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Book Review of 'Disrupting Class' by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson

By John Sener / December 2009

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  • Sun, 15 Aug 2010
    Post by John Sener

    Thanks for your comments, VIcki! In particular, I appreciate your point about how Christensen et al. "don't pay the same attention to the issue of social learning outcomes as they do to knowledge outcomes" -- in fact I would argue that they pay hardly any attention to this issue. This seems to be a recurring flaw of business-oriented solutions toward fixing education -- they focus more on less exclusively on learning outcomes (or perhaps more accurately, employability outcomes) and neglect the rest; they fail to see education for the complex system that it is.

  • Sun, 08 Aug 2010
    Post by Vicki Watson

    On the eve of 'The Big Day Out', an event in which all principal class officers from across Victoria (Australia) will come together to launch the Victorian Education Department's new 'Ultranet', I have just finished my second read of Christensen's book. Like all curious teachers I remained perturbed and curious to see what others had thought of this works. John Sener's review satisfied my sense that again, a corporate organisational / change model was being used to focus on the status of schools. Sener has clearly articulated a good sense of the books inadequacies while also acknowledging the pivotal point that schools, and indeed education, remain challenged by the important question of 'how best to bring about improved learning outcomes for all students'. Unfortunately, Christensen (&co. authors) don't pay the same attention to the issue of social learning outcomes as they do to knowledge outcomes. As Sener hints - the importance of the learner as metacognitively engaged and as a flexible problem solver is not given much of an airing in the book. More disturbing for most teachers will be the incredible diversion in Christensen's discussion of 'The Impact of the Earliest Years on Students' Success' to an almost instructional lesson that Vygotsky has already given us all that time ago - the importance of an understanding of 'the zone of proximal development'and the role of the mother-to-baby linquistic interaction in cognitive development. Not to go further here re Vygotsky's gift to all educator's, and parents, but simply to say that this simplistic dabble into what remains the complex world of 'Thought and Language' serves only to convince the reader that again, the world of corporate and education remain vastly different. Christensen's intent may be clear in this passage but I fear that it has served only to detract from his main argument that does have a degree of credibility. The place of 'disruptive technologies' will become obvious but the place of educator will never be relegated to the single-minded perspective represented by the book, it will never be secondary. Schools will remain major social environments where students, teachers and parents are human participants. While we all remain determined to enhance learning outcomes, individualize learning and shape the role of ICT's in what Julia Atkin would call 'Powerful Learning' - where the teacher's disposition is no longer that of 'Sage on the Stage' but of 'Guide on the Side'.

  • Wed, 23 Dec 2009
    Post by Mark Notess

    I'm a huge fan of Clayton Christiansen's original work analyzing patterns of disruption and innovation in the computer industry. So I was intrigued when this book came out, but I was disappointed. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I largely agree with Sener's critique. Certainly if we turn public education into a system more closely resembling an open market with profit-oriented players, the original principles of disruptive innovation will apply. But they don't apply as readily to the current government-run monopoly, a monopoly that is unlikely to change dramatically any time soon. Online learning, even in K-12, is seeing tremendous growth, but that growth is mainly an addition rather than a disruption to business as usual. Evolutionary change is less shrill than revolution, but incremental improvements may serve us better than intentional disruption or responses to imagined disruption.

  • Mon, 26 Jan 2009
    Post by Amjad

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  • Mon, 27 Nov 2006
    Post by mutahi

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  • Thu, 21 Jul 2005
    Post by Rahul Mahanta

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