Lesson Seven: Innovation Diffusion
                              in Traditional Education

                    Acknowledging the inevitable changes
                    our educational system has already begun

                    Change theory and self-esteem issues
                     (bell curve, drivers, riders and draggers)

                    Digital diploma mills; a negative view

                    New roles for teachers; a positive view

                    Scalability and SDL as a Pedagogy

Required Assignments Checklist:

1.  Read the text of this lesson below
    "The New Gold Rush; Mining Raw Human Potential
     Using Free Web Tools"
     and "The War Against Ignorance"

    (one hour)

2. Review the first three documents at
     noting the other important resources listed for school
     technology planning and teacher training.

    Review the following:
School's Online has resources on school connectivity at
     Read Steve Cisler's summative "Schools Online Connectivity
     Guide,", at
     It is an excellent, simple, write up on the various school Internet
     connectivity options written for lay adminstrators and

    (one hour)

3.  Read one or more of the following for a negative
      view of online instruction and copyright issues regarding
      online courses. The most recent article is recommended.
      This 5 part series is listed at

Digital Diploma Mills, Part I: The Automation of Higher
Education, 1999 

Digital Diploma Mills, Part II: The Coming Battle Over Online

Digital Diploma Mills: Part III "The Bloom is Off the Rose."

Digitial Diploma Mills; Part IV: Rehearsal for the Revolution

Digital Diploma Mills; Part V: Fool's Gold

(one hour)

4. Write a two-page paper reflecting your thinking related to the
      readings, and themes contained in this lesson with emphasis on
      your remaining questions concerning online learning, and your
     personal strategy and plan for using online teaching, and learning,
     in your future. Include reference to which specific readings and
     resources influenced your thinking.  Email it to your instructor.

      (one hour)


Lesson Goals:

In this lesson, we'll take a hard look at the realities of the changes Internet is bringing to traditional education from both the negative and positive viewpoints.

In this lesson, we'll consider the realistic possibilities and challenges for leveraging the scalability of online learning to support the public good.

In this lesson we'll identify a personal strategy and plan for our own futures.


Imagination is more important than knowledge
    - Albert Einstein


Inner-Directedness VS Outer-Directedness

An estimated 10-20% of American society are naturally curious, self-motivated, "early adapters". Such persons seek new experiences and like to explore. An early adapter is inner-directed, motivated by an innate curiosity and willingness to explore.

The majority of our society is outer-directed; motivated primarily through the direction of others. Today American society is presented with unlimited opportunity represented by the Internet's four historical firsts as presented in lesson one. Innovation diffusion is the process by which the society as a whole becomes aware of this potential. While early adapters will learn and explore on their own, middle and late adapters will wait until they receive clues that the social majority is supportive of such activity.  Advocating change in the behavior status quo is typically met with resistance, something early adapters are very familiar with. The most effective means of motivating other-directed personalities to change is by 'Tom Sawyerism;' demonstrating satisfaction from tangible benefits without direct advocacy.

Computers and Internet appear to be significantly more motivating to youth than for many adults. While most adults will tend to resist learning new things about computers and Internet, the opposite appears to be true with youth. Youth today are the key change agents and technology leaders. With most leadership positions held by adults, many of whom actively resist learning to use computers and Internet, early adapters, both young and old, are faced with considerable challenges when they attempt to "lend their wings to others."

Despite all the reasons one might give for not using Internet, it is common for a complete shift of perception to occur once direct benefits have been realized. The pattern for this dramatic attitude shift comes when something of personal value or interest is obtained via Internet that would not have otherwise been available.

Below are four stages of internalization which fit the pattern of acceptance of any innovation. In understanding the behavior of others, these stages can be helpful, particularly when comparing the attitudes of adults VS youth when faced with the limitless potential of computers and Internet.

Four Stages of Internalization

Dealing with diversity of cultural and technical backgrounds can make online education more challenging. Here are four levels of internalization which relate to diffusion of any innovation. In this case, they represent the awareness of Internet use.

