Posted by: crudbasher | October 1, 2010

Book Review: Disrupting Class

This is my first book review.

Disrupting Class Cover

I just finished reading Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson. I loved it. Here’s why.

Over the last 10 months I have been writing this blog every day trying to make sense of the puzzle of Education.  I have created a Personal Learning Network and populated it with all sorts of cool educators.  They have helped drive my thinking.  I have also kept my eye on disruptive technologies and watched them rapidly transform other industries.  At times I have felt like I was in a pitch black room trying to figure out  an object I found by touch alone.  Reading Disrupting Class was like turning on the lights.

Disrupting Class is divided into 3 specific sections.  The first four chapters are a look at all the factors that influence change.  In fact the first chapter is a discussion about all the vast forces from politicians, to unions, to bureaucracy that prevent change.  Then then lay out the case of other industries that have been transformed by change despite similar forces.

Disruptive Innovation is a really cool concept which states that if you want to transform something you don’t attack at the strong points.  Instead, you go where nobody cares about, therefore aren’t defending.  For example, Apple did not set out to become a music company by making and releasing their own records.  Instead they created iTunes to distribute digital songs, which the record industry really didn’t think was a threat. At first it wasn’t.  As we all know, that changed.  From the edges of the industry, the change swept into the core and began to eat physical media sales.

Another example can be found from World War II.  After World War I, France built a huge amount of fortifications on the border with Germany.  This line of defenses was known as the Maginot Line.

Maginot Line

The Maginot Line

As the war began, Germany would have been crazy to assault the Maginot Line directly.  Therefore they didn’t.  They attacked neighboring Belgium, then rolled into France from there and captured the Maginot Line from the rear (where the guns weren’t pointing).  Classic Disruptive change.

The real meat of the book comes in Chapter 5.  The authors lay out the case of how Disruptive change will come to schools.  Basically it will come via classes schools don’t want to teach or can’t teach because of funding shortfalls.  Online providers will fill in those opportunities.  This in fact is happening already.  More and more classes will be available online.  Students who take classes online seem to like them and will ask for more.  The costs are so much lower with online education budgets will force this change.

The remainder of the book talks about specific cases for education transformation, such as in homeschooling.  I’m a big fan of homeschooling having seen the effect with my three nephews.  They are learning so much and enjoy doing it!  Why does school have to be a chore anyway?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was an easy read and each chapter has lots of extra information and sources if you want to learn more.

Be sure to check out the Livechat I moderated with Michael Horn!



  1. You have convinced me, I am adding it to my list of books to read. Thanks!
    This is the same sort of idea in Tribes by Seth Godin (not an education book, a book about marketing and leadership). We have to rethink our approach to change. We have to focus our efforts differently. I believe this is already beginning to happen.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Andrew Barras. Andrew Barras said: My book review of Disrupting Class #edchat #education #highered […]

  3. Thank you for writing about our live chat with Michael. It was really good, and I plan on doing more of them. Please feel free to recommend big names that you would like to interact with, and I will make an effort to invite them to participate.

  4. Good review, Crudbasher. I like the detail you cover–different than mine. Sorry I didn’t get back to you on Examiner. I’m still getting used to their new interface.

    • I appreciate the kind words thanks!

  5. […] He also mentioned that right now online courses are “on the fringe” of learning, which is interesting because that is right where many disruptive changes come from.  They don’t start in the mainstream, they start on the edges. See the book Disrupting Class. […]

  6. […] read it yet but I did read another of his books called Disrupting Class (see my review here). A disruptive innovation is a technology that enables a new business model that then destroys a […]

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