Unrequited Transformations

Submitted By:
Alice Laskin, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can't Transform Education by Justin Reich
Harvard University Press, September 15, 2020

What will the legacy of remote and hybrid learning models be? Will the new technologies many schools adopted out of necessity lead to transformational changes in teaching and learning? Justin Reich's book, Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can't Transform Education, provides some possible answers by chronicling the unrequited transformations of educational technology innovations of the last two decades. A learning scientist and edtech researcher, Reich expertly analyzes the possibilities and challenges of large-scale learning models and edtech initiatives by examining their underlying pedagogical theories and applications in school contexts. Though innovations such as MOOCs, algorithm-guided learning tools, and peer-guided learning forums promised to disrupt teaching and learning, Reich notes, such novelties grounded in traditional pedagogical approaches or modified for traditional schooling models have failed to result in transformation. In fact, they often reproduce inequalities in access and achievement for marginalized students. Reich avoids the myth of edtech as a silver bullet of educational reform; instead, he advocates for incorporating new technologies into reform efforts grounded in systems theory and community-centered collaboration. As schools emerge from the pandemic, educators and leaders can use Failure to Disrupt as a guide for realistically evaluating edtech innovations while remaining open to their possibilities.

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