The response to and effects of microcomputers in the education sector: the introduction of an innovation in local authority secondary schools
The study addresses the introduction of an innovation of new technology into a bureaucratic profession. The organisational setting is that of local authority secondary schools at a time at which microcomputers were being introduced in both the organisational core (for teaching) and its periphery (school administration). The research studies innovation-adopting organisations within their sectoral context; key actors influencing the innovation are identified at the levels of central government, local government and schools. A review of the literature on new technology and innovation (including educational innovation), and on schools as organisations in a changing environment leads to the development of the conceptual framework of the study using a resource dependency model within a cycle of the acquisition, allocation and utilisation of financial, physical and intangible resources. The research methodology is longitudinal and draws from both positivist and interpretive traditions. lt includes an initial census of the two hundred secondary schools in four local education authorities, a final survey of the same population, and four case studies, using both interview methods and documentation. Two modes of innovation are discerned. In respect of administrative use a rationalising, controlling mode is identified, with local education authorities developing standardised computer-assisted administrative systems for use in schools. In respect of curricular use, in contrast, teachers have been able to maintain an indeterminate occupational knowledge base, derived from an ideology of professionalism in respect of the classroom use of the technology. The mode of innovation in respect of curricular use has been one of learning and enabling. The resourcing policies of central and local government agencies affect the extent of use of the technology for teaching purposes, but the way in which it is used is determined within individual schools, where staff with relevant technical expertise significantly affect the course of the innovation.