Sunday, January 17, 2010

William Zaggle

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

William Zaggle, president of Excelsior, gave a speech today. In it he talked about disruptive technology. He wants us to think about the technology in the classroom that will disrupt the teaching. That will forever change education for the better.

disruptive technology

Disruptive technology is a term coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen to describe a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology. In his 1997 best-selling book, "The Innovator's Dilemma," Christensen separates new technology into two categories: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technology relies on incremental improvements to an already established technology. Disruptive technology lacks refinement, often has performance problems because it is new, appeals to a limited audience, and may not yet have a proven practical application. (Such was the case with Alexander Graham Bell's "electrical speech machine," which we now call the telephone.) In his book, Christensen points out that large corporations are designed to work with sustaining technologies. They excel at knowing their market, staying close to their customers, and having a mechanism in place to develop existing technology. Conversely, they have trouble capitalizing on the potential efficiencies, cost-savings, or new marketing opportunities created by low-margin disruptive technologies. Using real-world examples to illustrate his point, Christensen demonstrates how it is not unusual for a big corporation to dismiss the value of a disruptive technology because it does not reinforce current company goals, only to be blindsided as the technology matures, gains a larger audience and marketshare, and threatens the status quo.

What will be the disruptive technology that shakes up the education world? Will there be a disruptive technology that shakes up the education world? With the definition of disruptive technology being something that the established players in the field ignore as not worth their time and that then comes back to bite them in the ass.

The difficulty with many “reform” teaching methods is that it can be very difficult to see how they actually improve learning. It can often be difficult for a teacher or even a principal to continue to use or support many reform methods because it can be so difficult to or takes so long to get concrete evidence that the methods work. Teachers don’t have enough immediate feedback from state tests to find out if the methods are working. The one test a year model just doesn’t work to fast enough to provide feedback that will work in the classroom.

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