EdTech And The Hundredth Monkey Effect

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Photo via emaze.com

In the mid 1970’s, Lyall Watson and Lawrence Blair popularized the idea of the “Hundredth Monkey Effect”. Watson and Blair shared the findings of Japanese scientists who studied the behavior of monkeys on a beach. These scientists observed some of the monkeys learning to wash sweet potatoes, and, after a period of repetition and observation, this behavior spread to other monkeys. Once a critical number of monkeys incorporated this behavior into their routine, monkeys on nearby islands spontaneously replicated the same behavior as well. The accuracy of these findings has been debated, but there is still an important takeaway from the study: the actions of one individual can implement widespread change.

So what does this have to do with edtech?

In our “Edtech implementation” blog, we briefly discussed having the “right” teachers use new technology purchases; these teachers are comfortable using technology, and are not afraid to use it in different and innovative ways. Why is this such an important step in implementation?

Teachers who are comfortable using technology can help spread different ideas and attitudes towards edtech products in the classroom. Discovering innovative ways to use an edtech product all begins with one teacher; if enough teachers implement these practices, it can become commonplace in a school.

In a school where QR codes were rarely used, and where teachers were not incredibly comfortable using technology, one teacher learned how to incorporate QR codes into her lesson plans. She found a QR code generator website, and had students scan these QR codes with an app called Qrafter.  She utilized QR codes to heighten collaboration between students, and create fun team challenges. Students were broken up into different groups, and would scan the QR codes for different problems they needed to solve; using a tablet mirroring device, students would answer the question on the BoardShare whiteboard space from their iPads and write their team name over their work.

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In other schools that use advanced technology, this may not seem incredibly innovative; for this school, however, it was an important and exciting discovery. As more teachers learned about how this teacher was using QR codes in her classroom, they began to follow suit and use them in their own classrooms. Teachers would send each other their own QR codes they had created so that other teachers could use them in their lessons. It did not take long before all of the teachers were using QR codes.

Once another teacher began feeling comfortable enough with QR codes, he started coming up with even more interesting ways to use it. When all of his students’ parents came to visit for parent-teacher night, he hung up QR codes around different areas of the classroom. He had previously recorded his students talking about the different areas of the classroom, and activities they were working on. When the parents would scan the QR codes, the information about the different classroom areas would pop up; the parents were treated to a museum audio tour of sorts. All of the other teachers loved the idea so much, they began using their own variations on this idea.

If there’s one big takeaway from this chain of events, it’s that innovation begets innovation. Due to the discovery of one teacher, innovative ideas for using QR codes rapidly spread throughout the school. For a school that was not familiar with edtech, or altogether comfortable using technology in inventive ways, this was an incredible success. It is crucial that, during the implementation process, teachers who are more comfortable with technology (and are likely to use it in different and creative ways) are initially given the opportunity to use it for prolonged periods of time.

 

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