The Electric Educator: Essential Reading

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Essential Reading

Those of us planning on being in education for a while need to think about, prepare for, and understand the coming changes in education. Here are three essential works that speak to each of these things:

1. Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen
A disruptive innovation is an idea that, at first, is not accepted because of its expense, and lack of application to everyday life. Over time this innovation gains a following amongst a fringe crowd who develop a cult-like following. More an more people begin to adopt the innovation and them seemingly overnight the innovation overtakes the incumbent way of doing things and becomes the dominant form. Examples include the horseless carriage (replacement of the traditional carriage) and digital photography (replacement for film photography). Online learning is a disruptive innovation.

2. The Future of Education by Thomas Frey
In this bold article Frey claims that a radical shift in education will occur due to the emergence of standard course-ware software so that companies, universities and school districts can quickly and easily create content that can be accessed from around the world. A key component of this software will be the ability to accurately assess mastery of learning. Read my full summary of this article here.

3. Blue Ocean Strategy
There are two types of markets: red oceans and blue oceans. The red ocean is where most industries are: firmly entrenched against their competition with well defined value structures and customers. In the red ocean, companies compete to drive costs down while attempting to maintain or raise their quality. This seldom works. Either costs go up or quality goes down. Furthermore the companies in the red ocean spend most of their time reacting to the actions of the competition.

In contrast, the blue ocean is uncontested market space. Companies who make it to the blue ocean re-envision their market, get rid of "sacred" elements that are outdated or a drain on profits and focus on increasing value for customers. The blue ocean strategy is to reduce waste, eliminate the unnecessary, raise quality, and create unexpected value. Many times, a company intent on creating a blue ocean strategy will mash two typically unrelated industries together. A perfect example of this is Cirque du Soleil. Taking the best elements of the circus and the theater while discarding and eliminating the fat from both, Cirque du Soleil is in uncontested territory.

Despite advancements in technology, the educational system in the United States has remained largely unchanged. Most schools are in the red ocean. Huge potential exists for any school that is willing to venture out into the blue ocean by re-envisioning how we do education, by taking the best, cutting out the fat, and adding value that those in the red ocean can not match.

1 comment:

  1. John, I agree with you and Christiansen about under-served educational markets. Public education has rested on it's de facto monopoly for far too long.

    I would add two books to your list pertaining to vision, both by the late Neil Postman: "The End of Education" and "Technopoly".

    The first book talks about the purpose(s) of public education in the United States, and our country's deep need for thoughtful conversation about what "god" we want education to serve.

    The second book contains Postman's thoughts on "progress" and the double-edged sword that is technological innovation. To paraphrase an especially poignant idea, technological innovation is not additive, it is ecological. Any technological advancement carries with it costs and benefits, and forward-thinking educators would do well to consider both as we lobby for "tech integration".


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