Failure to Disrupt

In Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education, Justin Reich delivers a sobering report card on the latest supposedly transformative educational technologies. Reich takes readers on a tour of MOOCs, autograders, computerized “intelligent tutors,” and other educational technologies whose problems and paradoxes have bedeviled educators. Learning technologies―even those that are free to access―often provide the greatest benefit to affluent students and do little to combat growing inequality in education. And institutions and investors often favor programs that scale up quickly, but at the expense of true innovation. It turns out that technology cannot by itself disrupt education or provide shortcuts past the hard road of institutional change.

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"Reich takes readers on a tour of auto-graders, computerized “intelligent tutors,” and other educational technologies whose problems and paradoxes have bedeviled educators. Technology does have a crucial role to play in the future of education, Reich concludes. We still need new teaching tools, and classroom experimentation should be encouraged. But successful reform efforts will focus on incremental improvements, not the next killer app."

Joe Conahue

WAMC The Roundtable

"Every education investor needs to read this book. Instead, they can just read “Failure to Disrupt,” the new book by Justin Reich, Director of the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT. Or, better yet, read just the introduction and conclusion. Those 30 or so pages may be the most important read for anyone in, or even thinking about being in, edtech. In a few dozen pages, Reich lays out the embarrassing cycle of copied ideas, massive hype, enormous wasted funding and the unmet promises of edtech — why so many innovations and companies find only dramatically downsized and incremental uses, leaving education fundamentally not disrupted over and over again."

Derek Newton

Forbes Magazine

“Technology in learning carries a high cost economically and culturally. In a game of trade-offs between efficiency and human development, research remains the critical lens to guide decisions. This exceptional book is the best resource currently available to guide readers to understanding the failure of technology in classrooms, what needs to be done to make a real impact, and the critical importance of education as community.”

George Siemens

Executive Director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab, The University of Texas at Arlington

"If you have already decided that educational technology is a utopia or a dystopia, there’s no need to read this—or, indeed, any-- book. But if you desire a clear, balanced, and insightful evaluation of the range of educational technologies, Justin Reich’s book will inform and delight you."

Howard Gardner

Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education


In the Fall of 2020 Justin Reich hosted special guest presenters, students from MIT, and others from around the world in a discussion of the 10 chapters of Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education. Then he explored those discussions in his TeachLab Podcast.