Education is an enterprise that improves the lives of the teachers who instruct and students who are learning. This is true across the K-12 spectrum and in higher education. Although there are challenges in education such as achievement gaps, social and economic issues, and finding effective ways to teach and learn, there are still examples of great experiences. The 21st-century student has access to information at a larger scale, an abundance of educational technology, and both face-to-face and online learning platforms.

The educational experience for today’s students is filled with opportunities to engage others globally, develop digital literacy skills, and maximize their individual academic ability. There are a variety of practices used with today’s learners that have not changed in years, but there are also elements that bring disruptive innovations in education. In order to understand these elements, it is important to know what disruptive innovation in education is.

What is Disruptive Innovation?

A disruption is a break or interruption in a normalized process. For example, a teacher who has been using direct instruction for years may bring forth a disruptive innovation by using a Learning Management System (LMS) or incorporating project-based learning and interactive web quests to engage students. On a broader scale, a disruptive innovation in education can be creating a personalized learning program to teach financial literacy in a school district for low-income students. The Khan Academy and the Sylvan Learning Center are examples of disruptors that started out small but now have national and global influences in the areas of tutoring students and academic development.

Disruptive innovations in education can come in many different forms. They can be a small change in teaching strategies, systematic efforts for change, or a student idea that was encouraged by a teacher. The impact that the innovations have in the educational field can be brief but also long term and career-changing as well. Whether small or large, it is vital to continue to find ways to bring disruptive innovations to education.

What are the Benefits of Utilizing Disruptive Innovation for Education?

The benefits of utilizing disruptive innovation in education are that it has the ability to level the playing field for students who may not have the same access to educational opportunities as others. In the area of eLearning, this innovation allows for adults who are working full time to still work towards a degree while maintaining a work and family balance. Further benefits to utilizing disruptive innovations in education are that it creates the need for professional development. This makes the teacher and school leader more effective educators and allows for new ideas to emerge regarding ways to implement best practices in education.

Another benefit of utilizing disruptive innovations in education is that it gives students choice and variety with their learning. Having multiple methods for students to learn leads to having multiple ways to assess students. Educational innovations are important to foster growth and sustainability in the educational realm.

Providing new and fresh ideas and incorporating them in the teaching and learning process is not only a benefit of positive educational disruptors, but it is instrumental to creating new opportunities for students in their lives. The same is true for school administrators and teachers as they find new ways to grow and develop their own skills and insights. To further emphasize these benefits, there are a variety of ways to incorporate disruptive innovations in the school and classroom.

Ways to Bring Disruptive Innovation to Your School and Classroom

There are multiple ways to bring disruptive innovations to your classroom. Attend conferences, seek out professional development opportunities, and research new and development changes in the education field. In the classroom, incorporate strategies that focus on engaging diverse students. If the classroom or school has a high minority student population, get to know the students, their families, and their cultures to see what strategies can be implemented to ensure their success.

Another way to bring disruptive innovation to the classroom is to incorporate gamification using educational technology. Gamification facilitates critical-thinking skills, self-autonomy, and planning skills. An example of this is when a math teacher facilitates learning math and design skills by having students play Minecraft or assesses students’ learning with platforms like Quizlet.

On a school-wide level, a principal can change the culture of a school with disruptive education by changing professional development formats and embracing a flipped faculty development approach. It is important to remember that disruptive innovations in education can be as simple as changing a teaching style or as profound as making an educational policy change on the state or national level.

The goal with disruptive innovations in education is to find proactive and positive approaches to disrupting the norm. Finding effective strategies to include all students in the learning process is vital. Educational technology has allowed for there to be a traditional and online learning format, while LMSs offer personalized learning experiences for children and adults. At one point in time, all of these were disruptors to the traditional educational process. Researching best practices, implementing effective policies, and embracing the global perspective allow for ideas to become reality when it comes to maximizing the social, academic, and economic needs of the 21st-century student.

*Updated October 2021