Monthly Archives: September 2016

Disruption? Has It Happened?

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear, that weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable in it,” said Mark Weiser, 1991, in “The Computer for the 21st Century” in Scientific American.  We can all agree.  But does that mean, based on today’s education technology utilization, that what we are using (maybe ‘how’ we are using it) is not ‘deep’ enough?  I think so.  Consider this and the notion of innovation.

Eight years ago, we were discussing, “Disrupting Class-How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” (Christensen, Horn, Johnson 2008).  One example of ‘disruptive innovation’ referred to providing personalized, portable computers for all students to have consistent Internet access in order to customize their learning getting to a true learner-centered environment.  The authors were on point about this imperative considering the statistics of that time and how the US was lagging in innovation. America’s corporate research and development sites had declined from 59% to 52% over a decade while R&D had increased from 8% to 18% in China and India. The same held true for US innovative leadership.  America ranked seventh among the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development in the amount of gross domestic product allocated to research and development expenditures.

While more schools and districts are moving away from traditional practices, there remains the issue, as the ‘Disrupting’ authors said, that you can’t retrofit true innovation into an existing counterproductive environment.  Try as many have to create real 21st century schools, unless the standard venue has been replaced, they are not getting there.  This is true today – eight years later!  None of these real reforms take hold without vision, focus and high quality and strategic planning.  Bold, effective, ‘change’ leadership is required.  We struggle to witness this.  In fact, we continue to see what appear to be robust edtech initiatives wither and die for reasons that could well have been avoided!

Movement to personal, portable technology-powered learning holds great potential – when implemented with fidelity based on research and best practices.  Still, many leaders consider their million or billion dollar technologies investments as the end game.  A plethora of 1:1 implementations lack learner and/or outcomes focus, vision, strategic planning and proper execution.  (See Project RED’s Key Implementation Factors and free tools 2010 – Many of these deployments were simply embedded in their traditional approach.  These are missed opportunities for authentic transformations.

Similarly, moving to a competency/mastery-based system doesn’t comport with the lock-step scheduling, grading, leveling of learners’ experiences and hitting to the ‘average’.  The entire system has to morph into a design that cultivates real agency for learners, shift in pedagogy, students’ demonstration of progress, and when/how they advance.

This is a hopeful, not hopeless, matter.  There is an abundance of quality knowledge and research on which we can build.  If states, districts and regions truly dive into the research to pull around practical solutions, schools could reform to build upon innovation and global, economic development skills.  Nevada Ready 21 is a statewide example (

One-to-One Institute is dedicated to facilitating successful education technology implementations in schools, districts, states and countries.  We combine research, 20+ years of best practices and experiences to customize our support services.  Our Project RED research is a basis for continuous study and systems design.  We are writing our third research iteration based on study from our seventeen Signature Districts over the past 3 years.  We’ll launch that report in February 2017 at TECA.  Hope to see you there!

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute