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Disrupting Disruption

July 10, 2014

Jill Lepore was named Truth Digger of the Week by the Truth Dig blog for an article she wrote in the June 23 edition of the New Yorker where she works as a staff writer. The article, The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of innovation Gets Wrong deconstructs Clayton Christensen’s theories of disruptive technology, illustrating examples of overreach in his conclusions and “cherry picking” in his case studies that served as the basis for the development of his theory. Inasmuch as “disruption” is now creating turmoil in the public education “marketplace”, it is unsettling to read that much of Christensen’s theory was based on flawed premises… but premises that seemed to be true at first blush and also played to the latent belief that many voters have regarding the causes of poverty and the ineffectiveness of large corporations (or governments) to address complicated problems as effectively as technologically adept “innovators”. After reading Lepore’s well written and thoughtful article, I offered the following comment on the Truth Dig article citing her as Truth Digger of the Week:

My take: “disruptive innovation” enables large swaths of our population to ignore the problems of poverty and government underfunding. It makes intuitive sense to people who’ve witnessed radical changes in their personal use of technology that disadvantaged children should be able to pull themselves out of poverty if they learn how to take advantage of these technological advances and that government service providers, like the innovation-resistent corporations, NEED to be disrupted and replaced by nimble and forward thinking private sector start-ups. We’ve substituted our faith in each other and our faith in the government with faith in technology.

I have faith that innovations will continue and technology does have a place in improving public schooling for children raised in poverty… and I sense as I read the comments submitted by readers of Truth Dig that I may be in a minority among that group. My fear is that our fears about the misuse and abuse of data will limit public education’s ability to take full advantage of the potentially positive uses of data (e.g. see my Tuesday post on Purdue’s program) and drive more and more middle and upper class parents into privatized charter schools. I do not want to see public education fall victim to disruptive technology like some sections of some companies did (e.g. IBM’s personal computer division). To avoid that kind of fate, public educators need to embrace some of the opportunities that are emerging as a result of technology… and soon!

  1. July 11, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Reblogged this on Pilant's Faculty Senate Page.

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