“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” – Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises
As I have been blogging during these last two years, I have been influenced by several big theories. One of these is the theory of Disruptive Innovation by Clayton M. Christensen. In it, he illustrates that even large established businesses can be destroyed by much smaller innovative companies who slowly cut into the fringes of their business model. These new companies generally try new business models enabled by technological progress. Can this apply to the government too? Email is eating the business model of the postal service so that is a big yes.
So what is the disruptive technology that I think will disrupt the public school system? Well, I think it’s a combination of online learning, and smartphones. Once every child in a classroom has a smartphone, the pedagogy of the classroom must change completely. We have a generation coming up that is becoming used to having the Internet at their fingertips. It is changing the way they learn, what they learn and why the learn things. It is affecting them so much it is even changing their brain chemistry.
You can add as much technology to the classroom as you want, but if the teacher is still the focus of the classroom, then nothing has really changed. Then, once the teacher isn’t the focus and the learning is coming from the smartphone or other device, then you don’t have to be in the classroom to learn. The whole raison d’etre of the school system disappears. We can then take the vast amount of resources we are using to bring the teacher and students together physically and redirect them to really teaching in innovative ways.
I don’t know the details on how this will happen but I believe now that education is about to be disrupted in a massive way. I know it’s hard to imagine any other way to learn than the school system but keep in mind, if you look at the whole of human history, mass standardized schooling is a fairly recent invention. Who says it’s the only way to educate a population? I think it’s time for something else.
It will happen gradually, until it happens suddenly.