Disruption is coming

I just finished reading Free by Chris Anderson.  He takes you through a historical journey showing how the concept of free (as in product, service, etc.) originated and evolved.  Isn't it amazing how many things that cost quite a bit to create, are now free.  Give away the phone when a plan is purchased, give away the razor when the disposable blades are purchased, give away the software (Googles business plan) and hope people click on ads (works for Google), the list is long. 

Think about the evolution of technology...  how power/speed, storage, and bandwidth has increased with a doubling affect every 18-24 months over many years and the cost is similarly halfed and now approaching free (think netbook with a plan).  Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc. have enormous data centres with "unlimited" storage - it's relatively free to give away.  Everyone seems to give away free storage these days - this is a disruptive force.

Yahoo only a few years ago provided 10mb for an email account - Google entered the field with gmail and 1gb free (100x Yahoo!).  Yahoo had invested in "old" storage technology that cost a lot more than what Google was able to buy.  Yahoo's business model is suddenly obsolete - disrupted.  Yahoo responded, quickly, and remains the #1 provider of free email.  Interestingly, Google now provides 8gb for gmail accounts.  It continues...

Digital vs Physical...  that's a disruptive force.  Think education for a minute.  Is there any "industry" as unchanged as education and as labour intensive. Okay, maybe health care is similar.  There is a lot of experimentation with online learning in K12 education and as the user experience approaches that of the "holodeck", this will be a viable digital alternative or supplement to the physical classroom experience we're all familiar with.  In Disrupting Class, Christensen talks about teachers becoming professional learning coaches and content architects to help individual students progress.  I hope that schools and school districts will learn and respond as Yahoo did with Google and reinvent their "business model".  K12 education is mostly unexpecting the coming disruption - I believe we in K12 need to prepare, quickly, to remain relevant as providers of education.  I also hope that the physical aspect (teachers and students learning / teaching together) continues to be an important part of the K12 educational experience.


  1. This is pretty interesting... I like the name you've given your blog too! Where will it take us?!

  2. Hi Brian,
    I'm not sure I agree that K-12 is "unexpecting" - we KNOW, we just don't know what to DO! I came across an old strategic plan for our District from 1989 saying that technology is coming fast and we need to prepare. That was ten years ago! In ways, much has changed - and in others, we're still saying the same things we were saying then!

    So, what to do?

    I'd like to see us actually dig deeper into the "why?" of this disruption. What is it? Is it really about the technology? I don't think so - I think it's about a shift in control, towards empowering students.

    And that's a very deep, personal and societal shift for all of us adults. That's why there's so much resistance and why it's so difficult to get the system to shift!

    To shift in this way is to change some very fundamental beliefs about what we value as a culture, what the purpose of education is, what kind of citizens we want to have, and how generations are "supposed" to interact! No wonder it's so scary!

    I look forward to exploring more with you and in our communities!

  3. Hi Heidi. I would say "few" people are aware of / expecting a major disruption to the traditional way of educating. When I say disruption I mean a major change forced upon. I do think technology is a signifiant driver of this. Technology makes "impossible" new ways of doing things possible. We use so much technology today that we didn't know we needed! It has disrupted so many industries and shaken up vocations to the core. This is what I believe is coming to education. I believe most in education expect more evolutionary rather than disruptive change.

    Your comment about a shift in control to empowering students. I think this will become more possible as new efficient ways of managing, facilitating, guiding... learning are made possible. I'm a little worried about how this empowerment will occur though. Kids don't have the benefit of adult wisdom so need guidance and sometimes direct intervention as they grow, learn, and gain wisdom. And it's at a different pace and in different ways for different kids. Pretty tricky to implement.

    I don't think the culture of teaching and learning will change dramatically from a teacher centric / dependent model to something different until it is disrupted. I wonder what this might mean to the structures and bastions of schools and districts when it does?

  4. Hi Brian, Happy New Year - your off to a ambitious start! Good luck with the blog and look forward to following and participating in the discussion.

    Weve been doing this long enough to know there are many viewpoints and perspectives to this conversation. We shouldnt lose site of the fact that there are great things going on in our classrooms today and part of our caution logically is not wanting to lose any of that as we attempt to acknowledge and adjust to the realities of a changing world.

    The logical part of my brain continues to say, whats the big deal, lets roll up our sleeves, do some analysis, research and thought leadership, carefully define what is wanted and needed and start setting plans and breaking down barriers in that direction and to that end. easy.

    The pragmatic part of my brain, (and the part that has been doing this for a couple of decades now) leans toward your theory that unfortunately it likely will result from a disruptive change that emerges from a broader perhaps societal awaking relating to relevancy of learning environments and desired skillsets.

    Its both trivial and yet not. When we change we need to be purposeful and cleary understand why (as Heidi eludes to.) What traditions do we really need to hang onto or re-think for the future. Not sure I'd want to be in charge of building consensus on that. Who's clear on exactly why we need History 9 (or pick another subject)? Every grade nine student I've spoken with(including my daughter Alexis)is bored and unengaged with it and school in general? Not an imperical study but this is worrisome to me, not a good sign and supports the disruptive change is coming theory. How do we build learning environments (dispruptively or planned) that get kids more engage proactively every day building skills that will support and serve them in the future. trivial but absolutely not.

    for another example of other industries that are making the scale of change you are refering to check out the following link and how things are changing in the film industry with green screen technology. For me creates a whole other discussion around "how will we know what is real" in the future!


    Have fun with the blog Brian!

  5. Hi Dan - ya, we are getting old aren't we - been around so many tech disruptive changes. Too late for my kids but school does need to become more intrinsicly motivating doesn't it. I think tech disruptions will help. I like the holodeck analogy here and the video clip you shared is a type of holodeck. As virtual reality and education complement each other, history for example can come to life with "real" field trips to the past or geography classes that "go over seas"... Wow. One day. That'll be different...


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