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Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learnsby Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, Michael B. Horn
"Provocatively titled, Disrupting Class is just what America's K-12 education system needs--a well thought-through proposal for using technology to better serve students/i>
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Clay Christensen's groundbreaking bestselling work in education now updated and expanded, including a new chapter on Christensen's seminal "Jobs to Be Done" theory applied to education.
"Provocatively titled, Disrupting Class is just what America's K-12 education system needs--a well thought-through proposal for using technology to better serve students and bring our schools into the 21st Century. Unlike so many education 'reforms,' this is not small-bore stuff. For that reason alone, it's likely to be resisted by defenders of the status quo, even though it's necessary and right for our kids. We owe it to them to make sure this book isn't merely a terrific read; it must become a blueprint for educational transformation."
—Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education
"A brilliant teacher, Christensen brings clarity to a muddled and chaotic world of education."
—Jim Collins, bestselling author of Good to Great
“Just as iTunes revolutionized the music industry, technology has the potential to transform education in America so that every one of the nation’s 50 million students receives a high quality education. Disrupting Class is a must-read, as it shows us how we can blaze that trail toward transformation.”
—Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
According to recent studies in neuroscience, the way we learn doesn't always match up with the way we are taught. If we hope to stay competitive-academically, economically, and technologically-we need to rethink our understanding of intelligence, reevaluate our educational system, and reinvigorate our commitment to learning. In other words, we need "disruptive innovation."
Now, in his long-awaited new book, Clayton M. Christensen and coauthors Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson take one of the most important issues of our time-education-and apply Christensen's now-famous theories of "disruptive" change using a wide range of real-life examples. Whether you're a school administrator, government official, business leader, parent, teacher, or entrepreneur, you'll discover surprising new ideas, outside-the-box strategies, and straight-A success stories. You'll learn how:
- Customized learning will help many more students succeed in school
- Student-centric classrooms will increase the demand for new technology
- Computers must be disruptively deployed to every student
- Disruptive innovation can circumvent roadblocks that have prevented other attempts at school reform
- We can compete in the global classroom-and get ahead in the global market
Filled with fascinating case studies, scientific findings, and unprecedented insights on how innovation must be managed, Disrupting Class will open your eyes to new possibilities, unlock hidden potential, and get you to think differently. Professor Christensen and his coauthors provide a bold new lesson in innovation that will help you make the grade for years to come.
The future is now. Class is in session.
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How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns
By CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN, MICHAEL B. HORN, CURTIS W. JOHNSON
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2011Clayton M. Christensen
All rights reserved.
Why Schools Struggle to Teach Differently When Each Student Learns Differently
Maria slides into her seat two seconds before the bell rings and curses her alarm clock. She's already behind. Class starts practically before the bell rings because Mr. Alvera likes to cram the period full with as much information as possible. Maria glances over the handout waiting on her desk—it's a bullet-point recap of last night's reading, which she digested easily. She shoots a glance over at Rob and mimes the gesture of taking off his hat. Catching her eye, Rob complies before Mr. Alvera has a chance to say anything.
Rob tugs a hand through his mussed dark red hair and pulls out a notebook as the chemistry teacher explains the formula for the thermodynamic behavior of a gas. He tries to focus on the scrawled chalk that says "p V = n R T"—and diligently copies it into his notebook, as though that will change the fact that he doesn't get it. Mr. Alvera has spent some extra time trying to help him out, but there's limited time for that, and Mr. Alvera only seemed able to explain the same concepts in the same ways—just slower and louder. If Rob's grades keep slipping, Mr. Alvera is required to report him. And if that happens before tomorrow night's soccer game, he suspects he'll be riding the bench. But he's got soccer down: he actually feels worse about the fact that after spending last night poring over the textbook, he still doesn't get the concept.
Across the aisle, Maria sits up and raises her hand to ask a question. "Using p V = n R T, how would I find the density of a gas at standard temperature and pressure?"
Beside her, Rob's soccer teammate, second-stringer Doug Kim, looks like he's taking notes. Rob's heart sinks. Doug plays forward, too. Rob never used to think of himself as stupid, but these days, he suspects, most people at Randall Circle High School think of him as a dumb jock.
