HomebookBook Review – Disrupting Class

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton Christensen, was written when No Child Left Behind was in full swing under the Bush Jr., so it’s a little on the old side. However, the ideas it introduces are still very interesting.

Disrupting Class: The Library Book. I like
library books.

The book itself works on the theory of disruptive technology. Although it explains what that concept is, the short version is that disruptive technology provides a service or product for a population that can’t benefit from what’s already on the market. In education, that refers to the kids who slip through the cracks due to their wiring or social situations.

Christensen goes into the history of public education and pulls numerous examples from various industries about how disruptive innovation changed their landscapes. Included are internet technology, automobiles and finance.

Overall, the book is extremely interesting, and it’s fascinating to see concepts of business applied to the school system. The theory of disruptive innovation can go a long way towards making our schools much better, especially when applied to how each individual student learns differently.

I also liked how he broke down the basic elements needed for a successful organization. One concept he mentioned in particular struck a cord with me. That was the need for a common language with which to communicate clearly.

In the educational system as it is, that’s surprisingly lacking. It’s not that the words aren’t there, but that the meaning behind the words are muddled. Take my favorite topic, dyslexia, for example. When that word is allowed to be uttered in the world of school, it means different things to different people, depending on their take on it.

I’ve seen it referred to as a mental illness, a developmental disorder, an educational disability, a learning difference and, of course, a learning disability. I’m sure there are other classifications out there, too. How can a population expect even that small corner of the student population to be helped when a definition can’t be agreed upon?

Another thing I liked was the emphasis on individual learning styles, and looking for ways to fill holes in the current educational system. Finding ways to address these issues in real world situations can be difficult, but it is possible.

Strangely enough, while I was still reading the book, a good example of that came up on the local news. A manufacturing business partnered with one of their local high schools to offer apprenticeship positions to students. The school agreed to accept hours spent during the apprenticeship program as school credit, and the business agreed to pay the students as they taught them about the work.

This system filled the following holes:

  •  Students with tactile based learning styles benefited from hands on training, and real world applications of things like math, physics and mechanics. This no doubt helped their grades in other fields, as well.
  • The business was able to fill positions it had been unable to do, thanks to labor shortages in the mechanical field.
  • The school was able to accommodate the unique learning styles of the students in question, without adding extra stress to the teaching staff.

How cool would it be if more high schools and businesses opened that option up to the kids?

Anyway, there were a few things I didn’t particularly like about the book.

First, I didn’t care for what seemed like an over-reliance on technology and the internet as a solution. As wonderful as both of these things are, I don’t think they can replace the hands on learning that things like lab classes offer, like those in chemistry and biology when available.

He does state that internet based education shouldn’t completely take over the entire educational experience, but he did seem to rely on them rather heavily.

Second, I had a very hard time deciphering most of the charts. That may simply be because I don’t have a whole lot of business training, but there was something about their layouts that didn’t mesh with my brain very well.

Third, the layout of chapters and sentences got extremely hard to decipher after a while. Both tended to get rather long and chunky. It got rather hard to remember the information at the beginning of them by the time I got to the end. There was a lot of re-reading involved.

An example of the long paragraphs. Once in a while, that’s not bad, but a good portion of the book was like this.

However, I did managed to muddle my way through them, and I think I did get a decent grasp of the concepts. That said, if you do want to read it, I’d suggest finding an audio or e-book version, so you can have it read to you.

I wouldn’t say it’s a must read by any stretch of the imagination, but it does offer a unique take on the complicated problems plaguing our educational system. It’s a theory that’s very much worth thinking about.

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