost to be
too high would tend not to spend a great deal of time familiarizing themselves with the
operation of a new medium such as hypertext documents or electronic conferences.
Berge (1997) and Fishman (1997) have also explored this constraint.
18.104.22.168 Shared, Mediated Environments
Externalizing representations in a mediated environment not only permits
individuals to store and retrieve huge amounts of information; it also allows them to
share cognitive tools and representations. Moreover, it reduces the transactional
distance between members of a community of learners. This opens up a whole new
realm of possibilities for participation among participants in learning communities who
are engaging in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) or computer-
supported collaborative work (CSCW).
CSCL, for example, uses collaborative learning as its model of instruction.
Through collaborative learning, students become co-researchers, co-actors, and co-
learners in a knowledge community that is characterized by intentional learning,
multiple zones of proximal development, legitimization of differences among members,
a community of discourse, and a community of practice (Brown, 1994). Alternatively,
it can be described as the mutual engagement of participants in a coordinated effort to
solve a problem together' (Koschmann, 1996, p. 13).
Thus, CSCL encompasses many of the current constructivist models of active
learning such as problem-based learning (Savery & Duffy, 1995), cognitive flexibility
theory (Spiro et al., 1991a; 1991b), intentional learning (Scardamalia & Bereiter,
1989), cognitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989), legitimate
peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1996), and collaborative design (Sherry &
CMC tools facilitate mediated communication and distributed learning across
time and distance with other networked computer users who have similar tools. Internet
connectivity extends this to a potentially global audience. Thus, it creates a form of
continuity for participants in an on-line learning community.
Crook (1994a) describes two types of continuity: (a) lateral and (b)
longitudinal. Lateral continuity addresses the problem of transfer of learning and refers
to generalizing students understandings in important ways to new situations. To
Crook, CMC supports latitudinal continuity because it enables dispersed students to
share representations irrespective of distance, time, or context.
Longitudinal continuity refers to the shared understandings and ongoing
dialogue among members of the learning community. This, too, is facilitated
electronically by sharing a common network and representational tools that can support
a narrative state such as Bereiters (1994) concept of progressive discourse. Using a
mediated communication system enables the dispersed students to share beliefs, values,
and assumptions that arise from their various actions, observations, and learning
experiences (Crook, 1994a, p. 107) and to actually create a self-sustaining, on-line
culture. The process of creating this longitudinal continuity is an area worthy of further
A constraint is a limitation of a system or innovation. As I have mentioned
before, it can be technological in nature, or it can depend on the users perceptions,
expertise, and skills. For example, the PINE e-mail system is technologically
constrained in that it does not support the full e-mail capabilities of the Internet, as
Eudora and CEO do. Similarly, until March 1998, CEO did not support the creation of
Web pages as Carbon and Ouray do.
Another technological constraint of all of the CINS telecommunications systems
was that, until March 1998, they did not support the multimedia capabilities of the
Internet outside the UCD laboratories unless the individual student, staff member, or
faculty member paid a monthly fee to subscribe to a commercial Internet service
Kozma points out the fact that a mediums technology both enables and
constrains the symbol systems it can employ and the processes that can be performed
with it. Computers with graphics boards or sound cards can use visual or oral symbols
in addition to written text. Computers with sufficient memory to run expert systems can
process information in different ways than those without such memory (Kozma, 1991,
p. 181). Sophisticated systems like Koschmanns Collaborative Learning Laboratory
(Collaboratory)a local area network linked to a schoolwide networkpermits high
school science students to share graphic representations on a common screen as well as
accessing the electronic resources of the library and the Internet (Koschmann, Kelson,
Feltovich, & Barrows, 1996, p. 106). Interactive multimedia programs, however,
make class sessions dependent upon time and place. Their effectiveness, too, depends
on the level of general representational proficiency of the users.
User constraints may take various forms such as written communication
apprehension and lack of mediated writing proficiency. Text-based communication (as
in e-mail messaging or computer conferencing) is perceived by some learners to be
more reflective than spoken interaction. The very act of assembling ones thoughts and
articulating them in writing for a [computer] conference audience appears to involve
deeper cognitive processing (Berge, 1997, p. 10). This, in turn, may lead to written
Fishman (1997, p. 15) found a significant relationship between written
communication apprehension and the use of Usenet newsgroups among students who
were using a combination of CMC tools in the Collaboratory. If the networks human-
computer interface (HCI) is not considered to be user-friendly, and if students have
concerns about their general representational proficiency or their mediated writing
proficiency, these factors could potentially affect the level of use of the network.
When CMC is used in conjunction with distributed learning, users must
practice and become familiar with their systems hardware, software, and network
capabilities, to the point where the technology becomes relatively transparent, before
they can focus on course content rather than use of the delivery system (Berge, 1997,
p. 12). Hall and Hord, too, state that in the early, mechanical use stage, the user is
primarily attempting to master the tasks necessary to use an innovation, often resulting
in disjointed and superficial use (Hall & Hord, p. 84).
There is a delicate balance between affordances and constraints. For example,
learning can be more self-paced with asynchronous communication, with students
working as much as they want at whatever time is convenient for them. On the other
hand, students can procrastinate and eventually drop out. Thus, along with the self-
paced learning that is afforded by computer conferencing, comes the responsibility of
the students to be self-motivated in their work habits (Berge, 1997, p. 8). In
summary, the field of CMC provides us with the remaining three factors that I
identified empirically. These are presented in Table 2.8.
Theoretical Factors Emerging from Computer-Mediated Communication
26 general representational proficiency
27 mediated writing proficiency
28 human-computer interface (HCI), including design factors
2.3.6 Organizational Learning and Change
As I shifted my focus from the individual to the organization, I began to
develop a clearer picture of what the organization is. Rogers himself stated that In
recent decades I gradually became aware of diffusion systems that did not operate at all
like centralized diffusion systems (Rogers, 1995, p. 364).
