MEP 086 Michael Horn Clayton Christensen Institute Meet Education Project EDUKWEST

MEP #086 with Michael Horn, Co-Founder at Clayton Christensen Institute

In this episode of MEP, Michael Horn, the co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute and the executive director of its education program, shares his thoughts on the definition of blended learning, and some successful implementations and designs at schools around the country.

Guest Bio:

Michael Horn is a co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute and serves as the executive director of its education program. He leads a team that educates policymakers and community leaders on the power of disruptive innovation in the K-12 and higher education spheres through its research. His team aims to transform monolithic, factory-model education systems into student-centered designs that educate every student successfully and enable each to realize his or her fullest potential.

Michael is the coauthor of the recently published book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, with Heather Staker. Blended is a practical field guide for designing and implementing blended learning in K-12 schools. The book is the followup to the award-winning Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, which Michael co-authored in 2008 with Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen and Curtis W. Johnson. Newsweek cited the book 14th on its list of “Fifty Books for Our Times.” Michael has written several white papers about blended learning and is co-editor with Frederick Hess of the book Private Enterprise and Public Education. He has also written articles for numerous publications including Forbes, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Huffington Post, and Education Week.

He testifies regularly at state legislative sessions and is a frequent keynote speaker at education conferences and planning sessions around the U.S. Tech & Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. Michael was also selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea.

In addition, he serves on a variety of boards, including Fidelis Education and the Silicon Schools Fund. Michael is also an executive editor of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research about education policy, and is a member of the Education Innovation Advisory Board at Arizona State University and the advisory committee for The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University. Michael holds a BA in History from Yale University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Show Notes:

(02:34) Michael’s background

(05:06) From the time you wrote the book “Disrupting Class” to now, when you wrote the book “Blended,” what sort of progress have you seen, and what sort of failures or shortfalls have you seen as far as your expectations over the last 6 years?

(09:16) In the past six to twelve months, any school that stands out as far as their implementation of blended learning?

(09:34) “You learn so much from failure. The key is to make it small failures, not these big ones that catastrophically screw up your project.”

(11:50) It seems The majority of district schools that the organizations are risk-averse because that’s the way that everything is kind of focused. Would you say that’s true? Does that hamstring us in making sure that blended learning is a big part of innovation in schools? How can we move forward in the next five to ten years?

(15:16) What happens when innovation is blocked? Do you see other models pop up that can compete against it? Is there anything that would happen that would be able to compete and actually provide quality education for low-income kids in the United States?

(19:23) In higher education, I’ve seen so many interesting models pop up. I’m fascinated by competency-based education and how it could apply to K-12 public schools or K-12 in general. Are you seeing some success in that sort of model?

(21:52) I know that Clayton has talked about how many universities will go out of business over the next 5, 10, 12 years. After what happened last year with the City College of San Francisco… Do you feel that that’s going to happen where you have these schools that are not offering value to their students or they’re not running a business as effectively, they get bailed out because there’s too much to lose?

(25:36) I got into a conversation with someone about a month ago at a conference and it was about the term blended learning and whether or not it may just eventually be just become learning. Do you think the phrase may just go away as a kind of transitory phase and eventually will be just what learning is or do think there will always be a niche for the modality of blended learning?

(28:52) Is there a book that’s most influenced you, and why?

The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen

Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior

(30:03) Do you watch documentaries, and if so, what is your favorite?

30 for 30 series on ESPN

Ken Burns’ Civil War

(31:49) If you could have dinner with one person you admire past or present, who would it be and why?

Abraham Lincoln



Michael Horn

Christensen Institute

Christensen Institute website:


Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools

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Nick DiNardo is the founder and host of the Meet Education Project, a podcast series featuring entrepreneurs, VCs and thought leaders taking action on the future of learning. Nick has worked in education for 10 years, working for some of the big players (Pearson & McGraw-Hill), as VP of Marketing for a seed stage ed tech startup, and an independent consultant. He also serves on the board of directors for Argosy Collegiate Charter School in Fall River, MA. When he's not chatting about the future of learning, Nick is reading, traveling, golfing, or drinking a glass of whisky (sometimes, all of the above).