People who talk about disruptive innovation often use the news business as an example. It used to be that the major news papers were the end all of news in the US. They were very profitable and stable institutions. No more. Today, pretty much all newspapers have declining circulation and plummeting revenues. Not only that, but their whole mission has been disrupted by the Internet.
With all of these storm clouds over them, the newspapers are making changes. One that caught my eye lately was from this story. (H/T The Verge)
The Chicago Sun-Times this week laid off all 28 of its staff photographers, and has reportedly begun training its remaining reporters on “iPhone photography basics.”
Such a lot to glean from that first sentence!
- The newspapers doesn’t need full time photographers. They will use a combination of their own reporters and free lance photographers.
- Laying off the full time photographers allows for more flexible resource allocation. You only get them when you need them.
- Cameras in cell phones have advanced in quality so much that it is now practical for a reporter to take pictures of stories with their phones. This drastically decreases the costs of each photo (when you factor in the cost of a professional camera and photographer).
- Replacing very expensive technology (pro camera) with a much lower cost one and replacing expensive labor (pro photographers) with lower cost ones (reporters) is the essence of disruptive innovation.
So can any of this apply to education? Well let’s see.
- Both are in the business of imparting information to consumers.
- Both rely on specialized labor (teachers, photographers) and expensive equipment (schools, cameras).
- Both are being affected by cheap technology.
Admittedly there are lots of differences in the examples but I still think we can use this as food for thought. I’m expecting a lot more schools to outsource teaching via online courses. I’m also expecting a splitting of the role of a teacher into an online lecturer and in classroom facilitator.