The centralized organization, which forms the basis of the Rogers model, is
often replaced in actual practice by a decentralized organization in which innovations
bubble up from various levels within the system. In these decentralized organizations,
the inventions are done by certain leaders, and the new ideas spread horizontally via
peer networks, with a high degree of re-invention (Rogers, 1995, p. 365).
Information about an innovation in a centralized organization spreads from the
originators to the change agents, to the opinion leaders, and finally, to the adopting
population. In contrast, innovations in a decentralized diffusion system spread by
horizontal networks among near-peers, comprising both local innovators and adopters,
in a relatively spontaneous fashion (Rogers, 1995, p. 367).
Interestingly, the SOE appears to be a hybrid of these two organizational types.
Moreover, the networked learning communities that are beginning to emerge within the
various programs, doctoral laboratories, and cohorts of students who share common
research interests can be considered as emerging cultures with norms and conventions
that may not be fully institutionalized. Thus, the reasons and types of use of Internet
tools may be very different from one group to another.
22.214.171.124 Social and Cultural Issues
In dealing with learning and transformation within organizations, Schein
(1996a) clearly distinguished between organizational learning (learning by individuals
and groups within the organization) and the learning organization (learning by the
organization as a total system). To Schein, learning is ultimately a social process that
occurs within a community of practice. In direct contrast with Rogers linear approach,
Schein cautions us to focus on the system dynamics rather than to think in terms of
simplistic causal models. Schein also distinguished between adaptive learning, which is
the organizations capacity to maintain itself and grow, and generative learning or
transformation, which represents a change in the organizations sense of identity, core
values, and primary ways of working.
Schein treated an organization as a system. The nature of a system is to hold
itself together in the face of disintegrative forces operating within its component
subsystems. If a fundamental change occurs in one subsystem, this will threaten the
equilibrium in all of the neighboring subsystems. As a result, those neighboring
subsystems will resist the change in order to defend themselves and preserve their
equilibrium (Schein, 1996a, p. 5).
Schein then extended this idea of autonomous subsystems to internal
subcultures within the organization. Three main cultures exist within every organization
and often work at cross-purposes with one another. These subcultures are: (a) the
executive management or administration, (b) the designers and technocrats who drive
the core technologies of the organization, and (c) the operator culture or the rest of the
population. The basic differences between each of these subsystems are manifested in
three levels: (a) the deep tacit assumptions and beliefs that represent the essence of the
culture, (b) the level of espoused values to which the group aspires, and (c) the day to
day behavior which is a complex compromise between the two. When the subcultures
are out of alignment with one another, organizational innovations fail to occur in the
first place; or, if they are initiated, they fail to diffuse (Schein, 1996b, p. 1).
The difficulty of communicating across these various subsystems arises from
two distinct factors. First, each subculture of individuals shares different goals and
assumptions. Second, and more fundamentallythe very meaning of the words and
representations that individuals in different groups use will differ (Schein, 1996b, p.
4). The administrative culture tends to manage at a distance and to depend on rules and
policies. The designers are interested in abstract solutions and products that have utility,
elegance, and efficiency. The members of the operator culture realize that, no matter
how clearly the rules and policies of the organization are explicated, they must work
together as a team and use their innovative skills, especially when dealing with
unanticipated events under varying conditions and contexts.
This misalignment of subcultures explains the lack of diffusion of
telecommunications between the teaching staff and the key administrators within the
B VEP. Schein emphasized that, for organizations to leam, they have to create some
slack to allow people to leam new skills and customize the technology for their
particular situation (1996a, p. 7). In the BVIP, however, cutbacks in funding and
resources forced the school administration to become lean and mean and to centralize
their support structures. In a similar vein, allocation of funding and resources within
the SOEespecially the availability of graduate students who can mentor and coach
faculty, staff, and studentsis an issue that will become increasingly important as we
consider developing interventions to support an ever-growing cadre of Internet users.
Both Rogers and Carlson (1970) recognized that the cohesion among members
of various subcultures within a larger organization is strengthened through the use of
personal communication channels. Rogers stressed the need for client/change agent
empathy, which he defined as the degree to which an individual can put himself or
herself into the role of another person (Rogers, 1995, p. 342). Change agents who
can empathize with their clients tend to be more successful in fostering the spread of
innovations among their clients.
Likewise, Fishman (1997) found that there was a strong social influence effect
on CMC tool use, especially when teachers woe included in the model. The effect was
stronger early in the school year, perhaps because students were less familiar with
CMC tools at that time, and therefore, might have been more easily influenced by how
their teachers and peers used them. This is one of the reasons why Hall and Hord
(1987) emphasized people-to-people communication and the building of strong
relationships between new users and mentors in the early stages of adoption.
Carlson (1970) found that the rate of adoption of educational innovations within
a social group was highly dependent on three factors. These factors were: (a) the
personal characteristics of the adopters (amount of education, professionalism,
prestige, and opinion leadership), (b) the way in which they were joined to
communication channels and sources of information, and (c) their position or status
within the social structure. An innovation tended to diffuse faster among individuals
who were found to be sociometrically closer to one another in than among sociometric
isolates. This may be one reason why the use of the Internet tended to diffuse
horizontally rather than vertically within a decentralized organization such as the B VIP.
126.96.36.199 Systems theory and systemic change
Systems theorists and activity theorists do not make a clear distinction between
individual and group/cultural factors. As Senge (1990) explained, systems thinking
enables us to see the patterns underlying organizational change, particularly (a)
reinforcing feedback loops that bring about growth or decline in a system and (b)
balancing feedback loops that act as self-correction mechanisms to maintain system
Schein (1995) based his systemic change model on Lewins theoretical
foundation of unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. Schein found that human change,
whether at the individual level (like Mezirow, 1991) or at the group level, involved
painful unlearning and relearning while individuals attempted to restructure their
thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and attitudes. Unfreezing refers to removing the
restraining or balancing loops that are often associated with group norms embedded
within the organizational culture. Unfreezing leads to cognitive dissonance or conflict
that can be very disorienting to group members as they begin to change. In dealing with
such disorientation or disequilibrium, group members must learn how to reframe their
thought processes, redefine the words and representations they use to make meaning
out of situations, and interpret new concepts more broadly than before. This
perspective shift is what Schein refers to as refreezing.
