The authors of the book, Disrupting Class, make a strong case for how online learning will “disrupt” current, mainstream schooling. They quote trends and facts and research that show that “by 2019 about 50 percent of high school courses will be delivered online.” The Pew Internet studies have shown how high school students today are now the second generation who have grown up on the Internet. Educational futurist speakers such as Ian Jukes, David Thornburg , Mark Prensky and others continue to remind all of us how kids are growing up wired today. Those of us in education know that across the nation, the addition of computers into mainstream, traditional classrooms has not resulted in the change we know is needed to educate students with the skills needed for the 21st Century.
The authors repeated reference to “student-centric” and “modular” learning is exactly what is currently happening in many online schools across the nation. The use of modules and lessons, the ability to click into a math tutorial when needed, and the ability to meet online with a teacher to better understand scientific principles are occurring now in online courses. No doubt, more of this needs to occur in mainstream education. However, the theory of disruptive innovation shows that for this to occur, it has to occur outside the regular school culture first. This allows the innovation to incubate and mature. And, then, the newly developed educational services and principles can be utilized back into mainstream education.
Across the nation, the educational trends bear out what the authors suggest. More students are choosing non-traditional schools, more students are dropping out of high school, more students are being home schooled , more students are enrolling in chartered schools, and more students are enrolling in K-12 online schools. The charter school movement in itself is a disruption to traditional schooling. Some charter schools are truly a disruptive innovation (e.g. online charter schools, project based schools, etc.) while others simply duplicate what already exists. According to the authors, those schools that offer a different path to graduation – different than one that currently exists – will be the ones that will be successful. Successful both in student achievement, in student choice, and in preparing students with skills to better meet 21st century business and compete in a global economy.
This book does shake many of the principles and concepts upon which current school has been built. However, applying the principles and ideas from this book will cause anyone to look at how we currently educate students in the United States and consider what needs to change in order to better meet the needs of all students. Online learning is one path to a diploma that should be available for all students. Ultimately, every student in the United States should be earning a high school diploma. The theory of disruptive innovation and the power of online learning will help this to occur.
i would agree with Paul Houston, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators, who comments about this book, “A must read for anyone thinking and worrying about where education should be headed.” And, I would add that anyone involved or getting involved in K-12 online learning should read this book.