Christensen Institute on Disruptive Innovation in K-12 Education

Fresh off renaming itself the Clayton Christensen Institute for DISRUPTIVE Innovation, the think tank formerly known as Innosight appropriately released a very important paper titled “Is K–12 blended learning disruptive? An introduction to theory of hybrids.”

Here’s my beef: when I hear people use the term “disruption” without a firm understanding of innovation theory. For instance, I have heard many people claim that Khan Academy is “disruptive” without clarifying which incumbent it will disrupt. This is at best imprecise and at worst dangerous to the entire personalized/blended learning movement. Do they mean that all math teachers will be replaced by computers in the next two years? Or perhaps they mean that Khan and similar tools will gradually replace lectures and paper-based worksheets, thus freeing up teachers’ time so they can devote more energy to mentoring, tutoring and/or organizing group projects. In both scenarios, disruption is occurring as a result of an innovative technology, yet the nature of that disruption leads to dramatically different education models. Clarity is important.

For that reason, Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn and Heather Staker do the field a favor by clarifying how they believe innovation theories apply in the K-12 sector. Important aspects of this include the notion of “hybrid innovations” that develop within existing systems and distinguishing between what might happen in elementary versus secondary grades.

This should be required reading for anyone working in this sector.



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