There is a strong connection between learning and comprehension at the
individual level and learning and change at the organizational level. To Mezirow (1991)
and to Brown and Palincsar (1989), individual learning and transformation begin with
conflicta dilemma concerning a persons self-concept that then becomes a catalyst for
change. Likewise, to Schein, change begins with a dissatisfaction or frustration
generated by data that disconfirm an individuals expectations or hopes.
Such cognitive dissonance gives rise to two kinds of anxiety: (a) survival
anxietythe feeling that if a person does not change he/she will fail to meet his/her
goals; and (b) learning anxietythe feeling that if the person admits to him/herself and
others that something is wrong, this may result in a loss of self-esteem. The key to
effective change management is to balance the amount of threat produced by the
disconfirming data with enough psychological safety to allow the change target to
accept the information, feel the survival anxiety, and become motivated to change
(Schein, 1995, p. 4). Here is where mentoring, coaching, and scaffolding come
inthey build confidence, help reduce learning anxiety, and thus create genuine
motivation to learn and change.
Havelock and Zlotolow (1996) noted that the bigger the change an organization
must undergo, the bigger the forces against it. This is consonant with Senges limits
of growth systems archetype. Havelock and Zlotolow asked such questions as Ts the
system capable of change?, Will the organization allow me to be a change agent?,
For whom are we making these changes?, Is there a clear benefit and value?, Are
there multiple channels of diffusion?, and Ts there a shared vision? In their systemic
change model, the change agent is not necessarily an agent of the administration.
Havelock and Zlotolow did not use a rationalist sequence with information preceding
action, followed by evaluation. Instead, they described a reinforcing cycle consisting of
seven ideas that change agents need to consider when attempting to change a system:
1. Care. Are the rewards worth it? For whom are they worth it?
2. Relate. Build relationships. Who is the client? How do we relate to them?
3. Examine. Define the problem. Is it solvable?
4. Acquire resources. How do we get help?
5. Try a best-fit solution. How do we put the elements together?
6. Extend the solution. Translate it into action, diffuse it through the system.
7. Renew. How do we keep it going and sustain commitment?
David (1994) found a best-fit solution to the problem of implementing and
institutionalizing systemic change. In her model, the systems administrators (rather
than external change agents) explicate the vision and set the goals. Then they provide
the flexibility, time, know-how, and assistance to educational organizations to achieve
them. For a technological innovation to be used as a powerful learning tool and as a
support for systemic reform, she states that the technology must be readily accessible
for use as needed and functionally suited to support the tasks for which it was intended.
Moreover, the users must have the necessary training, knowledge, and technical
support to use the innovation appropriately (David, 1994, p. 142).
Through RMC Research Corporation, I have been involved in the Excellence
and Equity through Technology Network (EETNET) technology planning workshops
through the Texas STAR Center (EETNET, 1997). These workshops are targeted
toward schools that intend to apply for one of the Technology Challenge Grants. They
attempt to apply Davids systemic change theory to difficult problems of practice.
Workshop facilitators help teachers, administrators, and technology coordinators to
develop succinct but comprehensive mission statements and objectives that are
customized for each school or district Subsequent activities emphasize several aspects
of a good technology integration plan that draw on Davids ideas. The outcomes of
these activities are: (a) effective local planning so that the technology will meet student
needs and reflect exemplary practice; (b) a suitable infrastructure for technology with
ongoing maintenance and technical support components; (c) availability of data to
support effective decision making; and (d) ongoing professional development.
Like Hall and Hord, and like the EETNET research team, David remarked that
how to workshops have an important role, but professional development and
supports must also be available on an as-needed basis. These range from opportunities
to grow professionally through collaborative work with colleagues, participation in
previewing and selecting hardware and software, and observation of others use of
technology to support teaching and learning (p. 144). Davids process emphasizes
iterative, participatory planning and implementation, paying careful attention to
situational details rather than working from general principles.
Steigelbauer (1994) and Fullan (1996) shifted the emphasis of change from the
management and implementation of a single innovation to developing the systems
capacity for change. Steigelbauer emphasized collaboration among people who are
working together to cope with problems and who are furnishing support to one another
to make the risk taking more rewarding. Thinking about change as a learning process
opens the door to opportunities to reframe, look at results differently (1994, p. 38).
Systemic change requires resources in the form of people, money, supplies,
facilities, and time to learn and experiment Change must be effective at the local level,
or it will not work at the system level, no matter how good the innovation may be. To
Steigelbauer, changing the culture of the organization is the real issue. Effective
change no longer affects one teacher in one classroom, but the very culture of schools
(Steigelbauer, 1994, p. 26). This requires collaborative work to institutionalize the
interactions and communication channels that link the different levels and participants in
the system, to address both local and global concerns, and to respect all elements of the
system for what they can contribute to the change process. As the change process
moves from initiation to implementation to institutionalization, administrative support
is vital to change, and policy decisions make and break change efforts (Steigelbauer,
1994, p. 35).
188.8.131.52 Failure to Adopt Innovations-
We can learn a lot about organizational change by examining innovations that
failed to be adopted. Teasley (1996) studied the diffusion of educational computing
within a school. The availability of hardware and software and the differing levels of
computing skills among teachers were important factors in their decisions about
computer use. However, she stated that the biggest single factor that contributed to the
demise of computer use in the school where she carried out her case study was the lack
of administrative vision and support Despite the fact that the change was mandated
from above, it was given neither the support structure nor the organizational
arrangements required for its successful implementation. Thus, the conceptions of
computers as learning tools by participating teachers changed radically in four years
from an integral part of instruction to an expendable add-on (Teasley, 1996, p. 8).
