Innovation Version 42.8

I’m biased, I’m not patient, and I live in an industry with an innovation and adoption cycle that has never been sustained for so long in human history.  The Innovation Adoption Lifecycle has been the mantra for technology my entire life.  The only problem with this is that as soon as the Early Majority is onboard, there is something new being developed/deployed and we never hit any majority.

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Technology is being developed so fast that we never hit any type of plateau of productivity.  There is rarely a time when technology just works for the task that it was designed for, when the end users’ needs are met, and tasks are completed using a known process.

We end up with multiple adoption lifecycles layered on top of each other without any clear majority (unless you count the lack of adoption as a majority).  If I had to map out my multiple years in the technology field, I understand that innovation is constant.  As innovators become comfortable with something, it changes.  There’s never a period of just doing the work; innovation has become the work.  I’ve seen co-workers burn out because they just want something that works.  They no longer seek out the newest solution with the most features.  Instead they opt for something that just works.

 

This leads me to the challenge with teaching in the technology field.  I’ll admit that I am unique, and if need be, I can provide references and evidence to that effect.  I like playing with tech, figuring stuff out, breaking things, fixing them, and then breaking them again.  That’s my job.  I am not the majority.  Curriculum development and materials lag behind innovation.  This isn’t surprising, nor is it usually an issue outside of technology.  I recall laughing at textbooks that didn’t have the U.S.S.R. updated to Russia.  It was funny; the teacher would make some joke about the textbooks being “a little old” and we’d move on.  That cannot happen in technology driven disciplines.

I have taught a class called Emerging Technology, where the main rule in class was that if there was a textbook on the topic, the technology wasn’t emerging enough.  When you think about it deeper, it is somewhat scary from a curriculum and assessment standpoint.  The course had a base structure, and after that, it was built differently every semester.  Curriculum couldn’t keep up.  One of my faculty mentors used to tell me, “The first time you teach any class, you’ll probably get about 40-50% of it right, and then every semester thereafter, it’ll improve by 10-20%.”  That means that you need to teach a new class for three or four semesters before it’s polished.  I am not aware of any technology-driven course that has remained the same for three or four semesters (Microsoft Office doesn’t count), because innovation doesn’t allow it.

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So where does this leave us?  Are we doomed to a life of perpetual back set riding and constantly trying to catch up to technology?  I can’t believe that this issue does not have a solution.  So I ask the wise and all-knowing internet: What has your institution done, what’s worked, what’s failed, what might have worked but was underfunded, given infinite time and funding could you fix this?  How do you get curriculum in front of students while the technology content is still relevant?

Does this mean I’ll ever jump off the innovation bus, or ignore the latest technology.  No.  I’ll click every link that highlights some small start-up releasing something cool.  I’ll never have a boring day because every day is different.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Written by Dr. Andrew Peterson, Coordinator of Instructional Technology

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