Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (Horn & Staker)

I can honestly say that I never thought I’d read a book about education that features blurbs from (among others) Jeb Bush and a representative of the Gates Foundation. But the Clayton Christensen Institute (Christensen wrote the Foreword for this book; both authors are part of the Institute) seems to be the one doing the work in this area right now, and my school is trying it, so I thought I should read it.

The book is laid out logically. There are four sections: Understanding, Mobilizing, Designing and Implementing. The chapters within each section are laid out clearly as well, though I sometimes wondered if the chapters aren’t really a series of articles stapled together to form a book. There’s an unnecessary amount of repetition.

Aside from Chapter 6, I found the book useful. There are good resources, important questions to ask, and useful – if sometimes overly economically-based – examples.

The problem with Chapter 6 is that relies too much on the either / or fallacy. In other words, the message is (repeatedly), either blend your classroom or all you’re doing is standing up in front of a class and lecturing. There’s more grey than that. There are plenty of people and schools doing good work without any technology at all.

In terms of technology, I appreciate how the authors caution schools about embracing it too quickly. So often, schools rush to incorporate technology and then try to figure out how to best use it. This book gets it in the right order. Figure out what you’re trying to do, select the right technology for what you’re trying to do, pilot it, analyze the pilot efforts and then proceed.

At the risk of ending this like so many graduate school research papers and dissertations, I think the field needs more research and more time. It needs critics. It needs dialogue. Right now, we just have a monologue going – a useful monologue, but a monologue nonetheless.


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