Gross, Giacquinta, and Bernstein (1970) focused on organizational factors
from a management point of view. They observed that, even though an educational
innovation was initially adopted by the schools administration, problems arose during
the implementation phase. They identified a number of factors that may facilitate
successful diffusion of an innovation:
1. A clear vision of the innovation provided by administrators to all teachers,
stakeholders, and users;
2. The staffs skills and capacity to implement the innovation;
3. The availability of required tools and resources;
4. The compatibility of the schools organizational arrangements (such as the grading
system and scheduling of classes) with the new innovation;
5. A set of strategies to deal with the difficulties to which teachers may be exposed as
they begin to implement the innovation;
6. A set of mechanisms to identify and cope with unanticipated problems that may
emerge during the period of implementation; and
7. The wholehearted support of the administration for the innovation and for the
teachers who are implementing it
Gross and his colleagues emphasis on the clear vision of the innovation
provided by the administration and their support of it is echoed by Deming, who stated
unequivocally that A system must have an aim. Without an aim, there is no system.
The aim of the system must be clear to everyone in the system. The aim must include
plans for the future. The aim is a value judgment (Deming, 1994, p. 50). This is
important, because often the vision includes an implicit belief that the innovation is
fundamentally gooda pro-innovation bias, to use Rogers (1995) terminology.
Rogers described the consequences of innovations as desirable or undesirable,
direct or indirect, and anticipated or unanticipated. Often, change agents are unaware of
the ways in which they shape the consequences of an innovation when they introduce it
into a culture, especially when they concentrate their efforts on the early adopters and
opinion leaders (Rogers, 1995, p. 429). All too often, the consequences of innovations
are not studied in detail because of the pro-innovation bias among the change agents,
the inappropriateness of using survey research methods rather than case studies for
investigating consequences, and the difficulty of measuring certain
consequencesespecially consequences that bring about deep cultural changes.
Another trap to be aware of is Rogers7 simplistic labeling of the adopting
population as innovators, early adopters, early/late majority, and laggards. The term
laggard has very negative implications. As I have already mentioned, I prefer the term
resisters to laggards. Such individuals often have defensible reasons for not
jumping on the bandwagon and adopting an innovation.
Though change agents may feel that the resisters are not dutifully following the
experts' recommendations to use an innovation and are considered to be resistant to
change, a more careful analysis may show that the innovation was not as appropriate
for later adopters (Rogers, 1995, p. 117). This insight will be especially important for
the SOE, because several of the students and faculty members that Ryder and Wilson
(1995) interviewed had defensible reasons for opting not to use e-mail and voiced them
quite eloquently. The same may very well be true of certain members of the faculty,
staff, and student body who will be interviewed in my current investigation.
2.3.7 Summary of Theoretical Factors
Overall, 28 theoretical factors were gleaned from the review of relevant
literature. Table 2.9 summarizes all of these theoretical factors.
Summary of Theoretical Factors
users' perceptions of the innovation
clear benefit and value
cultural compatibility, including school policies and nomas of use
seeking information and knowledge
persuasion by others
refocusing (reaffirmation, rejection, or re-invention)
development of expertise
legitimate peripheral participation
affordances of the innovation
administrative vision or overarching aim
communication and dialogue
negotiation of meaning
appropriation of meaning from the group
development of shared meaning schemes
personal scaffolding (modeling, coaching)
impersonal scaffolding (job aids);
building individual mentoring relationships
reflection and metacognition
perspective transformations and paradigm shifts
shared tools and mediated representations
general representational proficiency
mediated writing proficiency
human-computer interface (HCI), including design factors
2.4 Relating the Theoretical to the Empirical Base
Now that all of the important factors from both the empirical and theoretical
bases have been identified, I can compare Table 2.4 with Table 2.9. This allows me to
cluster the lists of factors into several overarching themes or threads, thereby
simplifying the overall conceptual framework. This grouping process should also
suggest the types of questions to ask and the methodologies to use in carrying out the
study, thus serving as a precursor to Chapter Three.
Six clusters of factors emerged from these two lists:
1. User characteristics and perceptions;
2. Cultural and organizational issues, norms of use, legitimate activities;
3. Tools, design, and impersonal supports;
4. Social issues: scaffolding, mentoring, and communication;
5. Individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change; and
6. Group learning, adoption, and conceptual change.
The comparison of the empirical with the theoretical factors, together with the
clustering process, is presented in Table 2.10. Though individual conceptual change
and group conceptual change are tightly intertwined, for the purposes of this study I
will treat them separately.
Figure 2.2 presents these same six themes as a process diagram. This figure
depicts the way in which I might expect these clusters of factors to be interrelated
within the SOE. One can also think of the process in Figure 2.2 as a loop in which both
individual and group conceptual change bring about changes in the cultural norms of
the larger system. As Hanks notes in his foreward to Lave and Wenger (1991),
structure is more the variable outcome of action than its invariant precondition (p.
Comprehensive List of Factors
1. User Characterisi tics and Perceptions
users' perceptions of the innovation users' perceptions of the innovation
clear benefit and value relative advantage (clear benefit and value)
mediated writing proficiency mediated writing proficiency
general representational proficiency general representational proficiency
personal compatibility personal compatibility
development of expertise development of expertise
2. Cultural and Organizational ] Act ssues, Norms of Use, Legitimate tivities
administrative vision or overarching aim administrative vision or overarching aim
cultural compatibility, including school policies and norms of use cultural compatibility, including school policies and norms of use
persuasion by others persuasion by others
incentive structure incentive structure
legitimate peripheral participation legitimate peripheral participation
3. Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports
affordances of the innovation affordances of the innovation
impersonal scaffolding (job aids) impersonal scaffolding (job aids)
HCI, including design factors HCI, including design factors
shared tools and mediated representations shared tools and mediated representations
4. Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication
seeking information and knowledge seeking information and knowledge
building individual mentoring relationships building individual mentoring relationships
personal scaffolding (modeling, coaching) personal scaffolding (modeling, coaching)
communication and dialogue communication and dialogue
5. Individual Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change
reflection and raetacognition reflection and metacognition
appropriation of meaning from the group appropriation of meaning from the group
perspective transformations and paradigm shifts perspective transformations and paradigm shifts
refocusing (reaffirmation, rejection, or re- invention) refocusing (reaffirmation, rejection, or re- invention)
6. Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change
negotiation of meaning negotiation of meaning
development of shared meaning schemes development of shared meaning schemes
Ousters of Factors Influencing Diffusion of the Internet
It is interesting to note the striking parallel between Engestroms (1996)
depiction of an activity system and the process that may be occurring in the SOE
regarding the adoption and use of the Internet as the activity that is currently under
investigation. In an activity system, the activities in which an individual engages tend to
connect six elements, namely: (a) the individual actor, (b) the object of action together
with an expected outcome, (c) the tools used to carry out the activity, (d) the
community of which the actor is a part, (e) the norms and conventions of use of those
tools, and (f) the division of labor that characterizes individual actions within local
collective activities. These elements are all interrelated; changing one will invariably
affect the rest of system.
