Kimberly McKay

EDLD 5306 Concepts of Educational Technology

12/12/2010

Technology/Leadership Book Summary The Tipping Point How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. Although this book did not specifically address educational technology, the idea that there are a number of factors and patterns that influence technology trends is applicable. As educators and administrators in K-16 we must be cognizant of trends that influence everything from the way our students learn and communicate to campus infrastructure. Specifically, Robin Dunbar¶s Rule of 150: the maximum number of people with whom one can maintain stable and productive social relationships. I often wonder why wildly successful programs for at risk students are affecting such small populations. Why don¶t they bring the programs to scale impacting and serving more students? Gladwell gives some insight as to why this may not be possible. The key to maintaining control and avoiding mission creep is to limit the group size so that communication and relationships are maximized. Malcolm Gladwell defines tipping point as that ³magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire.´He likens the trend to an epidemic whereby ³little things can make a big difference,´ resulting in extreme popularity or changes in the environment and the culture. In the book, Gladwell studies phenomenons in pop-culture and historical events as well as crime and public health that have tipped or change dramatically as result of a combination of intended and unintended circumstances. Gladwell usesreal-world and well-known trends to demonstrate the ³tipping point,´ allowing the reader to identify with relevant³epidemics.´Through research of these phenomenons, Gladwell identifies three key factors or rules that each play an integral role determining whether a particular trend will ³tip´ into popularity: Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. The first factor, Law of Few, Gladwell identifies people he calls ³connectors, mavens and salesman´ that affect trends. Connectors, mavens and salesman are influential, charismatic people who primarily impact ³word of mouth´ epidemics. To illustrate this point, Gladwell uses historic and pop-culture examples. Paul Revere, a famous connector, spread a ³word of mouth epidemic´ when he rode through the country side spreading the news: ³The British are coming!´ Because he was a trusted, well-respected member of society, thePatriots heeded Paul Revere¶s warning and mobilized to successfully fight the British army. Conversely, another, not-so-well known Patriot, William Dawes, also set out on the same Midnight Ride; however, he was not as successful. He was not a connector. The second type of person, mavens are people who have a strong desire to help other consumers by helping them make decisions. Mavens are information consumers who have the knowledge and the social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics, but don¶t have the ability to spread the word. The salesman, the third type of person, has the ability to persuade and motivate people into action. While mavens will simply give us the information to make our own decision, salesman will convince us of a decision. Both are integral in tipping word-of-mouth epidemics. The second factor, the Stickiness Factor, speaks to the quality of a message and whether or not it grabs, and keeps, people¶s attention. Gladwell uses the evolution of Sesame

Kimberly McKay

EDLD 5306 Concepts of Educational Technology

12/12/2010

Street to demonstrate how ³sticky´ things become ³contagious´ and result in a social phenomenon (epidemic). Just as marketing experts rely on repetition to sell a product, the creators of Sesame Street use audio and visualrepetition to teach children. Through research the creators of Sesame Street learned which vignettes engaged children, and how the order of those vignettes and their relevance to real world things were responsible in creating the ³stickiness´ that made the show memorable and successful. The stickiness of Sesame Street has resulted in a phenomenon that has spanned almost five decades. The final factor, the Power of Context, speaks to the impact our surroundings have in affecting an epidemic and creating a ³tipping point.´ Gladwell demonstrates how the ³Broken Window Theory´ played a significant role in the rise and fall of crime in New York. Simply stated, disrepair will invite crime, increase apathy and decrease the quality of life in a neighborhood. Conversely, clean streets, buildings and transportation create a sense of ownership, accountability and responsibility. Disrepair tips the violence; and by cleaning the neighbors the crime epidemic will tip in the opposite direction. Furthermore, in the review of case studies, Gladwell discusses tipping point outcomes as both intended and unintended consequences, and how those consequences resulted in further tweaks of the idea, the product, the culture or the process. Gladwell suggests that researchers as well as policy and product makers should be aware of each role and how they can influence a trend and create ³tipping point´ that results in an epidemic.

Reference Gladwell, M. (2000).The Tipping Point How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston, MA. Little, Brown and Company.

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