Rob's slumped shoulders in the third row of the classroom do not escape Alvera's notice, but Alvera has little time during the class period to dwell on one kid. His experience as a teacher has taught him to triage: some students get it, and others don't. In a school this big, what can he do? He's already met with Rob several times after class and given it his best shot. In his own school days, he'd been a miserable English student. Even now, Alvera is not a confident writer; yesterday, he'd had another teacher read over his draft of the memo to Stephanie Allston about Rob's class performance. He didn't want to give the new principal a bad impression. And he's not looking forward to talking to Allston about the school's star soccer forward. But Alvera can't afford to pay too much special attention to Rob; he likes the kid and admires his willingness to work hard, but Alvera's got 120 students in his five classes. All he can do is teach the theory as best he can and move on within the time they have. Alvera allows himself a fleeting moment of regret. Despite hours of extra assistance, he can't get through to Rob. But he knows that Rob isn't dumb.
And Rob knows he isn't dumb. He heads home that afternoon after soccer practice pleasantly sweaty from running sprints in the hot fall afternoon. Unusually, though, the exercise hasn't made him any less frustrated. Maria had been busy during study hall, and Mr. Alvera had another meeting already scheduled after school. Now Rob's going to have to face down a problem set with no idea how to tackle it.
Rob is still sitting at the kitchen table, head propped in hands, when his father arrives home from work. Rob doesn't even look up at the sound of the door opening and closing. Flipping through the pages of his textbook to check the answer to a practice problem, he groans.
"What are you working on?" his dad asks. He sets his briefcase down and starts going through a stack of mail.
Rob looks up at his father. Keep getting the problems wrong, or ask his dad? "I don't understand this thermodynamic gas stuff," he says after a long pause, "and Maria wasn't around to help."
"Let me see," his father says, and Robert shoves the textbook over to his father, who seems surprisingly undisturbed.
"OK, Rob, this isn't so bad," his father says. "Tell you what. Go down to that store that sells the balloons with helium and bring a few back here."
The tightness in Rob's chest eases. Soccer game tomorrow night! By the time he has dashed to the corner store and back with a set of balloons, the evening has started to cool, but it's still in the 90s. His father is waiting for him in the garage.
"Now take one of the balloons and put it in the car and close the door," his father suggests. Frowning, Rob does as his dad says, and the two loiter in the waning light until a bang makes Rob jump. His father laughs.
"It's the balloon! OK, now, I want you to think about the effect of temperature on pressure," his father says, "and think about how that expands volume beyond the breaking point of the balloon's rubber ..."
Rob grins. He's starting to get it.
* * *
Rob struggled in chemistry class because his brain is not wired like his teacher's or Maria's. It's not that Rob is not smart. He mastered the chemistry concept when the teaching was customized to the way he learns. So why can't schools customize their teaching? As we'll show, schools have a very interdependent architecture, which mandates standardization. So how do we get customized learning for each student? Modularity allows for customization, so the solution is to move to a modular architecture in schools. Only then can Rob have a learning solution customized to how he learns.
Most of us intuitively know that we all learn differently from one another—through different methods, with different hooks, and at different paces. We remember not being able to pick up a concept at the same time someone else grasped it instinctively. And we remember that occasionally a teacher or parent or another student would explain it in a different way, and it clicked. Or perhaps it just took more time. Other times we figured things out faster than our classmates. We grew bored when the class repeatedly drilled a concept for those who struggled to get it. And most of us had friends who excelled in certain classes but struggled in others. Our experience is that we learn differently.
In the last three decades, increasing numbers of cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have acknowledged this, too. Researchers have produced a multitude of schemes to explain the straightforward idea that people learn differently from one another. This research has bubbled up under different rubrics. Although there is considerable certainty that people in fact learn differently, considerable uncertainty persists about what those differences are. At the moment, the only sure thing is no one has yet defined these differences so unambiguously that there is consensus on what the differences specifically are. Food fights periodically erupt in academia about what the salient differences are. As our understanding of the brain improves, we will better understand how it processes information—how neurotransmitters fire across synapses, which parts of the brain do what, how these develop, and so on—so we can better understand how different people learn. As neuroscientists help us to understand these underlying causal mechanisms, we will then be able to understand some of the mysteries of how human beings learn and what role our environment and experiences have on that ability. For now, however, the uncertainty persists.
In this book, we consciously avoid the controversies about whose definition of these differences is correct by making a simple assertion
Excerpted from DISRUPTING CLASS by CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN. Copyright © 2011 by Clayton M. Christensen. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
Clayton M. Christensen is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on innovation and growth. He is author or coauthor of five books including the New York Times bestsellers, The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution.