The clusters of factors in Figure 2.2, which have been determined both
empirically and theoretically, can be loosely identified with the six elements of an
activity system. This comparison is presented in Table 2.11.
A Comparison of an Activity System and the Clusters of Factors That Affect the
Diffusion of the Internet
An Activity System Clusters of Factors That Affect the Diffusion of the Internet
Individual or subject User characteristics and perceptions
Norms of use, conventions, and rules Cultural and organizational Issues, norms of use, legitimate activities
Tools or mediating artifacts Tools, design, and impersonal supports
Division of labor Social issues: scaffolding, mentoring, communication
Object or outcome of activity Individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change
Community Group learning, adoption, and conceptual change
The parallel in Table 2.11 is simply too important to ignore. Though I gleaned
my six clusters from an exhaustive review of relevant literature and from previous
empirical studies that my colleagues and I carried out, these themes roughly replicate
the six elements of an activity system. The primary difference between my emergent
conceptual framework and activity theory is not in the six elements themselves, but in
A very recent paper by Jonassen and Murphy (1998) presents a simple
description of an activity system that can be applied to the design of a constructivist
learning environment Throughout the rest of this study, I will refer to Jonassen and
Murphys paper as an interpretive framework for subsequent data collection and
The basic research problem is this:
What factors affect the use of the Internet within a graduate school of education?
In Chapter 1,1 stressed that there are no models for Internet diffusion within an
educational organization. The process of diffusing the Internet throughout the SOE is
an important issue that has occupied my attention and creative efforts for the past four
years. The results of this study have important implications for the design of the tools
and support structure and for the types of learning activities that they can facilitate.
In Chapter 2, based on empirical research and a review of relevant literature, I
identified a set of factors that may be important in building a new model for Internet
diffusion throughout an educational organization. These factors group naturally into six
1. User characteristics and perceptions;
2. Cultural and organizational Issues, norms of use, legitimate activities;
3. Tools, design, and impersonal supports;
4. Social issues: scaffolding, mentoring, communication;
5. Individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change; and
6. Group learning, adoption, and conceptual change.
Ten research questions emerged from these six themes. These were initially
presented in Chapter 1, are repeated below in Table 3.1, and will be addressed in this
chapter. For each research question, in turn, I examined some suggested lines of
inquiry which included surveys, interviews, focus groups, analysis of electronic
documents, and an analysis of an electronic conference that was an optional part of an
advanced statistics class.
I realized that some of the questions lent themselves to straightforward answers,
such as To what extent is the Internet used by the SOE7\ whereas others did not lend
themselves to easy answers. The last set of research questionsthose that dealt with
individual and group learning, adoption, and conceptual changeseemed to be the
most difficult to answer and would require methods that went beyond the usual types of
qualitative inquiry that I had used in the past. It was clear to me that I was dealing with
a major case study. Based on these suggested lines of inquiry, and following the
method that I have used in at RMC Research Corporation, I then built a data collection
matrix, which is presented in Table 3-2.
For each of the themes and research questions in Table 3-1,1 investigated how
other researchers had followed similar lines of inquiry and tried to customize them for
my particular case study. Section 3.4 explores the six themes in depth, matching data
collection tools and strategies with each research question, and suggesting potential
instruments and probes. I included this section to show the evolutionary process of my
own thinking as I tried to figure out how to conduct large-scale research project using
mixed method and how to apply them to the specific context of the SOE.
Sampling was a crucial issue. Whereas the 1995 sample of e-mail usage
targeted only the instructional technology (IT) population, I wanted to expand the study
to encompass the entire SOE. The stratified random sample that I used for the survey
would provide me with a big picture, an overview of major trends. The purposeful
sample of early, middle, and late adopters throughout the SOE was meant to hear
dissenting as well as approving voices regarding the use of computer-mediated
communication (CMC) to enrich teaching and learning. The focus group investigated all
six themes as perceived by a socially connected cohort of novice, non-IT users.
Finally, the in-depth examination of a wide array of electronic artifacts was meant to
substitute for the usual classroom observations that are generally used in a case study of
an educational institution. This lent a balance to the heavy reliance on self-reported data.
I approached this dissertation project as a case study. Since case studies
generalize to propositions rather than to other populations, I generated a set of
propositions for each of the research questions, based on informal conversations with
my fellow students and faculty members. The results of the study would then allow me
to either accept or reject each of these propositions.
As with any research project, I always end up with 100% hindsight If I had to
do this study over, I would have pilot-tested my instruments first rather than relying
on the critiques and testimony of expert reviewers. Additionally, I would not have
gathered data I did not intend to use myself, with the intent of sharing them with
another dissertating student who then changed her area of inquiry. This left me without
a second rater to provide a measure of inter-rater reliabilityan especially important
regarding the coding of the open-ended survey questions and the types of message
posted on the electronic conference.
I begin this chapter on method by listing the research questions, grouped by
theme. This table will form the organizing structure for the rest of this report
Six Themes and Ten Research Questions
Theme Research Questions
1. User Characteristics and Perceptions 1 A. To what extent is the Internet used by the SOE? IB. For what reasons is the Internet used by the SOE? IC. What challenges to the use of the Internet are perceived as most important?
