Disrupting Class, Today

The ideas shared by Christensen, Horn, and Johnson in their recent book entitled Disrupting Class (2008) are provocative, to say the least. In their attempt to describe the future of education, they address many current educational issues and needs with seemingly plausible solutions and a theory just complex enough to nearly seal the deal. In the end, however, the aggressive predictions they posit have left me in doubt but with hopes of a future so well-defined.

Here's the projection that has me squirming the most:

The result of these four factors – technological improvements that make learning more engaging; research advances that enable the design of student-centric software appropriate to each type of learner; the looming teacher shortage; and inexorable cost pressures – is that 10 years from the publication of this book [2018], computer-based, student-centric learning will account for 50 percent of the "seat miles" in U.S. secondary schools. Given the current trajectory of substitution, about 80 percent of courses taken in 2024 will have been taught online in a student-centric way. Given how long some have been in the trenches of school reform, this will be quite a breathtaking "flip". (p. 102)
Now, I realize that this is likely a non-issue for higher education - because many colleges and universities are probably already seeing numbers similar to these. But K-12? An entirely different picture. In crunching the numbers for the just high schools in my district alone, I'm in complete agreement with the final sentence I've quoted above: This would be quite a breathtaking flip, indeed. While my large, urban district may not be representative of every institution out there, it can hopefully demonstrate a helpful perspective on exactly what they are proposing.

Do you understand that this kind of change would consequently require that the number of student computers we currently have in our district's schools would need to more than DOUBLE in the next TEN years and more than TRIPLE in the next SIXTEEN?

Ugh (we can't even maintain the computers we have now)!

Sure, life will be different when today's kindergarten students graduate from college, but will it really be that different? And will change really come that quickly?

Schools simply don't change over night.

Nevertheless, in allowing this topic to ruminate for several weeks now, I'm learning that perhaps the only things that really need to change in our schools are mindsets and policies. If schools were to encourage (or even require?) students to bring their "little Internet machines" to class, there's absolutely no reason we couldn't be Disrupting Class today!


If so, then I see computers playing a huge role. I also see mobile, hand-held technologies as one of the easiest ways to achieve the kind of computing (connectivity?) that Christensen, et al. predict will sweep across our schools. Other options for such wide-spread computing simply aren't as feasible.

Even in thinking different, however, I guess we still have a long, long way to go.

  • Christensen, C. M., Johnson, C., & Horn, M. (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Image Source: Flickr user 1541

Technorati Tags:

Creative Commons License
Original content distributed on this site is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.