Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America

Article excerpt

Rethinking Education in The Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America, by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson

"... in today's world, one of accelerating change, in which many skills become obsolete nearly as fast as they are learned, both schooling and learning are under siege."

-Allan Collins & Richard Halverson


Book reviews are generally about a newly (if not recently) released work. Such currency of publication presumably represents what is better in the form of what's trending, cutting edge, or around the corner (about to be birthed as the next phase of the new and, subsequently, better) and we hope in the grand scheme of things that matter to us. However, every now and then, a work comes along that captures our imagination, and then we place it on the bookshelf of progressive, revolutionary, and critical ideas to gather dust as it germinates into a classic. Over time, such a work grows in importance due to the timeless stimulating questions raise, which are predicated upon arguments that confront the status quo and serve as fertile ground for trending predictions (however, shortsighted those turn out to be in the long run). Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, in hindsight, have such a book written just 5 years after the Web 2.0 tools revolution and in the explosive yet nascent midst of such webbased tools proliferation.

This thoughtful work, with all its inherent flaws and optimistic assumptions, portends an envisioned future, which skeptics despised and enthusiasts oversold, that has not come to fruition as a result of many variances known and yet to be known. It is time nonetheless to knock the dust off this seminal work and take a look anew at the ideas it purports as seeds of the digital revolution as well as take stock of progress made in these early years of the current lifelong era of education to which we have shifted and are now experiencing. As such, this book review is most warranted.


Part 1: Technology Enthusiasts Versus Technology Skeptics

This insightful book opens with "How Education Is Changing" (Chapter 1), which showcases the coauthors' big-picture view of the "current" state of education premised upon their central argument that there are "deep incompatibilities between the demands of the new technologies and the traditional school" (p. 6). Technology is making life more difficult and challenging for far too many teachers even today since it demands skills of teachers that are lacking or inadequately presented through professional development trainings and has shifted the locus of expertise and control away from teachers. As a result, many teachers feel uneasy that their authority and roles are compromised since they are no longer viewed as the experts (or "sages on the stage") in the classroom and struggle to adapt to the roles thrust upon them as facilitators (and "guides on the side"). In fact, as the coauthors assert, the "lockstep model" (p. 6) of schools fails to harness the power of technology to individualize and customize learning through adaptive web-based programs and, subsequently, continue to keep technology applications at the periphery of teachers' core academic and instructional practices. Technology's place in the pantheon of the school is too often the computer lab or media center. Teachers then must prioritize technology integration within the scope of pedagogical prowess and shift the emphasis, beyond lip service, from teaching to learning through meaningful practice. "Schools," as the coauthors point out, "ignore computers at their peril" (p. 6).

However, the picture painted by technology (back then as now) is not all favorable. The coauthors lament that technology, which has moved out of schools into public library, workplaces, learning centers, and homes, has the power to "widening economic gap" (p. 7) and adversely affect access. Paradoxically, as the coauthors later assert, "what technology gives, it can also take away" (p. …

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