Don’t be put off by a title that reads like click bait; this piece in EdSurge by Julia Freeland Fisher is the real deal. The column looks at the adoption rates of…well…fridges and washing machines.

Refrigerators were adopted much more quickly than washing machines.

Credit: Julia Freeland Fisher

The reason, she argues, is

Most households had electrical outlets that refrigerators could plug into directly, thus leaving iceboxes in the dust. But few homes had the pipes and drain lines required to install a washing machine.

In other words, homes at the time were never designed with washing machines in mind. As a result, to take advantage of the new technology households didn’t just have to shell out money; they had to hire a plumber to configure the pipes that would pump water into and drain water out of the new contraptions.

The analogy is that some ed tech innovations fit more readily into the ways that colleges and individual educators do things than others. This is a fundamental limiting factor on adoption, regardless of theoretical value or “efficacy”.

I have argued that the problem is even worse than that. We can’t really know the impact of the ed tech product or service outside the context of the the institution, many of which are not as easily checked as “Is there hot water line to the basement where I can plug in my washing machine?”

Anyway, Freeland Fisher’s piece is well written and drives the point home with clarity. Go read it.

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