Consider four identifiable stages to internalizing the potential for Internet collaboration:
* Awareness/Uncertainty
* Insight/Adoption
* Internalization/Adaptation
* Enlightened expectations

1. Awareness/Uncertainty
At this first stage people often experience acute self-doubt and self-deprecation as to whether they will be able to master the basic computer, Internet, typing, and written skills. A very shallow understanding of the
potential benefits is common at this stage, though there is the general impression that there are advantages.

For the individual at the "uncertainty" stage, it is important to keep the instructional tasks very simple with a mastery learning format. Easily obtainable objectives are necessary to build confidence, as well as encouraging messages whenever possible. Technofear, and related ego-protecting excuses, are strongest at this stage. Once proving to themselves they CAN communicate online, there is often a surge of optimism and confidence.

2. Insight/Adoption
At the "insight" phase people accept that telecommunications skills are not beyond reach and begin to see an increasing number of ways to benefit. They 'adopt' use of the Internet and begin to gain a broader idea of what it has to offer. Self-confidence begins to build.

3. Internalization/Adaptation
The "internalization" stage is when the student begins to view the online skills as merely an extension of one's self. Use of Internet begins to be adapted to meet personal needs in an increasing number of ways. At this point "being online" is no more threatening than making a voice telephone call. Usage falls into a pattern of purposeful use.

4. Enlightened Expectations
The fourth stage, "enlightened expectations," begins after a student internalizes the online experience and becomes a regular, even casual user. There is a growing acceptance that the Internet has even greater benefits. At this stage excitement begins to generate as the real potential of Internet use begins to percolate deep down in the person's consciousness and serious questions as to what else is possible begin to arise. At this stage the people begin to make an internal commitment to fully pursue the potential of the Internet. This may be a year or more after initially going online. Willingness to serve as an online resource person, to tutor others online, or even to teach others online, is common at this stage.

Good Teaching and the Process of Innovation Diffusion

In any society facing change, there are drivers (early adapters), riders (middle adapters) and draggers (late adapters.) Together these three main groups create a bell curve of innovation diffusion. The amount of time it takes for a innovation to diffuse across society can vary based on many factors. Widespread use of the telephone took 25 years, seven years for widespread use of the fax machine, and five years for widespread use of the World Wide Web.

Traditional education has been slow to change. With technology changing at accelerating speed, our society is changing faster all the time.

This course is on Designing Online Curriculum and is presented in a self-directed format. Based on the above ideas, we might presume that 10-20 percent of those who take this course will be inner-directed. Self-directed learners have obtained a level of self-control and self-motivation that allows them to move forward, where others fear to tread. At issue in education, faced with accelerating change, is how can we teach SDL as a necessary survival skill, and how can we model it in our own lives?

Internet and SDL hold the potential to deliver the best instruction, in content and context, to the most people possible, at the least cost.  However, if those at the other end lack the intrinsic motivation to utilize such resources for their own benefit, or for the benefit of their families or cultures, then what can be done? Various forms of  mentorship, and role models, will likely be needed to provide the motivation required.

What cultures would lack the ability to put food in their own mouths when confronted with abundance? What cultures lack the worldview that if presented with limitless SDL opportunities, they would starve rather than eat? Strategies will be required not to tell these folks what they should be doing, but to unobtrusively lead them to the discovery of what they can do for themselves. A lecture on the benefits of email is not as effective as receiving a first email response from a message sent to a family member. A lecture on Internet search engines is not as effective as a first successful search and printed resource, particularly concerning information regarding family health.

Good teaching in a contructive approach is creating self-discovery opportunities that increase self-motivation which leads to becoming a self-directed learner, led by one's own natural interests and curiosity.


NOTE: For more on youth leadership and community networking themes see "Building Learning Communities" http://lone-eagles.com/teled.htm and "Common Ground - A Self-directed Learners' Internet Guide" http://lone-eagles.com/guide.htm (Sections three and four.)

Lesson Feedback: Optional, but much appreciated.

You're invited to privately email your instructor:

       1. What areas, if any, did you have trouble with during this lesson?

       2. What questions remain now that you've finished this lesson?

       3. Approximately how much time did you devote to this lesson?

       4. What improvements would you like to suggest?