Did online learning mostly miss the mark?

Online learning has untapped potential for students across the nation, and while the COVID-19 pandemic forced classrooms online in early 2020, that doesn’t mean learning became more innovative and personalized. To what extent have educators used the pandemic as an opportunity to realize online learning’s benefits?

A new brief from the Clayton Christensen Institute examines that very question, pulling from surveys and discussions with more than 1,000 teachers to paint a picture of programs, technologies, and instructional practices educators are leaning on as they work through the effects of COVID-19. The intent is to learn how educators use online learning, but also whether online learning leads to the benefits the Institute has documented in its blended learning research.

The traditional–and what many (or most) would argue outdated–education system relies on uniformity, notes the report’s author, Thomas Arnett, a senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute. And this means the majority of students won’t totally fit.…Read More

5 ways peer networks lead to better student support systems

Student support services didn’t live up to their potential during the global health pandemic, economic ups and downs, political turmoil, and more upheaval, according to a report from the Clayton Christensen Institute.

As a result, many students turned to each other to gain support as they navigated challenging issues.

Students often turned to social media–and, by default, used their own social capital–to learn about emergency aid, support networks, and available resources. Social capital refers to “access to, and ability to mobilize, relationships that help further an individual’s potential and goals. Just like skills and knowledge, relationships offer resources that drive access to opportunity,” writes author Chelsea Waite, a research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute and the leader of the Canopy project.…Read More

4 facts about student-centered learning

A report from the Clayton Christensen Institute offers unique insights and recommendations for education as schools strive to move toward student-centered learning practices.

In the report, author Thomas Arnett highlights findings from survey data and discussed trends in instructional practices that could help redirect education and reshape its future.

Taking conventional classrooms online…Read More

5 steps to build and strengthen students’ networks

Building and strengthening students’ networks helps to support student well-being and expand their sense of future possible selves, according to researchers at the Clayton Christensen Institute who have released a new playbook with strategies to create strong student relationships.

The playbook offers five steps for building and strengthening students’ networks, and its recommendations and activities are guided by decades of research on the power of relationships; new, innovative designs; and emerging measures from the field. Using the five steps as a roadmap, education leaders can take a systematic approach to equitably fostering positive and diverse relationships across their schools and programs.

Building and supporting students’ networks helps students well beyond their school years. In fact, establishing these connections ensures that every student has access to a web of supportive relationships to help them get by, and helps them create an array of diverse connections to help them get ahead–more important than ever in today’s increasingly global society.…Read More

5 tips for getting blended learning right

When implementing a blended learning model, it is important for schools to be aware of key components and steps to integrate into their plan. In “Five Tips for Getting Blended Learning Right,” hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by Achieve3000, Julia Freeland Fisher, director of Education at the Clayton Christensen Institute, gave schools the tips they need to successfully implement blended learning.

1. Plan first, technology second: Although it may seem easier to dive right in, schools cannot go technology-first into a blended learning model. Teachers cannot be expected to figure out what to do with technology, but rather should be expected to use the support it provides. Since blended learning is about changing instruction, technology must follow an instructional plan.

2. Create design teams for teachers: It is also important for teachers to be on blended learning design teams. They should be participating in the design process, rethinking blended learning strategies, and solving the problems they are actually facing within the classrooms.…Read More

6 tips from personalized learning innovators leading change

Earlier this year, the Rhode Island-based Highlander Institute and the Clayton Christensen Institute teamed up to bring together a conference on blended and personalized learning in Providence, R.I.  The goal of the event was to focus on the practical elements of blended and personalized learning by surfacing the tactics that practitioners were deploying in the trenches. More than 100 teachers and leaders from around the country were invited to share their approaches to piloting and scaling blended learning in classrooms and schools, which we summarized in our latest report, From the Frontlines, out this week.

Although our many presenters hailed from a variety of geographies and contexts, one refrain echoed loudly throughout the Providence Convention Center: implementing blended and personalized learning is about managing change. Innovators stressed that without effective change management, the best technology tools and the most elegant personalized learning models will come up short.  Here are six change management strategies that practitioners stressed as vital to driving new models of learning across traditional systems:

1. Embrace not knowing

One tension in managing change across a classroom or an entire district is making the unknown an opportunity rather than a threat. This framing depends on leaders who are willing to make the unknown safe. As Amanda Murphy, a Highlander Institute Fuse Rhode Island Fellow from Westerly Public Schools, put it, managing change across a system is about “supporting the eager, but non-expert.” In part, this requires giving people room to express concerns. “We had faculty volunteers who were interested but didn’t have expertise,” she said. “They talked about why they were nervous, and this helped people understand that there were many others in the same boat. It set the tone that it’s okay not to know. And now they’re asking for help.”…Read More

Designing custom ed-tech software requires joint effort

Off-the-shelf education technology platforms can often fall short when aligning with educators’ specific approaches to instruction. As a result, many school systems take matters into their own hands by developing custom software and tools only to find they lack the scale, revenue sources and expertise to do so successfully.

In a new study, the Clayton Christensen Institute profiles two organizations that co-designed technology to help school leaders bridge the disconnect between instructional models and new technologies.

“Connecting Ed & Tech: Partnering to drive student outcomes” examines a unique collaboration between Leadership Public Schools (LPS), a charter school management organization that operates three high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Gooru, a nonprofit ed-tech company. Each organization had separate yet related issues – LPS needed more robust technology to support a new blended learning program at scale, while Gooru needed a school partner to help align its technology with specific classroom use cases. Rather than developing solutions independently, LPS and Gooru merged their teams to collaboratively design a tool that has already shown positive learning results for LPS students.…Read More

Opinion: Virtual schools are a critical piece of education’s future

Classroom and lecture hall disruption can be important for students on every level of education.
Classroom and lecture hall disruption can be important for students on every level of education, writes Michael Simonson.

Technological innovations might be categorized along a continuum from sustaining to disruptive. In education, a sustaining technology might be a SMART Board, which in most applications is a way to present information dynamically and efficiently—a sustaining upgrade to the chalkboard and overhead projector—while a disruptive technology would be a virtual school.

As a matter of fact, most attempts to integrate instructional technology into the traditional classroom are examples of sustaining technologies: data projectors, DVD players, eBooks—all which improve the performance of established products.…Read More

Top 10 ed-tech stories of 2009: No. 6

Online learning has the power to transform education, as the creation of free online universities demonstrates.
Online learning has the power to transform education, as the creation of free online universities demonstrates.

Although technically it was published in 2008, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael Horn, made a huge impression in the past year, and its authors spoke at numerous education conferences in 2009. Their ideas proved quite prophetic later in the year, when a new online-learning movement that is sure to disrupt higher education began.

At the American Association of School Administrators’ annual conference in February, Christensen explained the premise of his thought-provoking book, which looks at why schools have struggled to improve through the lens of “disruptive innovation.”…Read More