Disruptive Innovation in Schools

I just finished reading the book “Blended” by Michael Horn and Heather Staker. I read this book because I work at a school that is one-to-one with all students having macbook air computers. The book outlines how to go about integrating technology into the school environment to improve education and also to cause “disruptive innovation.” I think it’s a great read for any school leaders who want better educational outcomes through technology.

The most important thing for schools is to understand the role of technology in the lives of the students they’re currently serving. This generation of students grew up with technology. They know way more about its possibilities than the teachers and administrators with years of experience in education. Schools need to learn what technology means to students and try to keep pace with the constant innovations in the technology field. All too often schools purchase technology just to give the outward appearance of being innovative, when in reality nothing inside the classroom actually changes. Horn and Staker are advocating for technology adoptions that alter the teaching strategies and even the physical environment of the school, instead of simply “cramming” (in their words) layers of technology into the existing school environment.

In order to accomplish this, schools require leadership that is passionate about technology and not afraid of disruptive innovation. It is a waste when a school has the technology resources, but fails to enact any meaningful change. Even worse, however, is when schools do students a learning disservice by limiting the use of technology. They restrict tools such as Google, they ban cell phones, and they block all social media. Why? Because school leaders and teachers view these as mere distractions and not as educational tools. Yet these are the tools that businesses in the real world use to innovate and thrive, so why shouldn’t students?

Instead of preparing students for what lies beyond the classroom walls, schools are still stuck in the assembly line era. That is not to say that there has’t been progress. Some schools are implementing unique blended learning experiences for students and having great success. Other schools have modified their schedules and re-arranged their classrooms to focus on a new model of student learning. However, these schools are not the norm. The norm is pockets of innovative teachers and innovative leaders within traditional school settings. These individuals break away and effect change in their classroom or maybe in their department, while the school at large remains unchanged. The question is then not how to purchase and integrate technology, but how to create a unified culture of technology and innovation in schools?

So, the book “Blended” outlines all the steps for implementing technology. It offers many different programs, how to organize them, and even gives important considerations for making it all a success.

The most important aspect of implementing technology has nothing to do with the technology itself. The only way any of these other plans will be effective is when they are backed by a passionate leadership team with a clear vision. Without this, a school won’t be able to create a culture of innovation around using technology. Teachers won’t feel inspired to integrate technology into their lessons. And students won’t find relevance in their learning.

“Blended” is a good place for education leaders to begin planning for better use of technology in their schools. For “disruptive innovation” to occur, the leadership team must first be willing to create a culture of innovation and exploration through technology. Only this will inspire both teachers and students to overhaul traditional education.

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