Disruptive Innovation and PLCs
A couple of years ago I read the book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (2010) by Christensen, Horn, and Johnson. It was an interesting read that outlined how technology has the potential to revolutionize how we meet the needs of students in our classrooms. In a nutshell, the authors argued that if used correctly, technological innovations will allow for greater student-centered classrooms and revolutionize the way students are educated.
When I finished the book, I was inspired, but I was also skeptical about whether our educational system would ever embrace the changes the authors outlined. Today, I find myself in the middle of the exact disruption described in the book. A school I work with, Shekou International School, has rolled out a 1:1 student-managed iPad program in grades 4 through 7.
In the four months I have observed this model, I have seen remarkable positive change. For example, there has been a significant increase in engagement as students use applications such as 30/30, Flipboard, Evernote, and Dropbox to organize and manage their resources and daily routines. There is also evidence of student-initiated differentiation, with students showcasing learning in new ways via applications such as iMovie, Popplet, Educreations, and Aurasma. Opportunities for collaboration have also been expanded with applications such as Skype, FaceTime, iMessage, and Edmodo.
So, what does this have to do with the implementation of PLCs in our schools? After all, classrooms in this school and others are being turned upside down by this disruption, so clearly the focus of PLCs should shift, right? Absolutely not. There is no arguing the positive impact that disruptive innovation is having on classrooms and student achievement, but this does not change the core beliefs of PLCs. Schools should continue to focus their attention on answering the four critical questions of PLCs:
- What are students supposed to learn?
- How do we know when they have learned it?
- How will we respond when they have not learned it?
- How will we respond when they have learned it?
It is clear that disruptive innovation will change how we go about answering the four critical questions of PLCs. In fact, I have no doubt that we will be able to leverage technology such as the iPad to become more effective in answering these questions and implementing PLCs. The introduction of disruptive innovation, however, does not replace PLCs. It is simply another tool which will make PLCs even stronger.