Michael Horn is the co-founder and Executive Director, Education of Innosight Institute, a non-profit think tank devoted to applying the theories of disruptive innovation to problems in the social sector. Tech&Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. He holds an AB from Yale and an MBA from Harvard.
Curtis Johnson, once a teacher and later a college president, is a writer and consultant. He was head of the public policy research organization that launched the idea of chartered schools and chief of staff to former governor Arne Carlson of Minnesota. Co-author of three books on how metropolitan regions have to adapt to new realities to be successful places, Johnson is a partner with the Citistates Group and the managing partner of Education Evolving, a project of the Center for Policy Studies. He is a graduate of Baylor University with a PhD from the College of Education at the University of Texas.
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Clayton Christensen offers a believable and intuitive approach to fixing our staggering American educational system. In a nutshell: people learn in different ways (no surprise here; it's a well-documented theory). Teachers too often teach one way (or two or three--the point being, teachers standardize. I understand. I've been a teacher most of my life. One of us and many of them in a classroom). His solution: Use 21st century technology and Web 2.0 to individualize lessons to suit needs. That's where the problem starts according to Christensen. Schools throw technology at their problems in hopes software, hardware, internet websites, will fix their shrinking test scores. Every technology teacher I know agrees with the author that this approach is flawed and frustrates both students and teachers. Technology is a tool, to be wielded with a skilled hand. Christensen gives teachers permission to disrupt class--shake it up! See what's going on. Here are some of my favorite ideas: 1) If the addition of computers to classrooms were a cure, there would be evidence of it by now. There is not. Test scores have barely budged. 2) Why haven't schools (with so much emphasis on technology) been able to march down this path (of student-centric learning)? ...because they have crammed the new technologies into their existing structure... 3) The world of education is one in which there is little agreement on what the goals are, let alone the methods that are best-suited to achieve them. 4) Public schools have been improving steadily, since 1900, but society moved the goal posts ...changed the definition of improvement... I'd recommend this to any teacher intent upon integrating technology into their core curriculum.
The idea that education reform comes from the minority - those that are on the outside edges of the spectrum - is fascinating. It is encouraging to explore the possibilities of how educators and students can properly use technology to their advantage. Transforming the role of the teacher is not only possible, but necessary if we are wanting to reach different results. The idea that learning can be an individual process, rather than a strictly a group process is refreshing. This book had been recommended to me by several educators and administrators and I'm greatful to have read it. It has given me a fresh set of eyes to approaching some of the problems we are facing today.
I became fascinated by the boasts of the subtitle of this book: "How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns." That is a fairly powerful claim. After being entangled in the authors' fanciful charts and background information, I began to look forward to some miraculous new disclosure on this new innovation that will transform the world of learning. I was disappointed. At its best this book offers some interesting theories on innovation in general. At its worst, it argues that technology-based, student centric instructional tools are going to take over the educational world, and according to the authors, this will happen by 2014. (I haven't yet figured out where that specific timeline comes from.) In the nineties there were individuals who predicted that computers would replace teachers. These authors believe that the role of teachers will be transformed to that of tutors. The whole idea of reducing learning into a software program has been tried. The reality is learning is a messy, complicated process, and just as the authors assert, no one process works. But, their belief in the salvation wrought through computer software alone may be misplaced. This book was disappointing because I thought it would offer some clearly applicable innovative ideas for my school. Instead, it promotes theories and ideas. It makes broad sweeps with generalizations and predictions, but offers very little that is practical for the school practitioner.
The very real value of this useful and, at times, pleasantly surprising book comes from the way the authors apply their expertise in innovation to the field of education. By approaching public education's crisis with new eyes - and conceptualizing education as a product or service like any other - Clayton M. Christensen (The Innovator's Dilemma), Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson provide insights that escape the tired loops of argument that often define discussions about public education. These writers' obvious willingness to look in new directions for learning innovation is matched by their genuine concern for everyone involved in education. However, they do seem a bit idealistic, as they focus so strongly on the pedagogical and conceptual aspects of education that they seem to skim over other concerns, like logistics and budgets. The authors acknowledge the legal monopoly governing public education without really addressing the social weight and inertia of such a monopoly. In fact, they seem to believe that positive disruption is almost inevitable. getAbstract recommends this thoughtful book to anyone interested in social change and education, and - not tangentially - in how new technologies affect societies.
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