Disruptive Innovation


photo by Angela Renee Smith-Faulkner on untblendedlearning.weebly.com

Disruptive innovation “describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors” (Clayton Christensen Institute, 2014). Hm. Okey dokey. So, in teacher language, at least for me, disruptive innovation would be the process of introducing new ideas or strategies which would interrupt the normal presentation or routine of the classroom. Even more simply put, trying new things.

As it goes in most districts, at the start of every year, teachers are given new expectations and initiatives from their district administration that are to be implemented during the current school year. Often times, teachers fight these new ideas because we’re creatures of habit. We feel as though we have our area of specialization and what we have done to teach concepts in the past will continue to work the same way each year. After a few years of teaching, most of us have learned that that is just not the case. The student population changes each year, so why would we as teachers believe that our methods wouldn’t need to change as well? Michael Horn mentions that school systems were originally modeled after the factory system to batch students up, to add value to them, and then ship them out the other side (Edmentum, 2013). Disruptive innovation is important for exactly this reason. Making changes and implementing new strategies or technology will allow for enhanced experiences for our students and perhaps, more rewarding days for ourselves.

My building has implemented chromebooks and a new learning management system this year. The chromebooks have been great so far – it eliminates our previous BYOD policy and the overuse of student cell phones in the classroom (can I get an AMEN?!). But, for most teachers in the building right now, the implementation of the LMS has mainly been for organizational purposes. They can post assignments and have students submit them online, take quizzes online, have access to course materials if their absent, etc. – the usual tasks that teachers have done in the past. I have yet to see anyone incorporate true blended learning. Horn says blended learning is when “a student learns at least in part through online delivery of instruction and content with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace, and at least in part in a supervised brick and mortar place away from home” (2013, Disrupting Class Part 3). Most of what is currently happening with our new LMS is not this. Students are not given any choice – it’s do this, by this time, and submit this way. I think most teachers truly believe they are implementing blended learning simply because they are incorporating technology. But I understand now that that’s not correct – the students need some choices, a voice, an avenue to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity.

As I have shared before, I’m a high school special education teacher who doesn’t teach a curriculum. I am in more of a resource type of classroom versus an instruction type of classroom. I’ve been tasked with designing and implementing an innovation plan for my classroom or school. Determining an innovation plan that I could incorporate has been difficult for me so far. I believe I have an idea for an innovation plan right now… but that’s about it. I have no idea how to implement it or how I could make it meaningful for my students by giving them choices. I can easily recognize the value of the information that I want my students to have, but I am struggling with how it should be housed or presented. I think I am struggling because I want my students to have choices – isn’t that the main idea that so many classrooms are missing?? I read an article a few days ago about a teacher who gives her students time in class to work on their “passion projects.” The projects can be anything the students want to share, presented in anyway the students want to, and due at anytime the students are finished with it (as long as it is finished by the end of the school year). I love this idea of giving the students control of every part – perhaps this is the answer that I need for my idea. We’ll see!



Clayton Christensen Institute, (2014, June 5). Part 6 — Technology as a Disruptive Force in Education [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0ENX-GTUf4&feature=youtu.be

Edmentum, (2013, March 5). Disrupting Class – Part 3: Disruptive Innovation in Education [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX2hOF5YkfQ&feature=youtu.be

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