Disruptive Technology/Innovation

The term disruptive technology was first coined in The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, first published in 1997. Christensen later changed the phrase to disruptive innovation in his follow-up work, The Innovator's Solution, published in 2003. Christensen believed that innovations were either sustaining or disruptive. A sustaining innovation is one which does not result in the collapse of existing companies because it improves the performance along the dimensions that mainstream users demand. An example of a sustaining change is the advent of blogs and wikis, which made creation of content for the world-wide web easier for an author and extended the capabilities for interaction, collboration, and communication between individuals. These were the goals for the World Wide Web as first proposed and developed by which was the goal of visionaries Vannevar Bush in the 1940's and Ted Nelson in the 1960's.

Christensen's definition of disruptive innovations is one which characteristics that users may not initially want. These innovations drastically change the course by which users connect, engage, and relate with the world and transform society. An example of this is Podcasting, which makes the creation and distribution of audio and video content available to an author, making broadcasting them available to all without restrictions from government regulation, geography, or time availability.

The focus of this discussion is to look for and discuss disruptive innovations that are occuring in education and in the classroom.

Examples of Disruptive Technologies/Innovations in the Classroom

Disrupted Technology/Innovation
Graphing Calculator
Slide Rule or Hand Calculation
Able to get more accurate answer more quickly. Students did not have to learn to interpolate or extrapolate for answers. With advent of graphing calculator, student was able to view equations for deeper understanding.
SMARTBoard/Interactive White Board
Chalk Board or White Board
Teachers are able to "capture" board notes for retrieval at a later point in time. Software advances made it possible to capture a series of screens to create a screencast for display at at later point in time. Students have interactive access to difficult concepts and review of notes through screencasts.
Syndication (RSS)
Web pages
Allows for information to be gathered by a user in a central location rather than a user hunting for the information everyday. Information can be categorized/tagged to make finding it easier. Teachers/students can set up RSS feeds for unit/project topics in order to stay abreast of the overflow of information.
Stand-alone PCs
Google, through aquisitions, and other companies are furthering the use of networked applications which can be used by computer users without concern for computer operating systems or browser choice. These networked applications allow for users to colloborate and share.
Static Web Pages
The wiki model is disruptive because it is a low-cost alternative that brings key editing features into the hands of users. The approach increases the collaborative productivity of an organization or its extended network. The wiki allows a disconnected group to develop a coherent online culture.
Journals, Diaries
Blogs or weblogs are a type of website that is easily created and easily and frequently updateable
Face to face lecture/training
Podcasts allow teachers to archive presented information for instant playback by students whenever necessary. Podcasts have the ability of being used by students to present information to others without having to be there face to face.
Data Organizers/Planners
Originally known as a PDA or Personal Digital Assistant, this device allows people to electronically store data to take with them in the palm of their hand. With people wanting more connectivity, the handheld has become more sophisticated with being able to connect to the Internet and to online resources. In an educational setting, they are more affordable than computers and have computer-like capabilities, allowing a one-to-one possibility for students.
Face to face conversation
Allows for real-time conversation between two people regardless of geographical location.
Internet Telephony
Analog Telephony
A software product which provides telephone service through VoIP (Voice over IP), allowing your personal computer to act like a telephone.
Social Networks (i.e. Moodle, Elgg, MySpace, and Facebook)
Face to Face Interaction
Teachers and students can now communicate and collaborate with others who are passionate about an idea or topic without regard to time or geography
Creative Commons
Allows for more expansive use of material and information by others who are not the original creators.



A wiki is a shared, collaborative web space where people from anywhere in the world can add content and/or edit content that has already been added. It is a many to many technology, where knowledge is created by a passionate group for the benefit of all.

The word wiki is derived from the Hawaiian word, wiki-wiki meaning quick. The first wiki was created and named by Ward Cunningham in 1995. He wanted to create an easily editable web page that might spur people from all walks of life to write and publish.


Westwood Wiki





Blogs or weblogs are a type of website that is easily created and easily and frequently updateable. It is an example of a one to many technolgoy, typically where one author creates content and proposes ideas for world. It is often a journal of sorts containing what is happening in one’s life, a new thought or idea that the author has, or what the author feels is important. Entries or posts are presented in reverse chronological order. Most blogs contain a mixture of text, hyperlinks, images, videos, and podcasts. Authors or bloggers as they may be known as, write their entries in hopes that people will read and comment.


Class Blogmeister


A podcast is file that consists of multimedia files that can be played back on computers or mobile devices such as mp3 players or iPods. The person that is creating the podcast, sometimes known as a podcaster, offers these files, usually in mp3 format, to be directly downloaded or listened to directly from the podcasters website. Podcasts have reached a heightened popularity when they were able to be caught and listened to using an aggregator by means of a RSS feed. This allows the podcast to be directly downloaded to a personal device everytime a new episode is uploaded via RSS. This allows the consumer to listen when they want and they do not need to be constantly checking for new episodes of their favorite podcast. (Wikipedia)


Mustang News Radio
Radio WillowWeb ~Radio For Kids,By Kids
Radio Gateway - A school podcast from Gateway Elementary School, Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada


A handheld is a pocket-sized or palm-sized computing device. Typically known as a PDA or personal digital assistant or a Palm Pilot. This device usually sports a small visual display screen. Consumer may use a touch-style device or a stylus, or a smal, compact keyboard to enter data. These tools have become increasingly popular since they are compact in size and many are known for their Bluetooth capablity or wi-fi capablity.


Learning In Hand
k12 Handhelds


IM or Instant Messaging is a real-time communication between two or more people using typed text. The text is conveyed via computers connected over a network.


Yahoo Messenger

Windows Live Messenger

Internet Telephony

A source of hardware and software that allows the consumer to use their computer and internet as the broadcast source for telephone calls. The software essentially provides free telephone calls anywhere in the world, usually from one computer to another. Some software allows calls from computer to land-line.



Google/Collaborative Applications

The ability to use productivity applications via a web browser collaborate and share without regard to computer type or operating system is an emerging innovation. While being developed by individuals and small teams, the better of these are being purchased by the big web portal companies such as Yahoo and Google to create an online suite for productivity. This is exemplified by Google's purchase of Writely and YouTube.


Word Processing - Google Docs (formerly Writely)
Spreadsheets - Google Spreadsheets - an example of how it is being used
Database - Lazybase and a new specialized one, LibraryThing
Visual Organizers/Concept Mapping Software - Gliffy and FreeMind
Social Bookmarking - del.icio.us

Social Networks

The ability to use server side application technologies to facilitate communication, collaboration, and further the interactive experience of the classroom beyond the physical space and class period. There are both commercial and open-source solutions to facilitate these experiences.


Moodle - Course Management and Vinnie Vrotny's yearbook group
Elgg - Social Networking and Digital Portfolio environment and EducationBridges.net


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