A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a conference (Education Nation) with some amazing people in Sydney. You can find some of the conversations here. One conversation that has stuck with me (and one that was not recorded) was with Phillip Cooke. It focused on disruption in education and what will disrupt education. This week I watched on twitter as a similar discussion started. Yet it seemed to miss something. I did try and push/challenge the conversation, but have yet to get a response or something that pushes my thoughts.

Disruptive companies don’t start as a company, e.g. Airbnb and Uber, they start as an idea, an idea that starts away from the grasp of the controllers of the system – hence they disrupt. One could argue that their disruption is slowly coming to an end as the systems morph to embrace or allow for their existence – are they now becoming the norm?

Another idea that once disrupted, and possibly more closely linked to education, is that of Minecraft. It is now owned by Microsoft and, for educational purposes, is out of the hands of the players – its disruptive ability is now well controlled, not to mention it was seen as lucrative, otherwise it would not have been purchased. Some would suggest MOOCS are disruptive (they possibly were once), but really are they – they too are well controlled by institutions now – in fact old institutions have embraced them and use them as a marketing opportunity. Online learning has been around for a long time now and the concept of online schools are well entwined into the normal school setting, on all levels – hence this is not disruptive (if it ever was considering it is really about the use of new technology to enable a form of education to be delivered that was once pushed out over radio…hm… school of the air), rather it is just part of the norm.

Hence it is important to address what is disruptive in the space of business, systems, existing constructs:

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.

So…back to the question of what will disrupt education/school?

It requires certain components, as identified in the above quote. As a result, it is unlikely to come from within the space that already exists and controls the status quo. It does not need to be complex and it will be initiated from those who have a great need/desire to have their needs met, who are affected by the current system – hence is starts at the bottom.



  1. Phillip @sailpip says:

    It was a great conversation.

    When the disruptions come it could turn education upside down, like it has in other industries. But given how big education is there might be a lot of resistance and push back.

    The disruption may come from surprising places like a 3rd world country or other unrelated industries.


    • dbatty1 says:

      Yes, a third world country should not be underestimated! And I agree there might be a lot of resistance and pushback – the edu beast is a conservative one and has an incredible number of stakeholders.

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