Book Review: Blended



“Innovating is a process, not an event.” Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools

One of our goals at North Cobb Christian School is to make sure we are right on top of every opportunity we have to help our students be on the cutting edge of thinking and learning.  We aren’t afraid to try new things.  More often than not, the risk is worth the reward.  No guts…no glory.  We just get one chance to do this right with our kids.  We will stand before God one day and give an account for the decisions we made regarding the investments made in the hearts and minds of our kids.

I read Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen almost exactly 5 years ago and blogged my review of it here.  Blended by Michael Horn and Heather Staker is billed as the field manual for Disrupting Class.  This book encompasses a number of the conversations that educators around the world have been having.  What are we doing now to prepare our students for the future while keeping them ready for what’s coming their way today?  It mirrors the great theological statement as we consider “the already, but not yet”.

I highlighted several things while reading and posted my notes below.  I look forward to continuing the conversation in the days to come.  I firmly believe the best days of education are still ahead of us!


  • This book is a marvelous description of how many of the trade-offs in teaching and learning are being broken.  Instead of our needing to accept less of one thing in order to get more of another, we can now expect with confidence that we actually can achieve more, period.  As the capability of online learning moves up the trajectory of improvement and obviates more and more trade-offs, blending learning preserves access to the best of in-person teaching and learning as we navigate disruption.  Blended learning makes the best of the old and new paradigms available to all of us who want to learn.
  • Schools are approaching the tipping point in a digital transformation that will forever change the way the world learns.
  • Today’s factory model of education, in which we batch students in classes and teach the same thing on the same day, is an ineffective way for most children to learn.  This was not a problem for a long time because we had different goals for our school system, but it has become one now that the world—and our hopes for our children—have changed and our schools have not.
  • Blended learning is the engine that can power personalized and competency-based learning.  Just as technology enables mass customization in so many sectors to meet the diver needs of so many people, online learning can allow students to learn any time, in any place, on any path, at any pace at scale.  At its most basic level, it lets students fast-forward if they have already mastered a concept, pause if they need to digesting something, or rewind and slow something down if they need to review.
  • Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.  The student learns at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.  The modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.
  • Hybrid innovations include both eh old and new technology, whereas pure disruptions do not offer the old technology in its full form.
  • Hybrid innovations target existing customers rather than non consumers.
  • Customers want hybrids to outperform the existing system according to the old rules of the game, whereas disruptions compete on different terms and offer an alternative set of beliefs.
  • Hybrid innovations tend to be more complicated to operate than disruptive innovations.
  • As content and instruction shift online, schools can focus more on activities that they have tried to do historically but all too often lacked the time, space, and resources to do well—from the application of knowledges and skills to drive deeper learning to the provision of nonacademic services that are critical to the success of children.
  • The most successful blended-learning programs are much more deliberate and generally share a common starting point: they begin by identifying the problem to solve or the goal to achieve.  They start with a clear rallying cry.
  • Schools cannot substitute for a stable, nurturing home.
  • The very process of designing and implementing blended learning that this book outlines can give teachers wide leeway to innovate.  Herzberg found that when organizations remove some controls while retaining accountability, the motivators of responsibility and achievement skyrocket.  The Digital Age is beckoning schools to innovate, and that fact in itself gives leaders the impetus to create broad growth opportunities for teachers.
  • Students in today’s world stand to benefit from teachers shifting away from top-down, monolithic instruction and toward filling gaps that open in students’ lives for trusted guides and mentors.
  • The main advantages of the DIY strategy (for creating online education) are the opportunities to control quality, design the content according to local standards and testing requirements, avoid the high dollar cost of premium third-part alternatives, and preserve the traditional role of face-to-face teachers as the source of content and instruction.  In addition, some educators enjoy developing the skill set of building an online course, lesson, video, or software program, and they seek out that opportunity rather than wanting to delegate it.
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
    What type of team do you need to solve the problem?
    What do you want students to control?
    What do you want the primary role of the teacher to be?
    What physical space can you use?
    How many internet-connected devices are available?
  • After all the brainstorming and designing that goes into creating an education innovation are over, execution still matters most.  And when the culture isn’t right or is uneven, the execution can fall apart.
  • Innovating is a process, not an event.


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