Design in Learning and Technology: Innovation Versus Change

Change can simply be replacing one thing or idea for another, such as switching to a different learning management system.  Innovation, although it involves change, is much more.  It involves a transformation that advances an idea or changes the way people think by providing a novel and useful idea or product.  It often provides a solution, creating something new or radically improving something that pre-exists.

Linking innovation with design and technology depends on one’s definition of technology.  Dron (2014) uses Arthur’s (2009, as cited in Dron, 2014) definition that technologies are the “orchestration of phenomena to some purpose” (p. 240).  Using this definition, an educational design may be innovative when it introduces a radically new or improved software program, hardware, pedagogy, tool, or other “phenomena” for the betterment of education.

Dron (2014) argues that soft technologies are more adaptable and, therefore, incorporate new innovations easier than hard technologies.  Currently, a combination of hard and soft is often used to balance teacher and learner needs with cost and time limitations.  Dron argues that we need systems with “capabilities for assembly and integration at a depth of sophistication that we have never seen before” (p. 260) to prepare for future innovations.  However, since change is inevitable, would new innovations be adopted regardless of the technologies in use?  Would harder technologies prevent their adoption or simply make the adoption slower or more difficult?  Perhaps we can, and must, develop models and conceptual tools to prepare for future innovations, but the answer for how to do that is not an easy one. 

Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and change: Changing how we change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.

2 thoughts on “Design in Learning and Technology: Innovation Versus Change”

  1. I too was intrigued by Dron’s breakdown of hard and soft technologies as “when technologies, be they hard or soft, are assembled with others by addition they make the original softer… when hard technologies are assembled to replace those that already exist, technologies become harder” (Dron, 2014, p. 242). Before reading this article I thought of hard and soft technologies as hardware and software, which is different than what Dron is referencing. As I look around, I see what Dron means in this context.
    Innovations have been around since before this great technological age. I wonder what the reaction was when someone first suggested using a notebook rather than a slate in the classroom. In the case of Dron’s (2014) perspective, a notebook would be hard technology change since it replaced what was in place (p. 240). The good news is that society always seems to have enough people who are excited about new technology that we will always have someone who is open to adopting the next greatest thing.

    Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.

    1. Hi, Kathy.

      Thank you for your response. Your comment that someone will always be excited to adopt the next great technology prompted me to consider E. M. Roger’s adoption of innovation theory. This theory was developed in 1962 and I wondered how it stands up in today’s information and communication technology (ICT) environment. De Marez, Evens, and Stragier (2010) state that while Rogers’ theory has been regularly updated and still has value “for forecasting purposes, service and infrastructure requirements, business modelling and policy measurements” (p. 192), it has been criticised for not addressing actual usage and use contexts. De Marez, Evens, and Stragier state that a delineation should be made between adoption of an innovation and usage, and offer suggestions for readjustment of Rogers’ model including the addition of multiple peaks and more flexible segment sizes (p. 192). Thus, while there may be similarities of adoption amongst people regardless of our changing times and technologies, there may indeed be differences in how we are adopting and using those innovations.

      De Marez, L., Evens, T., & Stragier, J. (2010). Diffusion theory vs. today’s ICT environment. Observatorio, 5(3), 175-202. Retrieved from's_ICT_environment

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