Last week, Michael Horn stepped down as Executive Director of our education team. Although he will continue to publish and build our research agenda in K–12 and higher education, this week marks an important inflection point at an organization that Michael built quite literally with his bare hands. Moving forward, I’ll have the incredible honor of continuing to develop the body of knowledge that the Clayton Christensen Institute brings to the world of education.

I first read Disrupting Class in 2008 as part of a book club at NewSchools Venture Fund, where I was working at the time. My colleagues and I were intrigued with the premise of the book, especially because the firm had only just started to concentrate on major technology investments. But I remember thinking that parts of the book read more like a naïve futuristic cartoon than a plausible reality. Schools, I’d learned in my job, were incredibly obstinate to change. What then, made a Harvard Business School professor, Clay Christensen, and his student, Michael Horn, think that technology could alter that?

But lo and behold, here we find ourselves, nearly a decade later, and “EdTech” is a household concept. The book in fact outlined with incredible precision what the future of teaching and learning could look like, as technology became more and more a part of classrooms across the country. And what many of us have come to appreciate is that Disrupting Class actually stepped far beyond the market analysis and number crunching we might associate with the business world where the theory of disruptive innovation originated. Instead, the authors were candid about the mixed outcomes this technology revolution might yield in schools. On the one hand, technology could simply digitize our industrial model of education and drive down the cost without improving the quality. On the other, online learning could be an engine to individualize education successfully in ways never before possible. Michael went on to build our Institute, committed to making the latter a reality. With a small cadre of dedicated researchers and staff, he has continued to shape a national vision for how technology—deployed in a smart, deliberate, and measured manner—can redefine school as we know it and serve as a vital tool to ensure that all students have access to a great education.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Michael knows that he is as humble and kind as he is brilliant. For all of the systems, designs, and ideas we can study, education is ultimately a human endeavor. This fact is now incredibly close to home for Michael, as he and his wife Tracy rear their quick-witted and curious twin girls, Madison and Kayla. I’m confident that by the time they reach elementary school, his daughters’ own classrooms will borrow in no small part from the vision that their father’s research brings to our education system.

We can’t wait to watch Michael continue to bring his incredibly deft human touch and sharp insight to new corners of the education field. He will, inevitably, continue to lend us a window into the future of how all of our children will learn.

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