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TIES 2009: Michael Horn Keynote

The TIES Technology Conference 0pened today with a keynote by Michael Horn, co-author of "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns". He discussed themes from the book and how online and student-centered learning supported with technology will lead this innovation. The authors came from the perspective of studying education from the outside, looking in. "If we can understand some of the root causes of why schools struggle, we can help them transform and improve." "Why do successful organizations fail?" was the question that Clayton M. Christiansen, the lead author has been studying since he started at the Harvard Business School.
He shared models from the business world that explains performance over time. Since "basic needs" don't change very much, the performance that customers can absorb is rather flat. In contradiction, the pace of technological innovation grows at a much faster pace. "Technology improves faster than our lives change." Incumbents nearly always win the innovation race.
Horn shared that often disruptive innovations are competing against non-consumption in areas that the innovation wasn't necessarily designed for, asymetric areas. Here, entrants nearly always win the battle. He used the example of DEC, who had the best engineers and best managers in the world in the 80's. But in 1989, their business collapsed, due to the PC becoming ubiquitous. Christiansen: "Why do smart managers decide to become stupid?"
"Conveniently, Apple didn't have any customers!" they were ready to fill this void.
He showed several examples of companies that benefited from innovation:
Dept. Stores...Wal-Mart...Internet Retail
Sony Diskman...Apple iPod...Cell Phones
State Universities...Community Colleges...Online Universities
He shared that now, Toyota is being disrupted by Kia and Hyundai. "Isn't it time that someone does to Lexus, what Lexus did to Mercedes?"
He shared a slide where "Expensive failure results when disruption is framed in technological rather than business model terms." Using the Vacuum tube vs. Transistor example. RCA tried to cram the technology into their core model, but hearing aids were a much better application. The Pocket transistor radio made Sony what it is today, marketed to "the low end of humanity...teenagers!" Even though RCA saw the transistor way before Sony, and spent more money, they saw the problem as a technological one, and were not able to innovate.

The right product architecture depends upon the basis of competition. IBM mainframes leads to MS Windows. Not customizable. It's prohibitively expensive. Modular, open architecture allows for customization. Dell doesn't make any of the parts inside. Totally customizable.
What does this mean for education? (The MEAT!)
We all learn differently.
Multiple Intelligences...............Talents (Giftedness is fluid)
Motivations/Interests/Passions...... Aptitudes
Learning Styles............Different Paces-(Most everyone agrees with this.)
Depends on subject/domain............Ongoing cognitive science research
Research in Practice.
Scientific Learning
K12, Inc
All Kinds of Minds

Horn said there is a conflict between the way we must teach and the way students must learn. Our schools were built on an interdependent, factory model. It compels us to standardization. An IEP for a special education student cost 2-3 times the regular cost.
To build a student centered learning environment, we need to migrate to a more customizable modular learning environment. Adding technology can allow for this personalization.
Yet, computers have had little impact up to now on transforming education. The reason, is that we have been trying to do this in the old model. If we target non-consumers first, we can be transformative.
Who are the non-consumers? Credit Recovery, Dropouts, AP, Home Schooled, small rural districts, tutoring, after-school, Unit recovery, summer school, Pre-K, and Professional development. The looming budget cuts and teacher shortages can be seen as an opportunity to innovate.
School boards are currently focusing more on Math, Science, and English at the expense of other subjects. With innovation, we can still offer subjects like German. Online learning enrollment is growing exponentially. From 45,000 in 2000 to 2,000,000 now. They project that by 2019, 50% of all HS courses will be online.
Predictably improving, Elluminate, MUVE courses (Conspiracy Code: Florida Virtual School).
Keys to Disruptive Innovation:
  • Autonomy-n
  • Self-Sustaining Funding
  • Not beholden by the old metrics-
  • Seat time vs. Mastery/Performance Based
  • Student: Teacher ratio
  • Techer Certification-(Hmmmmm...)
  • Human Resource pipeline
  • Broadband/Wireless Infrastructure
  • Portal/Based on Usage and what works-Here he says we need to have multiple paths
  • Treatment and use of data
Fairly good kick-off. Perhaps the model he shared of having someone outside of education tell us what to do, and be disruptive will help. I just wish he spent more time on education and less on business. I hope that he shares more of an educational focus in his Q and A session.


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