2. Cultural and Organizational Issues, Norms of Use, Legitimate Activities 2A. How does the incentive structure of the SOE influence the types and levels of use of the Internet? 2B. What on-line activities are consonant with the administrations vision of disciplined inquiry, professional engagement, and professional leadership and commitment by faculty and graduate students?
3. Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports 3A. What improvements to the UCD and the SOE networks human-computer interface (HCI) design and available Internet tools are suggested by new and continuing users?
4. Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication 4A. What changes to the UCD and the SOEs communication and support structure are thought to be most helpful to overcome barriers and support Internet use? 4B. How does the way that SOE members are joined to communication channels and other individuals influence their use of the Internet?
5. Individual Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change 5 A. How do activities involving the use oÂ£ Internet tools impact individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change?
6. Group Learning, Adoption, and Conceptual Change 6A. How does individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change influence the other members of the community to which these individuals are culturally linked?
3.2 Suggested Lines of Inquiry
3.2.1 Themes 1, 3, and 4
Questions that relate to Themes 1,3, and 4user characteristics and
perceptions; tools, design, and impersonal supports; and social issues including
scaffolding, mentoring, and communicationwere answered through three data
collection activities. These comprised an analysis of the 1995 and 1997 survey data;
interviews with selected faculty, staff, and students; and open-ended questions posed to
a focus group of students. For simplicity, responses from members of both the ELT
masters degree program and the CLT doctoral thread were labeled *TT. As I will
explain in Chapter 4, this grouping process may introduce an error of less than 5% into
the results, but made it much easier to compare the 1995 and 1997 data sets.
Responses of the IT faculty and staff to the 1995 and 1997 survey questions
regarding levels of use, reasons for use, barriers to use, and suggested types of
personal and impersonal support were compared. This shows the evolution of these
themes over the two-year time period during which e-mail began to be used in classes
and Web tools were made available to students and faculty.
A comparison of responses from the IT and non-IT samples for the 1997
survey revealed differences among these sub-populations. All of these were collected
and entered into SPSS. Both surveys have a final, open-ended question in which
participants were asked to provide any suggestions for improvement of Internet tools
and the environment in which they are to be used. An analysis of these open-ended
responsesespecially response types that occur frequendyshed light on the types of
interventions that Internet users felt might be particularly valuable.
Faculty and students to be interviewed in depth were purposefully selected to
represent early adopters, early and late majority, and late adopters. (See Appendix A.)
Some resisters were also contacted, but they declined to participate in this study. This is
unfortunate, because several of them have been quite eloquent in meetings regarding the
distance of online courses and distributed learning, voicing legitimate concerns that
need to be heard.
As Fishman (1997) and Carlson (1970) reported, there is a strong social
influence effect on the rate of adoption of educational innovations. A cohort of novice,
non-U users, all members of the School Psychology program volunteered to serve as a
focus group for this study. A study of this socially coherent group lent a nice balance to
the 1995 survey, which concentrated specifically on IT students and faculty.
The interviews and focus groups explored participants suggestions concerning
potential improvements to the design and tools supported by the Schools network, as
well as to its communication and support structure. It was especially important to find
out whether training, scaffolding, job aids, and other forms of technical support may
already exist but may not be publicized through the communication channels to which
the faculty, staff, and students currently have access.
Electronic artifacts, including participation in class conferences, student Web
pages, papers, and portfolio items, provided some examples of actual use of existing
electronic communication and dissemination channels, as distinct from purely self-
reported data. Investigation of these artifacts was intended to replace the usual
classroom observations and examination of paper-based documents that lend objectivity
to a case study.
3.2.2 Theme 2
I felt that questions that relate to Theme 2cultural and organizational issues,
norms of use, and legitimate activitiesmight not lend themselves to easy answers.
However, it was important to explore them, especially with the recent cultural and
curricular changes occurring in other universities as the use of distributed learning
continues to rise. For example, an article in the CSS Internet News described the
friction that is spreading among various university departments now that the Internet is
changing or even eliminating old organizational schemes. Universities preach change
for the rest of the world, but tend to be very conservative in making changes
themselves (CSS Internet News, November 19,1997).
Question 2A, which deals with the SOEs incentive structure, was explored in
the focus group and through in-depth interviews, especially with staff members.
Question 2B was be dealt with in interviews with doctoral students. According to the
doctoral handbook, they are expected to practice disciplined inquiry and exhibit
professional engagement and leadership as part of their academic pursuits. Examples of
student and faculty electronic artifacts such as Web pages, portfolios, and publications,
lent objectivity to the investigation of this theme.
3.2.3 Themes 5 and 6
Questions that relate to Themes 5 and 6individual and group learning,
adoption, and conceptual changewere not as concrete in nature and were more
difficult to answer. These themes involve learning and adoption on the part of
individuals and the groups of which they are a part, sharing a longitudinal continuity
(Crook, 1994a) of common experiences, beliefs and values, and solving problems
together. Individuals are part of cultural systems, which, in turn, characterize learning
organizations. Solving problems means inaugurating change, and change shifts the
perspectives and paradigms of the members of the system, at all levels.
One way to study learning, adoption, and change is to investigate how
participation in electronic conferences complements traditional classroom discussions,
enhances or detracts from learning, and helps students to build meaningful
representations of content. (See Wilson, Lowry, Koneman, & Osman-Jouchoux,
1994). The complete electronic conference of the spring 1997 Advanced Quantitative
Methods class was available for analysis and was ideal for this purpose. To account for
those members of the class who did not participate in the electronic conference, follow-
up questionnaires and reminders were sent to all class members who completed the
course. The questionnaires addressed their perceptions of the conference and barriers to
Besides interviews, the focus group, and an analysis of messages in an
electronic conference, I also examined individual students home pages and electronic
portfolios. These are highly personalized electronic documents that can give good
insights into students capabilities and perspectives. Electronic portfolios, especially,
contain evidence of students disciplined inquiry, professional engagement, and
professional leadership and commitmentqualities that are considered extremely
important in the doctoral program. Home pages tend to reflect the authors self-concept,
topic foci, academic interests, and personal interests.
