With the release of any new technology, there are early adopters, and there are cautious buyers (and, of course, abstainers). Early adopters are those who rush out and buy the latest device because it is the latest device, despite higher cost and the risk of becoming prematurely obsolete. More cautious buyers wait until the technology is proven, more mainstream, and more affordable. With the roll-out of any new technology, early adopters are a necessary condition for success. They provide an early demand for the supply, which starts the economic ball rolling. with older technologies, such as radio and television, broadcasts went on for years before more than a handful of people had receivers. Even DVD’s took several years to catch on, and Blu-Ray is almost as slow, though some technologies (think iPods) may go through two generations in a year. The point is, without fanatics in the form of early adopters, these things would never take off.
In our classrooms, we also have early adopters – a small number of students who dive in to new material, because it is new material, while others wait cautiously to see how it is done. On assessments, however, we as teachers tend to get hung up on the idea of “fairness” and want all students to complete something at the same time. It seems to me that this provides a significant unfairness – the early adopters will dive right in, while the more cautious students, faced with having to complete work that they have not had the chance to really vet, find themselves in a situation that makes them uncomfortable and stressed.
So how can we learn from the marketplace, and capitalize on the concept of early adopters to break open the barriers and flood our classes with the commodity of knowledge?