Rethinking Schools for the Future

Collins, A., & R. Halverson (2009). Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and the Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2009.

In this promotional article for their book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and the Schools (2009), Collins and Halverson outline their argument for why education is changing in light of the pervasive influence of technology and how increasing incompatibility between schools and the use of technology will necessitate a change to how society perceives of education and the role of schools in the learning process.  Through an examination of how the Industrial Revolution shifted educational structures, the authors explain how the Digital Revolution offers another significant shifting point in the educational landscape.  By positioning education as a life learning opportunity that is no longer restricted to the classroom, Collins and Halverson (2009) outline how “schooling era”  learning is structured antithetic and somewhat at a disadvantage to the opportunities provided through technology-driven learning, leading them to ask “whether our current schools will be able to adapt and incorporate the new power of technology-driven learning for the next generation of public schooling” (p 2).  To not do so, they reflect could have the potential to exacerbate unequal access based on socio-economic status; with the wealthy investing in new technology-based educational models while those who cannot rely on learning  systems incompatible with our future society’s. Reflecting on the rise of aspects such as home-schooling, workplace training, distance education, adult education, learning centers, educational media, and computer-based learning systems, the authors present the case that the new system has already begun to form but lacks a cohesive vision for bringing it all together.

Written as a precursor to the book of the same title and for general consumption, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and the Schools (2009) was not meant to lay out the complete pedagogical foundations of their ideas but is designed to whet the reader’s appetite for the forthcoming book. Despite this purpose, the article offers a clear outline of Collins and Halverson’s ideas for why schooling should change in the face of the rise of technology-driven learning and manages to be very thought-provoking. Far from ideally optimistic, the authors do offer up a list – albeit a short one – of the potential issues and gains such a shift could present to the educational landscape. These concerns, while shallowly addressed in this article, indicate the authors come facing the changing landscape of education with less-then-rose-colored glasses. By recognizing the societal foundations which underlie the educational systems of today as well as the connections of education in other facets of our culture, the authors offer a reflection that any shift will have large reaching consequences.  As a promotionally structured article,  it is rather sparse in supporting data or citations to address what directly falls under their moniker of “technology-driven learning” and if they consider it all equally effective in building the knowledge they outline for tomorrow’s world. It also lack specifics on their ideas for on how to build this cohesive vision of tomorrow’s educational system. However such shortcomings are expected given this article’s purpose and length, and are expected to be addressed in the full book.

Despite being only a “teaser” to the main book, this future thinking article has peaked this researcher’s interest towards their book.  With deep interest in the intersection of cultures and technology, I am particularly interested in examining how and in what ways aspects of culture and society change with shifts in technology. While I am often skeptical when it comes to “predictions” of society’s future as these often fail to adequately examined or even consider the complexity with which social systems operate and how cultural change is instituted and propagated, the dose of measured pragmatism evident in the authors consideration of the risks and gains society faces gives me hope they have made a deeper consideration of how and why societal institutions shift. As such I look forward to critically exploring their work deeper.

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family— Kofi Annan

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