3.3 Data Collection Strategy
The overall research strategy was the case study (Yin, 1994). It is an excellent
method for exploring and describing a complex social system in an authentic context
This allowed me to use an inquiry-based approach to examine a variety of evidence
without attempting to manipulate any behaviors of the participants.
Starting with the patterns that emerge from the two surveys, I used in-depth
interviews, a focus group, and an investigation of electronic artifacts to shed light on
why these observed patterns occur, and what improvements to the system the
participants may suggest. This variety of data collection methods assisted me in
achieving triangulation by balancing self-reported data with observations (Sherry,
1997b). I also hoped to achieve representativeness by exploring the same research
questions with different groups of members of the SOE.
The data collection matrix presented in Table 3.2 lists the ten research questions
and their corresponding data collection methods. The following six sections delve into
each of these six themes in greater depth and illustrate the process of creating the actual
data collection instruments.
Data Collection Matrix
Question 1995 Survey 1997 Survey Inter- views Focus Group Electronic Artifacts
1A. To what extent is the Internet used by the SOE? X X X X
IB. For what reasons is the Internet osed by the SOE? X X X X X
1C. What challenges to the use of the Internet are perceived as most important? X X X X
2A. How does the incentive structure of the SOE influence the types and levels of use of the Internet? X X
2B. What on-line activities are consonant with the administrations vision of disciplined inquiry, professional engagement, and professional leadership and commitment by faculty and graduate students? X X X
3A. What improvements to the UCD and the SOE networks human- computer interface (HCI) design and available Internet tools are suggested by new and continuing users? X X X X
4A. What changes to the UCD and the SOEs communication and support structure are thought to be most helpful to overcome barriers and support Internet use? X X X X
4B. How does the way that SOE members are joined to communication channels and other individuals influence their use of the Internet? X X X
5A. How do activities involving the use of Internet tools impact individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change? X X X
6A. How does individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change influence the other members of the community to which these individuals are culturally linked? X X X
3.4 Six Themes to be Explored in Depth
3.4.1 Theme 1: User Characteristics and Perceptions.
Rogers (1995) addresses five users perceptions: compatibility, complexity,
observability, relative advantage, and trialability. Berge (1997), Fishman (1997), and
Horton (1994) add several others, namely: written communication apprehension (which
I polarized and renamed mediated writing proficiency), general representational
proficiency (both of which are related to written communication apprehension), comfort
level, and expertise using Internet tools. The 1995 and 1997 surveys were the logical
starting place to explore the main patterns of individual users reasons for use,
problems, and concerns. These are presented in Appendixes B and C. Similar work
was also done by Pelton and Pelton (1996), using a Varimax rotation factor analysis of
42 Likert scale items that addressed preservice teachers attitudes toward technology.
Though surveys may reveal observable, surface characteristics of network
usage, a focus group with new users and in-depth interviews with faculty, staff, and
studentsearly and late adopters alikeprovided insights into both the concerns and
successes of our members. Hall and Hord (1987, p. 65) suggest some probes that may
clarify individuals stages of concern. From time to time, I used probes of this nature in
1. Are you aware of the innovation?
2. Are you using it?
3. How do you feel about it?
4. Any problems or concerns you have about it?
5. What do you think of it?
6. How does it affect you? Others youre involved with?
7. What is your reaction to it?
8. What is your attitude toward it?
9. Do you have any reservations about it?
10. Would you like any information about it?
Appreciative inquiry, developed by Cooperrider and Srivastva (1987) is a good
way to balance success with concern. Developed as both theory of organizing and a
method for changing social systems, appreciative inquiry is considered to be a research
method that leads to practical results as well as the development of new social theory. It
consists of three parts: searching for the best examples of participants experience,
creating insight into the forces that lead to peak experiences, and reinforcing and
amplifying the elements that contribute to superior performance (Bushe, 1995, p. 3).
I used the appreciative inquiry method to create three important exploratory
questions that I included in the follow-up questionnaires for the electronic conference
1. What was your most memorable experience with the electronic conference?
2. What caused that experience to be so memorable?
3. How do you envision yourself using electronic conferencing or any other Internet
tools to support your own growth and learning in the future?
Hall and Hord (1987, p. 97) also propose a sequence of questions to ascertain
the individuals levels of use, which are related to their level of expertise:
1. Are you using the innovation?
2. Have you decided to use it and set a date to begin using it?
3. Are you currently looking for information about the innovation?
4. What kinds of changes are you making in your use of the innovation?
5. Are you coordinating your use of the innovation with other users?
6. Are you planning or exploring making major modifications or replacing the
I listed questions of this general nature as probes for the first three interview
and focus group questions, namely:
1. To what extent are you using the Internet?
2. What are your reasons for using the Internet?
3. What problems or concerns do you have about using the Internet?
The final version of the interview and focus group instrument is presented in
Appendix D. A preliminary survey of prior experience with Internet tools, which was
used with the focus group to assess their level of expertise with computers and CMC,
is presented in Appendix E. Appendix Fthe questionnaire for the electronic
conference participantsincludes the three appreciative inquiry questions that were
3.4.2 Theme 2: Cultural and Organizational Issues, Norms of Use,
Whereas Hall and Hord are primarily concerned with individual adopters and
Rogers deals with a traditional, hierarchically structured, centralized social system, the
SOE must be addressed as a set of cultural systems embedded in a hierarchical
organization. It must also be addressed as a learning organization in which not only the
individuals, but the organization as a whole leams as it adopts.
Both Deming and Schein stress the fact that a system must have an overarching
aim or goal. What is the overall aim of the SOE in making the Internet available to
students, staff members, and faculty? This is an area that was explored by interviewing
key decision-makers among the faculty. The Schools aims and goals should ideally be
related to the incentive structure for using e-mail and the Internet, to the amount of
persuasion that faculty members impose upon their students, and to the types of use
that members of the School consider legitimate and appropriate. This issue will become
increasingly important as the SOE begins to develop distance education and distributed
learning courses and to deliver them on-line.
