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Book Review: Christensen, Clayton M.; Horn, Michael B. & Johnson, Curtis W. (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

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Christensen, Clayton M.; Horn, Michael B. & Johnson, Curtis W. (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

McGraw-Hill, 230 pp. $32.95, hardcover, ISBN: 9780071592062

Amy Hollinger

Overview

Christensen, Horn and Johnson (2008), the authors of Disrupting Class How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, have written an excellent blue print for educators that outlines the technology shift that is currently going on in society, how it is impacting schools, and what schools and administrators can do to make disruptive change happen. This what? So what? Now what? approach to the current dilemma facing the education system provides educators with a clear and explicit understanding of the "what": a shift happening in the world due to the current technology innovations that have opened up the world as a global community. The "so what" is the reality of how it will impact schools at a very rapid pace. Finally, the "now what" is the section of the book that allows for realistic plans for how to take on the challenge of totally shifting instruction and learning in schools in the next ten years using technology as a platform to design learning that is student centric.


The authors take their extensive background in the business world to establish a strong rationale for the necessary educational reform created by the influx of technology. Christensen is a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He is the author of several other books including two New York Times bestsellers, The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution. Horn has an education which includes an undergraduate degree from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. He is currently the director of the Innosight Institute. This non-profit organization's mission is to apply Christensen's theories of disruptive innovation to develop and promote solutions to the most vexing problems in the social sector. The third author, Johnson, works as a consultant and a writer. His past work experience includes serving as the chairman of the Metropolitan Council, a ten year stint as a college president in the 1970's, working as the chairman of the Citizen's League and as an advisor to the Governor of Minnesota. All of these authors have witnessed first hand the global shift in the world due to the influx of technology. Based on their experiences in their own work they have an outsider view of the education system and how it needs to change to prepare students to meet the demands of working in the 21st century.

The influx of technology has turned the world into a global community of learners. The authors present the need for a disruptive innovation in the current education system by providing two decades of research based on their studies in the private sector across industries. Disruptive innovation is a term used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by lowering price or designing for a different set of consumers (wikipedia, 2010).The research presented in this book is used to demonstrate an explanation for the gap between what we need from schools and what we get. It also illustrates how learning and teaching can be differentiated to allow for more student engagement and achievement. The authors contend and support with research that all of this is possible even with limited resources. The authors' backgrounds help by providing an outside look into the education system that helps demonstrate how to apply the theory of disruptive innovation to the school system.

The theory of disruptive change has been applied to the business world in abundance. Disruptive change theory is the creation of a separate unit from the current dominant organizational structure that eventually creates a new way of doing something. The disruptive change starts small and is not viewed as a threat because it does not cater to a large population at first. Eventually, as shifts happen in industry and society the disruptive change becomes the dominant way of working. Education is the one industry that has not change in terms of organizational structure since the 1950's. This book specifically delves into looking at how learning needs to shift to be more student centric and focused on 21st century skills. 21st century skills can be defined as developing skills and habits of mind that allow people to actively participate in society using all forms of media available. It stems from the need to teach people how to think and reflect critically on what is happening around them and to develop creative solutions that serve personal and social needs (Ask.com, 2010).The suggestion that this cannot happen within the current structure of schools and that disruptive change needs to occur in the form of a separation unit is developed fully by the end of the book.

Overall, the main point made by this book is that education needs to take on a student centric approach The authors' state, "student-centric learning opens the door for students to learn in ways that match their intelligence types in the places and at the paces they prefer by combining content in customized sequences." They provide what they believe is a blueprint for taking on the student centric approach to education. However, the disruption that they suggest would dramatically change the face of education as we know it. This student centric approach supports a system in which there would be far less student-teacher interaction, making things like the physical classrooms irrelevant and the creation of a personalized curriculum for all students. Due to the realities of the education system today this student centric approach to learning should be viewed as a long term systematic overhaul of education as we know it.


Organization:

The book is set up in three distinct sections. Chapters 1-3 give a solid background of where schools are currently functioning. Chapters 4-5 describe where schools are heading and why. Finally, chapters 6-9 give a clear plan for what schools need to do to meet the demands placed upon the system by the disruptive innovation of computer based student centric learning. The authors write each chapter using the same format. They start each chapter with a fiction story from Randall James HS that helps frame the issues facing the school systems today and provides a connection that educators can relate to. The authors continue the chapter by laying out a clear theoretical foundation (they tell about it). Next they explore the issue further by connecting it to real life industry examples.

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