Speaker: students should drive their learning

If Idaho could change one thing about its education system, Michael Horn recommends focusing on what students can do, rather than what they can learn.

Michael Horn
Michael Horn holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BA in history from Yale University.

Horn is the co-founder and executive director of the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit think tank devoted to applying the theories of “disruptive innovation.” Horn also writes and speaks about transforming education through digital learning.

Horn was Tuesday’s featured speaker at the monthly ED Sessions 2.0 luncheon sponsored by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

“What if schools were built for children?” Horn asked the crowd that included about 10 legislators, state superintendent Tom Luna, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and other education and business leaders.

Horn proposed putting students at the center of their own education by personalizing it, mostly through technology. It would require “disruptive innovation,” he said.

“That’s not the friendliest of phrases but it’s a force that transforms sectors,” Horn said. “It’s a transformation that bring affordability and accessibility to all.”

He illustrated his “transformation driven by affordability and accessibility” idea by comparing several old and new products:

GM vs. Toyota
Department stores vs. Wal-Mart
Delta vs. Southwest Airlines
Sony DiskMan vs. Apple iPad

“Technology improves faster than our lives change,” Horn said. “We need to relate this principle to education.”

Online learning has properties of disruptive innovation, and he predicted that 50 percent of coursework will be delivered online by 2019.

Horn outlined four potential benefits to online learning, which moves toward student-centered learning:

  1. Personalization. All students have different learning needs and learn at different paces. Online and blended learning models allow for that opportunity of scale. “The old system is education malpractice,” Horn said. “It creates huge holes in students’ learning.”
  2. Opportunities for data and feedback. Technology can offer real-time interactive feedback that can empower teachers.
  3. Teacher effectiveness. Horn outlined a school structure that changed the roles of classroom teacher to other roles, such as mentor, content expert or case worker. “A lot of creativity can come out of this.”
  4. Cost control. Online learning has the potential to do more with less.

Horn said online learning is not distance learning but rather a blend between technology and brick-and-mortar. “Most kids need a place to go during the day and school has a custodial role as well as academic,” Horn said.

He also emphasized that the way educators use technology is infinitely important than the technology — including a transparent student-level data system, infrastructure and meaningful content.

“America has spent $100 billion equipping schools with computers and we have basically nothing to show for it,” Horn said.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News is funded through a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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