Some probes that I considered using in the in-depth interviews with faculty,
staff, and policy makers to explore Theme 2 included:
1. What do you consider to be the Schools aim in using the Internet?
2. Do you consider that using Internet tools is part of your job?
3. Do you participate in any on-line conferences or listservs that pertain to your field of
inquiry or professional interests? If so, do you find them valuable?
4. Do you feel there is any clear payoff for publishing your research on-line? Why or
5. What do you feel is the appropriate balance between becoming proficient in the use
of Internet tools and carrying out your other duties?
6. How do you feel about students doing their research on the Web?
7. What types of use do you consider are most important as you carry out your
8. To what extent and for what reasons do you feel your students should use Internet
9. How important is it to post academic program information on the Web?
Similar questions that deal with students perceptions of the Schools incentive
structure and their own vision of professional inquiry and information sharing were
also appropriate for the interviews. Such questions were listed as probes for the fourth
and fifth interview and focus group questions, namely:
4. How does the SOEs incentive structure influence your use of the Internet?
5. What do you consider to be appropriate or legitimate uses of Internet tools, within
the SOE, and why?
An examination of student and faculty Web pages provided insights into their
perceptions of on-line disciplined inquiry and professional engagement
3.4.3 Theme 3: Tools, Design, and Impersonal Supports
In this theme, I began to concentrate more on the innovation and the
environment in which it is used. Here, technological or environmental factors such as
system capacity, speed, reliability, usability, and possibly the HCI, begin to mix with
the users perceptions. There is a very fine line between users perceptions (primarily
attentive) and the affordances of the innovation (primarily pre-attentive). I will not
emphasize this distinction except to say that the users reasons for use, levels of use,
and barriers to use are enhanced or hindered by the types of tools they share; the types
of representations that these tools support; the ways in which the design, interface, and
capacity of the system helps them to carry out tasks that they consider appropriate; and
the perceived usefulness of job aids and supports.
Initial information about the usefulness of aids and supports were gleaned from
the surveys. I scanned through the users comments and suggestions for improvements
to the university network and support structure. As patterns emerged, I focused
attention on those classes of suggestions that occurred frequently.
Some questions pertaining to Theme 3 that were appropriate to use as probes in
the in-depth interviews and the focus group included:
1. What aids or supports would you use most often? Why?
2. Are there better ways to design or redesign existing aids and supports? How would
you redesign them?
3. Do you feel that giving out disks or descriptive brochures, or giving demonstrations
of the system should be part of class activities?
4. Do you feel that having a computer and modem at home should be a requirement for
students in SOE? How about requiring students to have Internet access through a
commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
5. What types of support would you like to see on the SOEs On-line Helpdesk?
6. Are there newer or better Internet tools, or better ways of using them that could make
your life easier?
7. Can you suggest any ways that the networks look and feel could be improved,
either by CINS or by the SOE?
It is important to remember that this is a commuter campus. Many students
connect to the network from home or work When the interviews were administered
(January-March 1998), free access to the Web was not available through the university.
Therefore, the following caveat was added to the sixth interview question:
Currendy, you cant access the full capabilities of the Internet from home
without paying for an Internet Service Provider. Since the labs have direct
connectivity, it is easier to improve the usability of the Internet in the labs than
Thus, the sixth interview question was broken into two parts:
6a. What improvements would you suggest for the design, interface, Internet tools, and
usability of the computers in the UCD labs?
6b. What improvements would you suggest for the design, interface, Internet tools,
and usability for your home computer?
3.4.4. Theme 4: Social Issues: Scaffolding, Mentoring, Communication
At this point, the inquiry moved from the users perceptions of, and interactions
with, the system and its impersonal support structure to the social relationships that
both Rogers and Hall consider vital for new users. This was stressed by many teachers
who participated in the B VIPthey needed a real person to answer their questions,
to give them help and support when they needed it, to troubleshoot equipment when it
broke down, and to help them when they got into trouble. Though some of this can be
dealt with by teaching, training, and formal classes, both Hall and Rogers emphasize
the importance of client/change agent empathy and developing one-on-one supportive
Information about these issues came from the interviewees, the focus group
participants, and suggestions by survey respondents. Some new users perceived
individual help from graduate assistants and on-line consultation with Internet Task
Force members as useful. In fact, some students remarked informally that they felt very
frustrated when there was no graduate assistant available in the SOE lab who was
familiar enough with the hardware and software to assist them when they got into
trouble. Part of these students frustration was due to the fact that the computers in the
lab are directly connected to the UCD servers, whereas their problems involving
modem settings only occur when they attempted to connect from their home computer.
Striking a balance in the use of graduate assistants versus other forms of
scaffolding is an area that needs to be explored further, especially since users connect
primarily from home or work rather than from the SOE lab. Ongoing investigations
concerning the usefulness of the following potential interventions may prove useful: (a)
more help from graduate assistants in the lab, (b) workshops on specific topics, (c)
individual or group mentoring, (d) Internet fundamentals covered in introductory
courses, (e) better communication with technical support personnel, and (f) coaching
by more advanced students who have mastered Internet fundamentals and who would
be willing to serve as a visiting lecturer for a class, seminar, or internship meeting.
The seventh focus group and interview question was worded as follows:
7. What changes to the SOEs communication and support structure would be most
helpful to you for overcoming challenges that you encounter in learning how to use
Internet tools appropriately?
Another important aspect of social relationships is defined as the social
influence factor. This is the extent to which an individuals peers or superiors impact
their behavior, their attitudes, and their use of tools through the mutual flow of
information and sharing of ideas. Person-to-person contact tends to influence the speed
at which an innovation is adopted (Carlson, 1970).
Using a variation of Carlsons original interview question, I included a query in
interview question 8 that asked interviewees about the three people they talk to or