Fischler College of Education: Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Abraham S. Fischler College of Education

Advisor

Michael Simonson

Committee Member

Shirley Walrod

Abstract

This applied dissertation responded to two public problems: digital divides and unequal access to educational opportunities via the growth of virtual schooling in kindergarten through Grade 12 (K-12) in the United States. A qualitative instrumental case study approach was used to explore the relative advantages and disadvantages of public K-12 virtual schools in Florida through the experiences and perspectives of 5 virtual school leaders. This research also evaluated the virtual school leaders’ level of innovativeness in relation to the innovativeness/needs paradox (INP) in Rogers’s theory of diffusion of innovations (DOI). The INP suggests that innovativeness plays a role in social stratification issues between the higher and lower socioeconomic individuals in a system. A demographic survey and interviews were used to gather descriptive details for the case analysis. The Innovativeness Scale collected empirical evidence on virtual school leaders’ level of innovativeness. Results participants were in the early majority category of DOI. Demographics suggested upward social mobility, high educational attainment, and tendencies toward innovativeness. Six themes emerged from the interviews: educational optimism, proinnovation bias, strategies of least resistance, fidelity to old-school norms, virtual schools are a public but private schooling niche, and the counterintuitive gauntlet of innovativeness: the legitimacy of virtual schools and stakeholder divides. Findings suggested innovativeness in relation to the INP does have the potential to fuel underlying divides between advantaged and disadvantaged students in public K-12 virtual schools in Florida. The interviews suggested additional factors may play a role in divides in association with innovativeness, specifically, individualistic and systemic epistemologies and cultural relativism.

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