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Disruptive Technologies K-16


This wiki was created and is maintained by graduate students from the University of Texas at Brownsville enrolled in the educational technology master's program. Each year, students upgrade and add to this wiki as new technologies that impact education are introduced.


What do we mean by the term "disruptive technology" and why is it significant to education? Christensen (1997), a professor at Harvard Business School first used the term "disruptive technology." According to Christensen, a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology is disruptive. Interestingly, the word "disruptive" has a negative connotation attached to it. If you look in a thesaurus, you will find synonyms for the word "disruptive" such as troublesome, unruly, upsetting or troublemaking. While disruptive technologies are causing concern to educators daily as they struggle to keep up with the latest technology tools, you can clearly understand how these new technologies are troublesome and upsetting. Yet, these very same disruptive technologies offer great potential to change the face of education just as they are changing the way the world conducts business.


Versweyveld (2002) shares an alternative definition of “disruptive technologies” described by Dr. Kirby G. Vosburgh and Dr. Ronald S. Newbower, Harvard Medical School researchers. They state that “disruptive technologies are developed and established in one specific market but tend to penetrate and overwhelm another market.” Versweyveld discusses using virtual tools such as computer-aided diagnosing instruments to identify breast cancer or robots with specific training in the field of medicine. While these types of technology were developed by other industries, they have been quickly assimilated in the medical field as costs drop, applications increase, and products improve


In The Innovator's Dilemma, Christensen (1996) categorizes technology into either a sustaining or a disruptive force. Technology that is sustaining technology incrementally improves an already established established technology. However, disruptive technology has rapid impact and is characterized as lacking refinement, can often have performance problems in the use of the technology, is only appealing to a small population of individuals and may not have research-based practical applications as yet.


An example of a disruptive technology that we can all understand is the electrical speech machine, invented by Alexander Graham Bell. We now call that apparatus the telephone, and we have all certainly figured out how to use it effectively (Jackson, 2003).


While Christensen looks at disruptive technologies and how they impact business, we are increasingly seeing these technologies become important in education. For many educators, it is difficult to keep up with the demands of the profession in our atmosphere of standardized testing and accountability, as well as staying up to speed on sustaining technologies - much less learning to implement the newest disruptive technologies. Indeed, it almost seems that if you go to sleep or even blink, when you re-open your eyes, some new technology has emerged and is already prevalent in some innovative teacher's tools of the trade.


Within a few short years, we have witnessed the emergence of massive social networking, the Web 2.0, Second Life, Whyvillle, YouTube, mobile technologies, podcasting, Creative Commons, blogs and wikis, to name just a few. In many cases, just a few months ago, I was asking myself, "Where did this latest technology come from and where was I when it happened?"


Trying to keep up with all of it can be mind-boggling and time-consuming, to say the least. Thus, the purpose of this book written by students in EDTC 6329 is to learn about wikis as well as emerging or disruptive technologies, to provide information for others to use, to let each student immerse themselves in one technology for this summer course, and to learn about other disruptive technologies from peers who are in the class or in the profession.


These technology tools can be used in K-16 education as well as in industry training. This textbook will continue to be revised and improved upon and will serve as a valuable resource for all of you in the future. If you are interested in adding to the body of knowledge in this textbook, making suggestions, or asking questions, please contact me at janice.butler@utb.edu.




Christensen, C. M. (1997). The innovator's dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press


Jackson, J. (2003). Disruptive technologies. WashingtonTechnology, (17)20. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontechnology.com/print/17_20/19859-1.html?topic=cover-stories


Disruptive technology. Whatis.com. Retrieved from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci945822,00.html


Versweyveld, L (2002, December 22). Applicability of Moore's Law to IT in health care examined in MMVR 2002 proceedings. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from Virtual Medical Worlds Web site: http://www.hoise.com/vmw/03/articles/vmw/LV-VM-01-03-21.html


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